Thanks Leroy!

Hermosa Beach, July 4, 2006

The legendary and iconic surf photographer Leroy Grannis died last week at the age of 93. His photographs of Southern California and Hawaii surf culture came to define the sport and its culture in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. His work served as a touchpoint for every photographer who embraced the sport, and it loomed as an influence each shooter was forced to accept or rebel against.

Laguna Beach, 2006

Since moving to California some 15 years ago, I’ve come to admire surfers and appreciate surfing. It was only after moving to California that I was able to fall in love with the music of the Beach Boys; now I can’t understand how I made it through my college days without Pet Sounds.

Tour de France, le Bourg d’Oisans, 2004

And though I’ve never taken up surfing, it is something of a lighthouse for me, and serves as an inspiration for my riding (my quest to ride the great climbs of the Grand Tours), my writing (to speak to the soul of the sport) and my photography (capturing what a cyclist would value).

Tour de France, 2004: Talking to friends at the bar back home in Denver

It is in this last regard that Grannis has been an influence on me. His work showed me the value of capturing non-riding moments as a means to illustrate the cycling life. It would be arrogant of me to suggest that my work is a qualitative echo of his (it’s not) but he gave me the inspiration to capture cyclists even when they aren’t pedaling. Think of Grannis as the Henri Cartier-Bresson of surfing.

Tour de France, la Mongie, 2003: Cheering le Train Bleu

Tour de France, Col de Bagargui, 2003: Waiting for the peloton

Laguna Beach, 2006

Tour de France, Argeles Gazost, 2003


  1. eatiusbirdius

    Thanks for the article Padraig. I have a friend that is in the industry as a surf photographer so I’m familiar with Leroy but hadn’t heard that he passed. Very sad to hear indeed. He was very much a pioneer in the sport. One of my favorite non-surfing pics is this: . It pretty much captures the essence of San O in one picture.

    Side note: the picture at the top of the post looks like the 31st St. “Iron Man”. Am I right?

    1. Author

      Janet: Thanks, and I reserve dude for someone not quite so revered.

      Eatiusbirdius: I love that shot. (Everyone, please follow that link in his comment!) And, yes, that shot was taken within a few blocks of Iron Man, though I can’t say exactly which.

  2. Mike

    A nice tribute … concise and meaningful. The words and photos give me pause to reflect, think about the inevitable (and rapid) passage of time, and to ponder what moments I should strive to capture in the coming years.

  3. trekdude

    Wow! This is so great to see such a deep-rooted tribute to surfing in this esteemed cycling blog! I am quite speechless/wordless. You see, I have all but switched from a life of surfing to a life of road cycling here in my mid-to-late 40’s. I believe this has happened to me due to the profound similarities in the two sports such as the necessity for balance, both are human-powered but require a machine, out in the elements and dictated by nature, tribal among participants, both require a sense of adventure and a strong mind and body, and both have very rich histories. I could go on. Padraig, dude, don’t just sit on the beach! Throw on a suit (a little heavier than lycra) and go try it. The waves are so much better there than in NC. If I lived closer to the beach, I could see a balance of surfing and cycling in my physically active life.

    Sorry to have gotten off the subject of your post, but to nearly get back on it; since photography and now videography have such richly captured surfing (and cycling), may I suggest you find and watch an underground surf video, shot a few years ago by some SoCal boys in Indonesia, called Second Thoughts. If you appreciate the feral nature of world surf exploration, this video will BLOW YOUR MIND. Check it out… and keep writing this great blog!

  4. steve shriver

    Hey Patrick-
    Even though I grew up around the south bay, it really wasn’t until I was 40 that I had the opportunity to go through the ritual humiliation of learning how to surf with my two sons. It was worth every mouthful of foamy water I’ve coughed up since then. One of my earliest artistic adventures was sneaking under my parents house to make chalk copies of Wilbur Kookmeyer, Rick Griffins’ iconic doofus, drawn in the pages of Surfer magazine in the 1960’s. The place I grew up has a nasty reputation as a “locals only” spot, but I knew these guys since they were little grommets letting the air out of tires, and I know they are fiercely loyal and generous too. Leroy knew many of these guys, and his pictures motivated and entertained all of us as kids. Surfing is a religion, and Granny was a high priest. As much as I love cycling, and I do love cycling, it will never hold the magic fascination that waves and surfing will always have for me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *