The U.S. Army called him to join the U.S. Hawaiian surf team, yes! Destination Hawaii! When John moved to Honolulu, his perception of life, nature and art changed radically. He also started to film the surf…and made his first movie “Surf” in 1958, followed by “Surf Safari”a year laterupon his return to California. “Surf Fever” came out in 1960. It was a feverish moment indeed.Bruce Brown, Gregg Noll, Bud Browne, all the masters and pioneers of surfing art, where living the same era and same scenarios with different angles but same purpose: celebrate surfing.John was friends with all the best surfers of the time: Ricky Grigg, Mickey Dora, Mickey Munoz, Kemp Aaberg, Greg Noll, Corky Carroll; these surfing starsalso become the protagonists of his films, photographs and chronicles.
So, was John Severson a filmmaker? Of course he was…but not merely.
In 1959, Johnhad the idea to put together 36 pages in a horizontally formatted pamphlet he called “The Surfer,” the first surfing magazine ever to succeed in the history of surfing. He always remembers the surfers at that time…they had no mirrors, no platforms, there were no journals, no surfing channels, and no internet. There was a total vacuumwhich Severson set-off to fill.
Surfers were isolated and wanted to have an identity and see themselves riding the waves; they wanted to have a face, a name, honor and have fun. The surfers wanted to laugh about the wipeouts and speak days and nights about their heroes and famous surfers down in Hawaii. They desired to ride giant waves and emerge alive from the deep of the ocean after scary rides on these monsters of water.
The power and grace of nature have always been a substrate of John’s life, always present silently behind the surface of his works.
But what about this “The Surfer.”This first magazine? Well, with 10,000 copies published – a big risk at that time– he sold in just a few days 5,000 copies for $1.50 each!! It was a quite unexpected result, but warmly wished! It was decided then in 1960…John wouldkeep on publishing the magazine and so he did.
In 1961 the name changed to“Surfer Quarterly” and it grew from issue to issue reaching a few years later the amazing distribution of 103,000 copies per month! He planted the seeds of a billion-dollar industry…