The surf world lost one its oldest and most influential characters last week when Leroy Grannis passed away in Carlsbad at the age of 92.
Grannis was a surfer since childhood, hailing from the spawning grounds of Hermosa Beach. Much later in life, at the age of 42, he took up photography and began two decades of documenting the surf scene in California and Hawaii. These were the decades of the Beach Boys, the early big wave pioneers and a culture that was exploding across the world.
Grannis’ images, many shot using pioneering water equipment made of wood and rubber, were instantly iconic and over the years have become respected for their beauty and historical significance.
Grannis married Katie LaVerne Tracy in 1939, when she was 20, and the couple had four children- Kit, Frank, Nancy, and John, six grandchildren- Robert, Cindy, Alan, Elizabeth, Alana, and Kaylee, and three great-grandchildren- Casey, Emily, and Dane, during their 69-year marriage before Katie died in 2008, at age 89.
In his later years ‘Granny’ lived in a small trailer in Carlsbad, California and he remained a surfer well into his 80s, although in 2001 Katie finally banned him from skateboarding.
“LeRoy Grannis loved the ride.” says veteran surf magazine editor, Drew Kampion. ”He rode waves for as long as he could stand, and then he rode them for as long as he could ride prone. Along the way, inspired by his good friend, Doc John Ball, he took up the camera and became the benchmark chronicler of surfing’s boom years. His discipline as a photojournalist has provided us with a good share of our cultural legacy from that era. In my mind I’m seeing Granny standing again, always riding.”
Grannis’ work was recently collated in a wonderful book produced by German publishers Taschen:
Leroy Grannis: Surf Photography of the 1960s and 1970s.
He will be missed by many, many people but his place in the history of surfing will remain forever.
August 12, 1917 – February 3, 2011