Pioneer surf cinematographer Bud Browne has died in San Luis Obispo, California at age 96. The father of surfing films, Bud “Barracuda” Brown was the first to commercially show surf movies. His films are Hawaiian Surfing Movie (1953), Hawaiian Holiday (1954), Hawaiian Surf Movie (1955), Trek to Makaha (1956), The Big Surf (1957), Surf Down Under(1958), Cat on a Hot Foam Board (1959), Surf Happy (1960), Spinning Boards (1961), Cavalcade of Surf (1962), Gun Ho! (1963), Locked In (1964), You’ll Dance in Tahiti (1967) and Going Surfin’ (1973, with MacGillivray-Freeman Films).
A great swimmer, Browne was captain of his swim team at the University of Southern California in 1933. He learned to surf during that time at Venice, California. He made his first trip to Hawaii in 1938, and began filming surfing there (just for the fun of it) in 1940 after he purchased an 8mm movie camera. His first public showing of his Hawaiian surfing footage, which he titled The Big Surf, was in 1943. In 1947, Bud upgraded to a 16mm camera.
Back in California in the summer of 1953, Santa Monica surfer Dave Helser convinced Bud to show his early films, titled Hawaiian Surfing Movies, at Adams Junior High School in Santa Monica. Admission was 65 cents. After that, Bud toured the coast and Hawaii with an annual film into the mid 1960s. In 1958, he traveled to Australia to film surfing there and show his Hawaiian footage, drawing big crowds at all the surf lifesaving clubs.
In 1996, Bud was inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach in the ‘surf culture’ category. In recent years, he’s been living with assistance in Central California. He was the stoked guest of honor at his own tribute on March 13, at which his life and work was celebrated by an assembly of many of his friends in the surfing world. It was wonderful timing, and an appropriate high point near the end of a great life.
We love you, Bud!
Words by: Drew Kampion
Images by: Ron Romanosky