Blake, Tom

While Tom Blake can't be placed ahead of Duke Kahanamoku as the world's most influential first-generation surfer, his contributions to the sport—in terms of board design, wave-riding technique, competition, surf photography, and literature—are in many ways more tangible. "Blake altered everything," surf journalist Drew Kampion wrote in 2001. "He almost single-handedly transformed surfing from a primitive Polynesian curiosity into a 20th century lifestyle."

Blake was born (1902) in Milwaukee,...