Heroes and Villains

Surf fashion shoot, 1965. Photo: LeRoy Grannis
Joyce Hoffman. Photo: Dick Graham
Fred Van Dyke. Photo: Ron Church
Mike Dora, Malibu, 1967. Photo: Craig Stecyk

“The medium is the message.” Marshall McLuhan couldn’t have found Surf City if you dropped him off on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Main, but his soon-to-be-famous 1964 dictum fit the sport like a glove during American surfing's boom years. As the surfer image filtered out across the cultural landscape, it shapeshifted from menace to sportsman to bohemian to fashion plate to object of ridicule—and as McLuhan predicted, form was determined less by the thing itself and more by the out...