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Cult of the Surf Photographer

Wes Laine, 1984. Photo: Peter Brouillet
Surf photographer Peter Crawford
Surf photographer Don King, North Shore
Michael Ho, 1984. Photo: Warren Bolster
Surf photographer Aaron Chang, 1987

Surf publishing was a nonstop growth industry throughout the 1980s, with increased ad revenue, new titles, bigger issues, more color. The trend was worldwide but most obvious in America. In the late 1970s, Surfer and Surfing had both gone monthly, and the average issue size was just over a hundred pages. By 1988, both magazines were producing copies at Vogue-like two-hundred-plus pages, and circulation for each was about 110,000—more than double the size of their nearest rivals.

In Australia,...

Don King and the rest of the water photography specialists worked their craft with the timing and precision of knife-throwers. King, at his best, was able to capture the epiglottic view from the back of the tube, behind the surfer, looking out toward daylight.