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Surfing the Newsstand

John Severson. Photo: Homer Groening
"Surf BeBop," 1963, John Severson
John Severson, 1963. Photo: Tim Murdoch
Severson business card
Debut SURFER, 1960

Not only was John Severson the go-to guy for surf logos and trademarks in the early '60s, he worked for free. Not because he was young and exploitable, but because he desperately needed to fill ad space for The Surfer—the rough little 36-page booklet that started off as a promo piece for his 1960 movie Surf Fever, and was later grandfathered in as the debut issue of Surfer magazine.

Looking back, the creation of the surf-mag trade in the 1960s seems not so much dramatic as inevitable; it fill...

The first issue of Surfer looked like a scruffy but earnest art school project. The design work was raw, the photos blurry. It didn't matter. Surfer was also friendly and authentic. Anything more sophisticated would have been out of synch with what was happening on the beach and in the water.