Legendary photographer Jeff Divine's colourful portrait of 1970s surf culture

Allen Sarlo, Glen Kennedy, John Thornton, Malibu, CA 1971 – Photo © Jeff Divine

If you were in Hawaii in the 1970s, even just for a little dose of the decade's explosion of surf culture, the memories and stories will come flooding back to you when you see these photographs by Jeff Divine.

The photographer was there for all of it, and his images have been plucked from an enormous personal archive, brought together for a new book: Jeff Divine: 70's Surf Photographs.

During that time, Divine was shooting for Surfer, the monthly magazine that was the bible of the scene. His photos from this archive show a pre-commercialised era in surfing when the hippie influence still held sway. Surfers had their own slang-infused language and were deep into a world of "Mother Ocean", wilderness and a culture that mainstream society spurned.

Surfboards back then were handmade in family garages, often for a specific kind of wave or speed, for paddling, ease of turning, and featured all kinds of psychedelic designs. Some were even hollowed out to smuggle hash from Morocco.

The colour and black-and-white photographs featured in this new title were taken on the coastlines at Baja, Dana Point, Laguna Beach, La Jolla, Malibu, San Clemente and Oahu, and give a vivid picture of this close-knit culture and the incredible athletic feats of its heroes and heroines.

The book includes a foreword by Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Finnegan: "It was a moment when everything in our little world felt up for grabs. Surfing had boomed in popularity in the beach-blanket sixties, failed its audition as a mainstream televised sport, and then blown itself up in a late-sixties design revolution that reduced boards, seemingly overnight, from nine feet six inches to six feet six, from twenty-five pounds to less than ten. Suddenly, people were turning twice as hard, going twice as fast, and, most transformingly, pulling into heaving barrels that had been unrideable, off-limits, the stuff of idle fantasy until yesterday. These changes have all been lasting.

"The social upheavals of the period touched surfing, but only glancingly—in music, fashion, a wavelet of Eastern mysticism, more than a wavelet of recreational drugs, and a few muddy shining pockets of back-to-the-landism in places where the land happened to abut pumping waves."

Born in 1950 and raised in La Jolla, California, Jeff Divine started photographing the surfing world in 1966. He was a photo editor for 35 years at Surfer magazine and Surfer's Journal. His works have been displayed worldwide in museums and galleries, as well as in books, magazines and media. In 2019, he was inducted into the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame for his contribution to surfing culture in a career spanning 50 years.

He said: "I surfed first and then shot photos. As things got more serious, I shot first and surfed later. Getting the shot became almost as fulfilling as getting the wave."

Jeff Divine: 70's Surf Photographs is edited by Tom Adler, Evan Backes. Published by T. Adler Books, it's available in March.

Buttons Kaluhiokalani, Velzyland, Oahu, Hawaii 1974  – Photo © Jeff Divine

Buttons Kaluhiokalani, Velzyland, Oahu, Hawaii 1974  – Photo © Jeff Divine

David Nuuhiwa, Oceanside, CA 1972 – Photo © Jeff Divine

David Nuuhiwa, Oceanside, CA 1972 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Gerry Lopez, Pipeline, Hawaii 1975 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Gerry Lopez, Pipeline, Hawaii 1975 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Jeff Divine, La Jolla Shores, CA 1970. Photo © Jon Foster

Jeff Divine, La Jolla Shores, CA 1970. Photo © Jon Foster

Herbie Fletcher, Gerry Lopez, Barry Kanaiaupuni, Sunset Beach, Oahu, Hawaii 1971 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Herbie Fletcher, Gerry Lopez, Barry Kanaiaupuni, Sunset Beach, Oahu, Hawaii 1971 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Margo Godfrey Oberg, Sunset Beach, Oahu, Hawaii 1977 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Margo Godfrey Oberg, Sunset Beach, Oahu, Hawaii 1977 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Pipeline, Oahu, Hawaii 1975 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Pipeline, Oahu, Hawaii 1975 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Shaun Tomson, Pipeline, Oahu, Hawaii 1977 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Shaun Tomson, Pipeline, Oahu, Hawaii 1977 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Sunset Beach 1972 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Sunset Beach 1972 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Teri Melanson, Pupukea, Oahu, Hawaii 1976 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Teri Melanson, Pupukea, Oahu, Hawaii 1976 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Waimea Bay, Oahu, HI 1977 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Waimea Bay, Oahu, HI 1977 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew, Backdoor, Oahu, Hawaii 1974 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew, Backdoor, Oahu, Hawaii 1974 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew, Ke Iki Road, Oahu, Hawaii 1976 – Photo © Jeff Divine

Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew, Ke Iki Road, Oahu, Hawaii 1976 – Photo © Jeff Divine

California Street, Ventura, CA 1972 – Photo © Jeff Divine

California Street, Ventura, CA 1972 – Photo © Jeff Divine