Remembering Max

Paying tribute to one of the unsung surf legends of the '70s

Max gives his address to the surf media on his 15th birthday—the day he hung up his custom wetsuit for good. Photo: Gilley
Max gives his address to the surf media on his 15th birthday—the day he hung up his custom wetsuit for good. Photo: Gilley

Gerry Lopez, Wayne Lynch, Barry Kanaiaupuni, Rabbit Bartholomew, Buttons Kaluhiokalani, Shaun Tomson, Larry Bertleman, Mark Richards…there’s definitely not a shortage of ’70s surf legends. If you ask me, however, one name from that era is too often overlooked: Max.

As in Max the surf dog.

For fourteen years Max and his tandem partner, Dave Chalmers, surfed up and down the coast of Southern California and Baja. Max was one of those scruffy, mixed breeds that had so much personality—so much surf stoke—that it was really kind of eerie.

Max would bark and howl and whine on the beach if he couldn’t go out. At home, he would literally pout and go lay in the corner if he saw Chalmers pick up his shortboard. As soon as he motioned for his custom log, though, Max would go crazy—just run back and forth across the yard like a frothing banshee.

More importantly, Max was the real deal—just a full-on prodigy—as anyone who saw A Matter Of Style could attest. Max had a bit of a starring role in that 1976 Steve Soderbergh film—a several minute segment that showed Chalmers and Max in solid surf. To howling audiences, the tandem pair flew across the screen on overhead walls with Max’s ears flapping in the wind and his incredible balance and subtle weight-shifts on display. Max had a way of hanging on in near-impossible situations, and made very, very few trips to the proverbial dog pound.

Max’s defining moment, however, arrived with the local San Diego premiere of A Matter of Style. For promotional purposes, the theater owner agreed to let Max have his own seat during the show, and what happened that night is something for the ages, something better left to an eyewitness account from Chalmers:

“Right after Max’s segment, Max got up and out of his seat and—I swear to God—walked down the aisle to the screen, pissed on the screen, turned and walked back to his seat.”

Max made his statement and the theater exploded.

A ’70s surfer to the bone.