The Surf World Loses a Legend: Warren Bolster – 1947-2006

On Wednesday, September 6, word began to flow sadly out of Hawaii that legendary surf and skate photographer Warren Bolster had taken his own life. Born in Arlington, Virginia, in 1947, Bolster traveled the world with his father who was in the foreign service. Bolster learned to surf and skateboard while in Sydney in 1965, then established himself as one of the top competitive surfers in the Cocoa Beach area in 67. In his early 20s, Bolster moved to San Diego to surf, and in 1975 he began taking surf photos. He produced a cover of Surfing magazine on his first try, and by 1975 he was working for SURFER as a staff photographer.

In The Encyclopedia of Surfing, Matt Warshaw describes Bolster as protean, which means readily assuming different forms or character; extremely variable, changeable in shape or form, versatile, able to play many kinds of roles. And that one word described Bolster well.

Ron Dahlquist has lots of Warren memories. "I dont think he missed an opportunity to shoot the Waimea shorebreak. Every time Id fly over to Oahu to shoot the epic shorebreak scene, there would be Warren sitting on his Pentax Telephoto case already at work while I set up my tripod. I consider Warren a peer from my generation of shooters, and his passing leaves a huge void in the surf community at large. Rest in peace, Warren. Hopefully your pain and suffering has come to an end."

Bolster was the associate editor at SURFER from 1976-77, and he also served double duty as the editor of Skateboarder Magazine during the Urethane Revolution. According to The Encylopedia of Surfing: Bolster was constantly on the lookout for new angles, shooting from helicopters and often using a deck-mounted camera to get spectacular in-the-tube photos from behind the surfer, or noseriding photos from in front of the surfer.

Warren gave everything he had to what he loved, said Daniel Gesmer, who edited the book The Legacy of Warren Bolster, Master of Skateboard Photography. Warren was so devoted on principal to what he cared about that it kind of cost him his job at Skateboarder. Ultimately, he wasnt a businessman. He didnt know how to temper his passion and his purism.

Bolster moved to Hawaii permanently in 1972 and was an official SURFER staff photographer until 92. In recent years, Bolster had been living in Hawaii, raising two sons and struggling to make a living in an industry hed helped to establish and where he had thrived.