It’s a shame that video rental stores are virtually extinct, because among the black cassettes that line their shelves apparently lurks life-changing powers. Surfer and photographer Tatsuo Takei is an example of this. In the early 90s, a teenaged Takei walked into his Japanese hometown’s video rental store totally unaware that he would experience his first exposure to surfing, something that would steer the course of his life. As he perused through the titles, John Milius’ 1978 film, “Big Wednesday,” caught his eye. “That’s a funny name,” Takei thought to himself and he kept browsing until he settled on a different movie.
For some reason that cover image of a silhouetted Matt, Jack and Leroy staring at a monster wave with a single-fin log propped up at 12 o’clock–a Hollywood doctored image that bears striking resemblance to John Severson’s 1964 photo of Greg Noll eyeing down Pipeline–stuck with Takei. He later rented the film, and became a surfer-one with a reverence and respect for all things Southern California surf related from the 60s.
Eventually Takei made a summer pilgrimage to California, where he lived in a van, enrolled in photo classes and surfed his brains out. He acquired the same camera gear used by the surf photography greats in the 60s and found mentorship from legendary photog Leroy Grannis by strategically parking next to him in the Cardiff Reef parking lot. Just as VHS cassettes eventually went obsolete, so did film photography with the rise of digital, but Takei refused to be bothered with the convenience of the modern tech. He’s no luddite, just a dedicated disciple with a goal to master the same temperamental gear used by his favorite photographers decades prior.
That summer trip turned into an annual tradition for the last two decades. Over that time Tatsuo has compiled his surf photography work into a beautiful new book titled, “Authentic Wave.” “Stoner, Severson, Grannis, all those guys only had ten years to binge through the 60s,” Takei said, “but my 60s has lasted 20 years.” By the looks of it, Takei’s 60s will continue for many more years to come. Most summer mornings, when there’s some swell in the water, you can catch Takei on the beach, usually Cardiff. Just look for the guy with an old Nikon camera with an obscenely long Century 650 lens pointed at the most stylish surfers in the water.
Check out Takei’s book signing and slide show tomorrow, Tuesday, September 12th, 6:30-9:00 pm at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside.
Takei will also be signing books at Patagonia Cardiff, this Saturday, September 15, from 3:00-6:00pm.
Buy “Authentic Wave” here.
Enjoy a few of his selects from “Authentic Wave” above and below.
To watch a short film about Takei, click here.