Today, the surf world has lost a legendary figure. Mike Doyle, celebrated waterman and board-builder from Leucadia, California, reportedly passed away last night in his sleep at the age of 78. According to his family, who took to his Instagram account to inform his friends and loved ones, “Mike slipped away peacefully in his sleep early this morning at his home on Gringo Hill, with his loving wife, Annie right by his side.” Doyle was currently living in Mexico at the time of his passing.

Born in 1941 and surfing by the age of 13, Doyle started his wave-riding pursuits as a goofyfoot and continued to do so for nearly 3 years until he began surfing Malibu regularly and retaught himself how to surf as a regularfoot. According to Matt Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing, shortly after his rebirth into a regularfooter, Doyle was cast as a surfing stunt double in the generation-defining film, “Gidget”.

Doyle became a commanding figure in the 1960s surf scene and was likely the best all-around surfer of the era. He was a decorated competitor, paddleboard racer and tandem surfer. Here’s more from his EOS biography:

The easy-smiling Doyle himself was in many ways the archetypal California teenage surfer: deeply tanned with peroxide-blond hair, rowdy and prank-happy but not malicious. At 6′ 1″, 190 pounds, however, Doyle was bigger than most surfers, and vastly more athletic. He excelled at paddleboard racing, an adjunct sport for most surfers in the pre-shortboard era, winning the West Coast Championships pier race in 1959, 1960, and 1962, and anchoring California’s World Contest-winning relay team in 1968. As a tandem surfer, Doyle was second only to the great Pete Person. Often teaming up with Linda Merrill of San Clemente, Doyle won the 1962 Pacific Coast Championships, the 1963 West Coast Championships, the 1965 United States Surfing Championships, and the 1965 World Surfing Championships. He also won the tandem division at the Makaha International in 1963, 1964, and 1965.

Doyle had fewer wins as a non-tandem surfer, but his results spanned the decade. He finished third in the 1961 West Coast Championships, second in the 1964 World Championships, sixth in the 1965 World Championships, second in the 1966 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational, first in the 1968 Duke, and first in the 1969 Peru International. He also won the Surfer Magazine Readers Poll Award in 1964 and 1965, and was voted the top international surfer in Surfing magazine’s 1966 Hall of Fame Awards. The Mike Doyle signature model, by Hansen Surfboards, was introduced in 1967.


Mike Doyle, one of surfing's original icons. Photo: Divine

Doyle was also a business-minded mover and shaker. He developed the first-ever surf-specific board wax, he created the prototype to today’s soft top and even toyed around with an early version of the snowboard.

The dapper, entrepreneurial, good-natured and articulate Doyle inspired some of surfing’s mainstay characters, including Shortboard Revolutionary Nat Young and 1966 East Coast champion Gary Propper who, according to EOS, once said that that Doyle “had style. Everyone wanted to surf like him, look like him, dress like him.”

Our condolences go out to the Doyle family, his friends and loved ones. To learn more about the legacy he left behind, visit his Encyclopedia of Surfing page.