John Severson: Rock & Roar

Giddy as a schoolgirl high on Justin Timberlake I stepped through the front door of the Surf Gallery in Laguna Beach. Could it be? Could this be the night that I would come face to face with the man who has steered not only a major course in the direction of my life, but generations upon generations of surfers as well? John Severson, in every sense of the word, is the ultimate surfer.

When Severson released the first issues of SURFER Magazine in 1960 the world as surfers knew it changed forever. Surfing found it’s first true and honest media outlet. Fast forward to 2003 and Severson tranquilly lives on a beautiful beach in Maui and splits his time between surfing and painting. Surf media has since blossomed into countless web sites, magazines and video shows. Severson’s responsible for quite a lot, yet his attitude and perspective takes credit for very little…humble through and through.

Severson’s art and eye for the essence of surfing is unique and unparalleled. The June 21st opening of his show at The Surf Gallery was a brilliant display of his pencil work, watercolor and oil paintings. Every image that explodes from his soul, while being bright and upbeat, is also extremely deep in meaning and rich with energy. His perception of surfing is as the sport and lifestyle should be, positively happy.

As I wandered around the gallery I met up with friends and legends alike. The lineage in the room was unbelievable. One-time SURFER Magazine editor and current publisher of the Surfer’s Journal Steve Pezman examined a painting with long-time SURFER photog Tom Servais. Micky Munoz bumped into my girlfriend on the way to the sushi platter while Herbie Fletcher and Jericho Poppler talked a little story outside. The depth of the heritage at the Surf Gallery that night was something to behold.

Being the poor, writer type that I am I didn’t have nearly enough cash buy an original painting like I would have liked to, but it wouldn’t have mattered much anyway because almost all of the Severson work that hung on the walls had already been sold. I did manage to get Mr. Severson to sign a poster for me, a treasure in and of itself.

In the end I did get to meet John Severson, an event I won’t soon forget. We talked about some of the same people we knew in common from back in his Seal Beach days and a little bit about life at SURFER today. For being such an amazing person and contributing so much to the sport of surfing he has remained true to his roots. He is still a surfer first and foremost, and with that comes a smile and stoke to last a lifetime.

The show is running at The Surf Gallery in Laguna Beach until July 23rd, and don’t worry if you want to buy a Severson original the Gallery has just recently got more in. Click here to check out the current inventory. Or take a peek at Severson’s own web site at
All photos are run courtesy of Sharon Marshall. –Jake Howard