In the lounge area of the SURFER offices, where the staff gathers nearly every day to pitch and discuss feature ideas, there’s a huge 5′ x 6′ print hung on the wall. It’s decorated by a collage of each and every SURFER magazine cover from 1960 through 2010 (yeah, we’ve been meaning to add those last 7 years). Inevitably, everyone who comes through the office stops at the enormous print, combs through the covers and finds their favorite from the magazine’s storied past. The best SURFER covers still jump off the wall and grab you, even if they were first published decades ago.

Recently, we decided to ask photo editor Grant Ellis, a man who likely has every SURFER cover committed to memory, to pick 25 covers that stand out among the many that make up SURFER’s 58 volumes. After staring for a few moments at the 487 covers plastered on the wall, he admitted that this task would be easier said than done. “Each cover is interesting in its own way,” he explained. “I still look at that board and I find new things that catch my eye all the time.”

Still, Ellis was able to eventually whittle his many favorite SURFER covers down to 25 of the greatest images we’ve featured on Page One. Below is his list.

“This is the 8th issue of SURFER and I think it reveals the creativity of the SURFER mag staff during those years, to pick this cartoon of Murf the Surf for the cover [Murph the Surf was a popular Rick Griffin illustration]. Severson and the staff were bold enough to go in those types of directions right away. There were no rules because there was no competition at the time. It's really a powerful SURFER cover, an iconic illustration and it's one of my favorites.”

“This cover image is credited to the legendary photographer Ron Stoner, but it's also another classic Severson montage. Stoner shot the great surf image of Lance Carson and Severson shot the setting sun. He sandwiched the two images to create a very powerful, striking image that has become one of Surfer's most memorable and iconic covers.” Photo by Ron Stoner

“This issue is full of great features--stories about the legendary 1968 World Contest in Puerto Rico, an Alby Falzon pictorial from Africa and an interview with Midget Farrelly. But the shot that got the cover was taken at the 2nd Annual Santa Cruz Pro-Am. Some of the world's best pros would make the yearly trek to Northern California to compete in the event. This specific year, Corky Carroll won the event and earned a prize of $400 dollars. But the much-coveted SURFER magazine cover went to a Santa Cruz local. John Severson added an electric color design to surround the surfer.” Photo by John Severson

“Originally this cover attracted my attention because it's my birth month and year, but there's much more to it. It's almost got the feel of that iconic Gerry Lopez cover [Vol 20 #5] with how the colors pop--the blue, the yellow, and the graphic nature of it makes it stand out. It's Michael Ho, an iconic surfer, inside a little wave and I think he's switch in this picture, unless they flipped the photo. I like how clean the design is--there aren’t any cover blurbs. It just pops. I'm really attracted to these graphic, simplified looks.” Photo by Steve Wilkings

“There are three SURFER covers that Craig Peterson shot on his travels and all three of them sum up SURFER magazine perfectly. They're also probably three of the most iconic covers. I think it's because they have this sense of adventure and travel in an exotic location. They also have really perfect composition that draws you in and makes you part of the adventure. They’re great stand alone photographs and I think that makes them powerful. They put you in a place or they make you wish you were there with them in the tent or on the beach at Petaculco or jumping off the boat at Tavarua.” Photo by Craig Peterson

“This one I love: it's just a classic Pipeline lineup shot by Jeff Divine. He has to be the guy with the best of the original Pipe lineups. There's no one out, the water color is beautiful, there's barely anyone on the beach and there are beautiful looking surfboards on the sand. It's all so dreamy. You just can't get this picture anymore. The only time the lineup is empty is during the Pipe Masters and the beach is crowded with people.” Photo by Jeff Divine

“This one is cool because it's so simple. It's probably cooler to a photo editor, because it looks like a slide on a light table. It's simple and clean. It's a photo of Mark Richards taken in the winter of '78/'79. Even at that size, it's so obviously MR. When you're buying a magazine and you come across something like this that jumps out at you, it's like a breath of fresh air. It was pretty early days and pretty creative thinking. We repeated the look and feel of this when I was working with Aaron Regan for the 45 Year Anniversary issue, except we used a Stoner photo of Skip Frye.” Photo by Peter Crawford

“This is a Steve Wilkings shot of Gerry Lopez on a Lightning Bolt Surfboard. I think this is probably my favorite cover. It has a clean design and it's a good representation of Gerry, too. Most of the shots you see of Gerry are these very soulful, calm, quiet moments of him on a wave. This one really gives you a true sense of the energy of Pipeline--there's movement in it. Gerry's looking just as stylish as he ever does, but there's a bit more intensity to the moment than what you normally see in a picture of Gerry. And the combination of the yellow board and the red jacket and the blue water, it just jumps off the page.” Photo by Steve Wilkings

“This shot was taken during a contest that Herbie Fletcher put on down in Cabo. They had a bunch of bands playing down there and I think Kelly won it. His turn here is pretty loose and not your standard, controlled maneuver. To me, this cover is so SURFER magazine. You've got Kelly Slater on the cover. The cover blurbs mention rock and roll, Tom Curren and Rick Griffin. When I saw that cover on the newsstands I was instantly sold--I didn't even have to look inside the magazine, I just knew it was what I wanted.” Photo by Rob Gilley

“This image of Tom Curren in France was shot by Art Brewer and it's a really good speed blur. You can tell that it's Tom from the profile and the wave looks inviting. I think small waves on covers are quite attractive to a lot of readers because that's really what most people want to be surfing--especially if it's a really perfect, smaller wave. Sometimes big waves are sort of unrelatable to people. It’s almost Tom's portrait shot in a way. It embodies his style, which was such a huge part of who he is. He did have his portrait on the cover once, but it was with 5 other people in the world title race at the time.” Photo by Art Brewer

“This photos sums up Hawaii. I think it's one of the only covers of someone just wiping out. There are definitely covers where people are going to fall off their surfboards, but this one is a horrendous wipeout at Pipe. It's really hard to find a wipeout that is good enough to put on a cover, but I think it's cool to put on the cover from time to time because wiping out is obviously a big part of surfing. The perfect wave shape and simple cover blurb help, too. Nowadays I think Instagram or the Internet sort of ruins the opportunities for good wipeouts to make the cover because they're the first things to get posted.” Photo by Vince Cavataio

“This was the 25 Most Influential Surfers of All Time issue and we called Duke the surfer of the century. I wasn't the photo editor at the time, but I heard a lot about it. I think there was an action shot of somebody, I can't remember who, and there was this shot. The whole editorial staff wanted this shot and it created a huge drama in the office. I've heard stories of sales reps who were in tears thinking that people wouldn't buy ads in the issue and it would be a big disaster, but I think it's one of the best SURFER covers ever. The fact that he's young and in his prime, plus he's in a suit--it's so powerful and so awesome.” Photo taken circa 1915, courtesy of Hawaii State Archives

“This is Bruce Irons at Lance's Right and I think it’s probably a lot of people's favorite cover. Everyone knows Bruce, everyone wishes they were surfing in Indo, surfing in the late afternoon light and surfing like that. It's a powerful image and it stands the test of time. I think it's a testament to Tom Servais, who took the shot. There were a few photographers who captured this moment, but the way Tom exposes his film, he always seems to get it right and nail these moments beautifully. He was a master of using film, slide film, which is a really difficult medium.” Photo by Tom Servais

“When I first saw this cover, it was like one of those "holy shit" moments. When you look at this perfect wave, you want to know where the hell it is. It’s the kind of wave surfers dream about. It's Timmy Turner at Apocalypse, shot by Jason Childs, and the story about Turner’s journey in Indo is a feature in the issue. It's one of the most beautiful waves that has been on a SURFER cover.” Photo by Jason Childs

“This is Kelly Slater at Jeffreys Bay shot by Lance Slabbert. When the sun sets in J-Bay during the winter, the sky gets this pinkish, purple color to it. In this photo, Slater's riding a Spyder Murphy twin fin and the image was shot after the sun had gone and at a really slow shutter speed. At the time, everyone recognized this as Kelly, with the white wetsuit and everything. I saw that picture and knew it was an instant cover.” Photo by Lance Slabbert

“This is Tom Curren at Off the Wall, shot by Scott Aichner. I love this photograph. The fact that it’s Curren, one of the greatest surfers of all time, shot by one of the greatest water photographers of all time makes it powerful and impactful and it always stands out to me. The blurb "It was perfect..." draws you in.” Photo by Scott Aichner

“This is an Andrew Shield photo and the surfer is Trent Munro. When this slide came across my desk I thought it was the perfect cover. I was always looking for a shot that sums up the feeling of surfing alone, on a perfect peak, on a perfect beach. It's very hard to get those images where all the elements come together. It's funny because the guy is putting his leash on and there's a set of footprints going straight to the peak. It's hard to tell if he just walked out of the water, but it sort of leads you to the wave. It's such a dreamy little moment. It reminds me of Craig Peterson’s shots of jumping out of the boat or looking out of the tent--a scene where every surfer wants to be.” Photo by Andrew Shields

“Walter Iooss, who is one of the greatest sports photographers of all time, sent me this image. It was the perfect fit for Kelly’s portrait cover. During this year he won his 8th world title and 12th SURFER poll. Walter's shot a series of various sportsmen, like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, over the years and he had a good relationship with Kelly. Getting the opportunity to run one of Iooss’ images was pretty special. I think it stands alongside the Duke portrait as an iconic SURFER cover.” Photo by Walter Iooss

“This is Greg Long on a pink Christensen gun, shot by Todd Glaser. Todd was blind-folded, shoved behind the seat of a car and driven to this spot. He wasn't allowed to know the location. It was a no-brainer cover. It jumps straight out at you--the board color, the shape of the wave, the color of the water. The early frame that we chose builds a sense of anticipation of what’s to come and that creates a more intense moment.” Photo by Todd Glaser

“This is Conner Coffin, carving a perfect J-Bay canvas. It's extremely difficult to find a turn shot that stands alone and can live on a cover and have an impact. You can throw up an air on a beautiful backdrop and it works. Obviously lineups and barrels are no-brainers. But turns are so difficult to nail. It needs to be a moment that sums up the feeling of a specific turn that everyone can relate to. I think that's why people really liked it.” Photo by Grant Ellis

“This is a Jeff Divine photo of Buttons Kaluhiokalani. We put him on the cover in 2014 when Buttons passed away. We love this image. When you look at it on the cover, it's just meant to be. It should've been a cover long ago and I'm stoked we got the opportunity to honor Buttons with it. It's always been a photo that's stood out to me.” Photo by Jeff Divine

“I think this might have been everyone's favorite cover when it came out. Josh Mulcoy has secured a few SURFER covers over the years and he always jokes that you can cover him up with a dime because he's always microscopic in these beautiful, scenic images. In this image, all the elements worked. It was pretty special because it's rare to get that crisp light in this part of the world. In this particular location, it’s often stormy so to have the clouds part and the sun come out for this particular moment was pretty special.” Photo by Chris Burkard

“Woody Woodworth is such a talented photographer who is great at reading swell maps and knows California. He nailed this. Nobody could've pulled this off like he did. He captured this shot from an airplane and made the pilot wait for the right moment to fly--he just knew what he wanted and he went after it. The photo summed up perfectly all the amazing surf that came during the El Nino season.” Photo by Woody Woodworth