Despite Warren Bolster’s tragic story, you can’t help but smile when you walk through the Wolf Fine Art Gallery in San Diego and view his most decisive moments of brilliance. There’s MR at Waimea from a chopper, bottom-turning on the event-winning wave at the 1985 Billabong Pro. There’s the 1975 lineup of Trestles, which remains the biggest anyone’s ever seen it. A 1982 fins-out snap of Buttons at Backdoor, which easily could be mistaken for Bruce Irons today. And then there’s the most technically perfect camera board shot ever taken — Manoa Drollet in 2000.

All of these images and dozens more — framed, matted and hand-signed by the late artist himself — show the genius of Warren Bolster. The tireless, driven mad scientist who was happiest when he was in the moment creating yet another timeless image. Bolster took his own life last summer, but this exhibition, this body of work — on display through this weekend — has his thumbprint all over it. “We’d been working on this for a while,” says Trevor Robertson, who owns 1000 of Bolster’s best surf images (Bolster also has a priceless archive of skateboarding photography). “Warren and I had it all ready to go for last September’s trade show, but unfortunately he took his own life right before it. He’d been threatening to do it for a long time, and when his body gave out on him and he was in a lot of pain, he followed through with it.”

Robertson, a chiropractor in La Jolla and hard-core surfer, met Bolster on Tavarua a few years ago. After a big night of tequila, they struck up a deal for an undisclosed sum. “I’ve been cutting out Warren’s images out of the magazines and taping them on my wall since I was a little kid,” said Robertson. “And it’s such an honor to help ensure that his legacy lives on.”

(The Warren Bolster Collection will be on display at 363 Fifth Street, San Diego through Sunday. For more info, go to warrenbolster.com.)