Greg Noll with surfboard

I know we just sent out a Father’s Day letter a couple of weeks ago, but I thought we should let you know about the passing of one of surfing’s most colorful and recognized pioneers. If you haven’t heard, Greg “Da Bul” Noll died early this week at the age of 84.

Born Greg Lawhead in February of 1937, he later took the last name of his stepfather, Ash Noll.  Greg moved with his family from San Diego up the California coast to Manhattan Beach at around age six, and started surfing when he was 10.  Greg made his first trip to Hawaii at the age of 17, living at Makaha and finishing high school at nearby Waipahu High.  But it was in the late fall of 1957 that launched Noll into the spotlight of the surfing world.  With a handful of other surfers, he took on Waimea Bay.  Word has it that a surfer from Honolulu named Dickie Cross had drowned there in 1943, and it had remained unridden since.

Greg Noll
Greg Noll went on to become one of the most famous names in the surfing world, not only as a pioneer in the art of big wave riding, but also as a surfboard builder, publisher, filmmaker.  Perhaps his most famous surfboard design was his “Da Cat” model, which hit the waves in 1966.  As you probably know, the “Da Cat” model was a joint effort between Greg and his old friend Mickey Dora.

There is so much to write about Greg Noll and what he means to the surfing community…it’s hard to know where to start. If you haven’t read the book Greg Noll: The Art of the Surfboard by well-known surf industry author Drew Kampion, you might want to check it out.  It conveys his larger-than-life personality really well while providing amazing insight into the history of surfing.  And of course, Da Bull: Life Over the Edge, a book that Greg co-authored with Andrea Gabbard, is a very personal view of Greg’s incredible life.
greg noll I am lucky to have met Greg and his son Jed on a number of occasions over the years, and for that I will be forever grateful.  No doubt his personality was as big as the waves he rode, and his language was about as colorful as it gets.  I like the quote that appears on the last page of Greg Noll: The Art of the Surfboard, just below a copy of that famous image of Greg standing on the beach at Pipeline in December of ‘64.  He says, “You ask for a vision?  My vision is to stay alive so I can keep tormenting my friends!”
Greg Noll may have passed away recently, but he will be remembered by many for a long, long time. And you can be sure that while he’ll no longer be tormenting his friends, they will be smiling every time they think of him.
Until next time,