LeRoy Grannis became famous for his legendary surfing photos, shot at precisely the right moment. Born and raised in Hersoma Beach, California, he spends a big part of his childhood at the beach, where the emerging surf culture of the 1960s and 1970s quickly becomes a big part of his life.
In the early 1960s, a surf friend and photographer John “Doc” Ball introduces Grannis to the art after his doctor encouraged him to find a soothing hobby that would allow him to escape from his stressful job. By taking pictures, LeRoy exposes a way to share his deep passion with the world, and by doing so his pictures spread the sport and the culture around it.
Grannis’ fearlessness shows when he starts to take pictures on the water. He becomes extremely innovative in his methods to get the right surf shot. Developing a watertight, wooden camera box, stuck to the nose of his board, allows him to stay closer to the action and avoids returning to shore to change film.
By being both a surfer and a photographer, his iconic pictures are not just registrations of actions, but also express the beauty and power of the ocean and reflect his connection with surfing. As his son John said in the LA Times: “There’s surfing royalty, and he was one of the kings. He inspired so many big-name photographers that consider him their mentor.”
In the later 60s and 70s, he becomes photo editor at Surfing Illustrated Magazine and afterwards co-founder of International Surfing Magazine.
Discouraged by the increasing competition for the perfect angle, Grannis quits shooting surfing in 1971. Grannis was elected in the International Surfing Hall of Fame in 1966 as the number one photographer and awarded with the Surf Industry Manufactures Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. The New York Times awarded him with the title “Godfather of Surf Photography”.