photo: Sharon Marshall
On Saturday, April 7, our Photo Archivist, Legendary Surf Photographer Steve Wilkings was inducted into the Hermosa Beach Surfer's Walk of Fame. Here's a write up on that event. (PS, we consider Steve to be one of our most valuable "Gems" around here).
Steve Wilkings and Mark Levy check
out the plaques that will bear their names on the Surfers Walk of Fame. Photo
by Mike Balzer
Dazzling golden sunshine bathed
former U.S. Surfing Champion Mark Levy and widely published surf photographer
Steve Wilkings as they were formally inducted onto the Hermosa Beach Surfers
Walk of Fame in a Saturday ceremony at the foot of the city pier.
Wilkings grew misty-eyed when he
offered “a special thank you” to another Walk of Fame inductee, surf
photographer Leroy Grannis, who passed away last year.
“He was my mentor,” Wilkings said.
“It’s hard to think of him passing. He was a wonderful man.”
Wilkings, a third generation
Hermosan, surveyed his picture-postcard surroundings.
“What more could you ask for…This
was a wonderful place to grow up,” he said.
He recounted working at an aquarium
that once stood south of the pier, near where Scotty’s on the Strand restaurant
is located, and seeing his first published photo in “Surfer” magazine in 1964.
“I thought, this is great, this is
fun,” he said.
Wilkings’ parents let him turn the
family bathroom into a darkroom to develop his photos. Local surfers would wait
outside for proof sheets and choose shots to buy from Wilkings for $1.
“When I think back on it, it was
kind of funny, because we only had one bathroom,” Wilkings said, recalling the
occasional urgent knocking from a family member who would have to wait for
photos to develop before the door could be opened and light allowed in.
Wilkings developed a system to mount
cameras on the tails of surfboards, and shoot photos from behind the surfer,
from inside the tube to the outside, using a remote control device from the
A July 1965 photo by Steve Wilkings
captures Mike Stevenson, Steve Clark, Alfred Laws and Richard Crawford in
He helped chronicle a golden age of
Hermosa surfing in the 1960s before moving to Oahu, Hawaii to photograph
high-paying surf competitions there.
Wilkings served as a senior staff
photographer for Surfer magazine for a decade, and his images have appeared in
Time, Life, People, Playboy, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone and Surfers
Journal magazines, as well as in numerous books.
Levy took to the podium following a
glowing introduction by his brother Derek, also a noted waterman.
“I was wondering who he was talking
about,” Levy joked.
The Hermosa native praised Wilkings’
distinctive and eye-grabbing magazine photos, and took his turn waxing
expansive upon the town.
“We live in such a cool place…such a
beautiful playground, and the people are so nice,” he said.
“I am deeply moved to be a part of
this. This is really cool,” Levy said.
He expressed gratitude for his
family and for surfing mentors, including his brother, who shows “no fear” in
big waves. Levy noted his brother’s strong finish in the Legends division of
the recent Dive N’ Surf South Bay Boardriders Club contest, which was won
by Walk of Fame inductee Mike Purpus, once a top-ranked pro.
“Nobody else from here has done what
Mike Purpus has done,” Levy said.
He cited Purpus as a key influence.
“Purpus could turn like nobody’s
business,” Levy said.
Levy reeled off a long list of wins
and high finishes in the 1970s, and won the U.S. Junior Men’s Surfing
Championship in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina in 1974. He was named “Best
Californian Surfer” in the October 1974 issue of Surfer magazine. The Jacobs
“Tiger Tail” surfboard is his signature model.
He finished second in the 32-mile
Catalina Classic paddleboard race in 1976, paddled the length of the
1,100-mileCaliforniacoastline, and paddled the English Channel along with six
other members of the South Bay Paddleboard Club.
He participated in adventure paddles
at Loch Ness, Manhattan Island, New York, and an ill-fated Florida-to-Cuba
relay. Out of the water, Levy finished the Boston Marathon in 2 hours and 48
The inductees were draped in flower
leis and presented with bronze plaques that will be affixed to the pier.
Posted in the April 12, 2012 edition of The Easy Reader News