"Art and....Surfing. The connection between the two in California bohemian life style has run deep for generations of artists and surfer's beginning in the 1930's to present. Surfers became artists, artists became surfers. Both with the internal experience of improvising while riding a wave or painting on a canvas, an instantaneous creative moment being the commonality between the two obsessive disciplines. Artists immerse creative focus on their work, devoid of peripheral worldly distractions, in the same way a surfer's attention become's a primal, instinctual force when taking off on a wave, any wave.
This site's proclivities explore the lives of people who were influenced by art and surfing. From Los Angeles painter Billy Al Bengston who is a Venice beach resident surfer and 1950's art icon to bohemian kids and other's beginning in mid-century California who evolved through making art and riding waves. Surfing and art is kind of like joining a club for life - Once in you are in, you are in for ever whether you continue making art or surfing.
By Erik Nelson
Growing up in the 1950's bohemian enclave known as Del Monte Park on the Monterey Peninsula created a kind of social vortex for kids socially.You left a house in the morning that was more sculpture than home to a educational environment which demanded conformity and submission and returned home that afternoon to an atmosphere of art, jazz and intellectualism. Teacher's and students could have unpredictable reactions in interpreting your lifestyle as senator Joseph Mc Carthy's council on un-american activities was the accepted mindset of the day. I don't know of any Del Monte Park art kids that excelled at team sports and most of us quit public school before graduation. I left High School after 11th grade to build a tiny cabin in the mountains of the Big Sur area where through a neighbor up the mountain I discovered welded steel sculpture and painting which I work in to this day. The fond memory of riding past my Pacific Grove High graduating class ceremonies taking place on the school football field while I was in the back of a truck full of lumber for the cabin I was building down the coast, gives me pleasure to this day.
Surfing began for most of us kids in the Del Monte Park neighborhood in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Surfing culture, although very small at that time, was an inclusive refuge for those of us who didn't fit in to conventional school activities and social life. Surfing was becoming increasingly socially fashionable in the 60's until finally the jocks who were kicking your ass in the school gym locker room were showing up stoned down at the beach trying to be your buddy and looking to get hip with surfing.
Surfboards being scarce were either bought, traded for or home built and seemed like they weighed a ton. My Dad and Uncle surfed and lifeguarded in San Diego during the thirties so aquiring a 9'3" 35 pound Gordon & Smith longboard (surfboards were all long at that time) for an 11 year old was not out of the realm of necessity in my families view. With my surfboard trailer made from 2"x4" lumber and bicycle wheels bolted to my bike, I would ride downhill through wooded roads and sand dunes in Del Monte Forest, now Pebble Beach, go surfing and then faithfully push the rig back uphill to my parents house which was located on a steep hill with a view of the ocean.The guys who were surfing didn't care what your grades were, if you could throw a football or what position you played in Little League Baseball or if your parents were bohemian artists living in weird shaped houses. Surfing life could also be the road to ruin for some kid's first experience with un-supervised freedom of which there were quite a few casualties.
Surfing as with art has evolved with me over 55 years. As my professional art interests became deeply affected by the German neo-expressionist painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer who works are large scale mixed media paintings, my surfing life has evolved around kneeboard surfer,film maker and surfmat surfing icon George Greenough now living in a pyramid structure on the east coast of Australia. In the same creative vein that Kiefer's art sensibilities brought texture and tectonic structure to my paintings and sculpture, Greenough's inventive nature and individualized lifestyle brought kneeboards, building camera water housings to film and photograph from the water, the encouragement that real innovation and creativity are not compatible with ridged habits of thought.
In thinking about our parent's creative lives in mid-century Del Monte Park and their existentialist world perspective, surfing gave their children who rode waves and formed a life long bond with the ocean and art, a parallel universe to live in while teenagers. Art and surfing for us kid's was our bohemian brigadoon."