"Rick decides he’s going to take some LSD, some white Owsley, and he’s driving my mom’s car..." - Art Brewer
The photographs of Art Brewer have been captivating the surf world for half a century. His action, portrait, travel, and lifestyle images have been such a force that there’s a “tail wagging dog” thing at play—while at first he may have been merely documenting surf culture, after a decade or so his documentation started influencing surf culture. Every great surfer from, say, the ‘80s onward would have spent time with Art’s iconic imagery—a towheaded Bunker Spreckels sitting behind his little red whip on the sand, a hand-jiving Rabbit Bartholomew getting all Ali-like in the studio, a nose-riding Herbie Fletcher going really, really fast at Maalaea. We look to the surfers that have come before to determine what it means to be a surfer—and Art has photographed a large chunk of all the above.
In the first of this six-part series, Art takes us back to the summer of ’69, when he and the artist Rick Griffin took a little drive up to San Francisco.
“This was after I’d been hired by Surfer. Rick and I were talking about going up to San Francisco together. I had an old car that never would have made the trip, so Rick talked me into borrowing my mom’s car, which was a ’67 Mustang. I met Rick at his studio in San Pedro, he’s there with this girl, his girlfriend I find out. And he goes, ‘I gotta go see my wife in San Francisco.’
So we get on the road, and as we’re heading up there Rick decides he’s going to take some LSD, some white Owsley, and he’s driving my mom’s car. So we drive up, through Big Sur, and Rick’s fucking stoned. I’m sitting in the back, the chick’s up front, and we get up to San Francisco, and we go to this house, which is at 101 Mission Street, in the Tenderloin area. His kids are there, his wife is there, and I can feel this tension between his wife, Ida, and him, and Rick looks over and goes, ‘I’ve got the place where you’ll be staying.’ So he takes me over to his girlfriend’s place and sets me up there. This is back during the period of Free Love and all that, so I’m staying at her place, sleeping in her bed.
In the end, I end up going with Rick to meet S. Clay Wilson and R. Crumb, I got to meet those guys, I was just overwhelmed because I grew up reading the Zap Comics and all that shit. Well finally, a couple days later, I realize I’ve got crabs. And I go see what Rick’s up to, and he’s back into the family life. And I just burned out, took off, I’d had enough. I got spooked in San Francisco.”
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---Jamie Brisick is a writer, photographer, and director. He surfed on the ASP world tour from 1986 to 1991. He has since documented surf culture extensively. His books include Becoming Westerly: Surf Champion Peter Drouyn’s Transformation into Westerly Windina, Roman & Williams: Things We Made, We Approach Our Martinis With Such High Expectations, Have Board, Will Travel: The Definitive History of Surf, Skate, and Snow, and The Eighties at Echo Beach. His writings and photographs have appeared in The Surfer’s Journal, The New York Times, and The Guardian. He was the editor of Surfing magazine from 1998-2000, and is presently the global editor of Huck. In 2008 he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship. He lives in Los Angeles. For more of his work check out jamiebrisick.com & @jamiebrisick