George Greenough, Pioneering Wave Artist

In 1971, my friend Bob Easton and I had just finished putting together Domebook 2 and we were hanging out at a house Bob had just built in Montecito, an upscale neighborhood south of Santa Barbara. Bob said he had a neighbor, a surfer who had made some surfing movies. Bob’s house had a room with large white walls, perfect for projecting films.

   That night a barefoot blond tousle-headed surfer dude showed up, toting a projector and reels of film. His name was George Greenough. Bob put on an Albert King blues album and we watched what was then revolutionary footage of George on his homemade kneeboard and with his homemade wide-angled camera powered by a motorcycle battery, inside the curls of waves. Breathtaking.

   Later that year George did some footage for Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” and was working on “The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun.” Very few people knew what he was up to. He came up to Bolinas twice. Once we had a showing at my house, and the 2nd time, because by then surfers had heard of his work, we rented the community center—and it was packed.

   I remember one shot of a wave in Australia at dawn, George speeding along the bottom of the wave, with the early morning sun backlighting the top of the wave in shimmering radiance. Another when he was inside the curl; it was like looking through the lens of a camera, a circle showing the beach, palm trees and blue sky, and then the circle tightened, got progressively smaller and then—wham! Wipeout, camera rotating as George spun around in the turbulence of the breaking wave.

   Over the years, George became famous for his photography, shot from a kneeboard. Bob (Easton) said George was like a martial artist, on his knees and tuned into the wave, part of it—vs. the standing up conquer-the-wave approach.

   George moved to Australia some years ago. I talked to him about including his house in Tiny Homes, but we never did get it together.

  In the latest issue of Surfers’ Journal (Vol. 21, No. 6), there’s an article by George about his latest invention, a sail-powered surfboard and a fascinating adventure yarn of him (with intricate details of his techniques) out —alone—one grey, windy day, carving across 20+ foot waves on the coast of New South Wales, Australia. Still out on the edge.

4 Responses to George Greenough, Pioneering Wave Artist

  1. Great Stuff Lloyd! Thanks for sharing. Some more back story on the top picture of GG in the tube. While Greenough was wearing the camera on his back Harold Ward was sitting out in the channel tripping the camera shutter remotely. Years before GoPro. Ward is that little speck GG is looking toward. Oh and Greenough is riding a surfmat.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Lloyd, nice tale….
    Is a 'sail-powered surfboard' is the same thing as a wind-surfer?


  3. Anonymous says:

    Greenough represents what, sadly, is becoming much more of a rarity in the surfing world (and the rest of the world for that matter) individuality. Today it,s all about riding the same equipment as everyone else, and if you dont you are scorned and even at times threatened with physical violence. Think about a guy on a surf mat out at the hook….

    While certainly I am not a Luddite (after all here I am reading every one of Lloyd's blog entries) I feel it is undeniable that technology has made the world a smaller place and in certain instances contributed to a dulling of the human spirit. The challenge is to embrace the good while rejecting the bad that comes with it. Greenough has proved to be a master at this….using technology to fly further out into the cosmos of character and expression, while refusing to be lured in the joining the comforts of the herds of sheep.

    Riding waves should be about just that- riding waves. In a way that speaks to each sould individually. And GG has lived the essence of that concept his entire life.

  4. Terry says:

    thanks lloyd. over the years since seeing tilopf flick i've thought of greenough – kneeboarding on spoons, he also made a pretty whacky little houseboat to get to breaks along the coast, going fishin', diving?
    one out there cool and creative guy. i live in central nsw and have surfed and sailed up that way, but never met the man. cool.

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