Greg Noll, big-wave legend and pioneer, has passed away of natural causes at the age of 84.
"It is with a heavy heart the Noll family announces the death of our patriarch, Greg Noll. Greg died of natural causes on Monday June 28th, at the age of 84," reads the statement released by his son Jed Noll. "We invite all of our friends and family to celebrate his life by sharing this post and your stories, pictures and experiences through your preferred platform. Aloha."
Born in San Diego on February 11, 1937, Greg Noll ranks among the most influential surf pioneers and entrepreneurs of the 1950s. At the age of three, his family fortuitously moved to the South Bay of Los Angeles and the young Noll started surfing at the age of 11, eventually becoming a member of the Manhattan Beach Surf Club where he learned board shaping from Dale Velzy and also served as a Los Angeles County Lifeguard.
In 1954, a 17-year-old Noll moved to Hawaii. Initially posting up at Makaha on the island of Oahu, almost right away he felt at home in the big, challenging surf of the westside.
"Those early years at Makaha are among the highlights of my life," wrote Greg Noll in his 1989 autobiography "Da Bull: Life Over the Edge."
"Our quonset hut looked right out at the point. Our daily routine revolved around surfing, diving and fishing. If the surf was flat, we'd fish or dive. If there were waves, we'd surf. School came second ... or third. I probably averaged a few days a week, just enough to get by."
By the winter of '57 the attention had shifted to the North Shore, where Noll was among the first group of surfers to tempt fate at big Waimea and other outer reefs.
On November 7, 1957, Noll was credited as one of the first to surf Waimea Bay, popularizing the break for future generations of big wave chargers. Though it later became known that Seal Beach Lifeguard Harry Schurch had caught waves at Waimea before Noll and his crew, Noll will be remembered as one of the pioneers.
Also diving deep into the business of surfing, Noll produced a series of early surf films. Back in Los Angeles, in 1965 Noll opened a 20,000-square-foot Noll Surfboards factory in Hermosa Beach. Business boomed and at one point they were producing over 200 boards a week. Noll also recruited a young artist named Rick Griffin to design some of his early price lists and advertising. The business eventually closed its doors in 1971.
Noll was back at his beloved Makaha for the epic "Swell of '69," where he rode what was considered to be the biggest wave ever at that time. The high-water mark of his legendary surfing career, on December 4, 1969, he leapt off the beach, into the water and became the stuff of legend.
"Some of my best friends have said it was a death-wish wave," Noll mused. "I didn't think so at the time, but in retrospect I realize it was probably bordering on the edge."
After pushing himself and the sport of big-wave surfing to the absolute limit, Noll reckoned he'd done everything he could do and eventually moved to the quiet country of coastal Northern California, where he worked as a fisherman and continued to shape exquisite wooden surfboards all the way through his remaining years.