129: Matt Warshaw/Surfing's Dr Johnson

Matt Warshaw via Zoom, July 2020. Photo: Owen Tozer

To call Matt Warshaw’s Encyclopaedia of Surfing a labour of love would be to do the entire project a grave injustice. As the name suggests, EoS is Matt’s ongoing attempt to document the history of surfing and surf culture through the site of the same name.

It’s an industry ‘lifer’ project par excellence, and a beautiful, Johnsonian venture that, in essence, will never be completed.

Photo: Owen Tozer

But then, Matt’s entire career has been about voyaging deeper than anybody else into surf history; whether as a journalist, the author of weighty surf histories such as his History of Surfing, or now through his Encyclopaedia.

With this project, surfing has found the perfect cultural and historical custodian. And Matt has found the perfect vehicle through which he can continue to explore his life’s passion. It’s the living embodiment of the 1000 True Fans theory of art and creativity, and in its Borgesian infinity there is something surreal yet completely creatively pure about the entire undertaking.

Photo: Owen Tozer

I’ve been looking forward to speaking to Matt for years, and this encounter didn’t disappoint. Like a river slowly making its way across a floodplain, our conversation meandered in its own slow, purposeful way and I enjoyed it very much. Listen to the episode below:

Connect With Matt

Show Notes

  • Matt’s lockdown
  • Media versus real life
  • The importance of the November election
  • How Matt met Mark Cunningham
  • Matt’s vow to stop surfing in cold water
  • The pros and cons of moving to Seattle
  • How there move impacted Matt’s surfing
  • Impact of aging on one’s ability to take part in action sports
  • Surfing in Costa Rica
  • Coming back to cold water surfing
  • The new wetsuit
  • Matt’s Encyclopedia of Surfing
  • How did the Encyclopedia start and where does it end?
  • Matt’s database
  • Making the EOS into a website
  • The community’s role in continuing EoS
  • The different perspectives on surf history.
  • Who to put on pedestals and who not
  • Less emphasized stories
  • On history being written by the victors
  • The art of revision
  • Having volunteers help on the EOS
  • How to monetize the EOS website
  • The SOS EOS fundraiser
  • Matt’s favourite period of surf history
  • Recent trips
  • The significance of the wave pool on surfing’s future.
  • Will the future hold two types of surfing?
  • Memorabilia in surfing history

People Mentioned

  • Teddy
  • Jodi
  • Jay
  • Kate
  • Mark Cunningham
  • Jeremy Sterling
  • Art Brewer
  • John Severson
  • Mark Ojay
  • Brad Berret
  • Tom Blake
  • Barry Kanaiaupuni
  • Bob McTavish
  • Midget Farrelly
  • Nat Young
  • Westwick Brothers
  • Drew Kampion
  • Dick Brewer
  • Chas Smith
  • Tom Curren
  • Robin Trower
  • Mick Fanning
  • Kevin Kelley
  • Sam George
  • Kelly Slater
  • Nick Carroll
  • Bruce McFarlane

Places Mentioned

  • Seattle
  • Honolulu
  • Chile
  • San Francisco
  • Costa Rica
  • Mexico
  • Maldives
  • Bristol
  • Hawaii
  • Malibu
  • El Salvador
  • Baha
  • Australia
  • Indonesia
  • Stockton
  • Lemoore
  • Kelly Slater Surf Ranch
  • Wales
  • Portugal
  • Liverpool
  • Algarve
  • Waco
  • Makaha
  • Oakland
  • Brighton
  • London

Companies/Brands/Contests Mentioned

  • Surfer Magazine
  • UCLA
  • File Maker Pro
  • Encyclopedia of Surfing
  • Berkley
  • Endless Summer
  • Makaha surf contest