Greg Noll lived a grand life – big enough stature to be nicknamed “Da Bull” – charging building-sized waves few others would dare and becoming one of the early innovators in board building who helped to shape the surf industry into what it is today.
Noll, who grew up on the beaches of South Bay and whose influence has reached the world, died on Monday, June 28. He was 84 years old.
“This is a major loss for the surf industry. He was such a dynamic character, ”said Dennis Jarvis, owner of Spyder Surfboards. “He was such a legend.”
News of Noll’s passing was shared by his son, Jed, on social media, noting that Noll died of natural causes and inviting his friends and family to celebrate his life by sharing stories and photos.
Noll was part of the inaugural group honored at the Hermosa Beach Surfers Walk of Fame when it was established in 2003. He was also inducted into the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame in 1996 and the Surfers’ Hall of Fame in 2006. He was featured in the 2004 surf documentary “Riding Giants”.
Noll was born in San Diego in 1937 and moved to Manhattan Beach with his mother at the age of 6 after his parents separated. He was spending days at the beach, surfing by the age of 10, and making money cutting bait for Manhattan Beach pier fishermen, according to an article in the Daily Breeze.
While not in class at Mira Costa High School, he attended the Manhattan Beach Surf Club and surf pioneer Dale Velzy at a small clubhouse below the pier, learning the fitness craft. Velzy boards.
Jarvis remembers hearing stories from Noll and others over the years about his trips to Hawaii in search of big waves. Noll was a natural, lively and at times brash storyteller, but always able to weave an entertaining story.
Noll’s North Coast getaways in the late 1950s and 1960s are well known in the surfing world.
He was also one of the few people to ride the huge Makaha and Pipeline during those early years – he once told Jarvis about waves so big and wind so strong, that the chop itself was size. of a Volkswagen Beetle.
“Everyone was scared to do it,” Jarvis said of great Hawaiian surfing. “He was kind of avant-garde in that sense.
“When he got older he had the weight to put behind him, to go through those sections and do things that others didn’t have,” Jarvis said.
Noll’s induction into the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame describes one of his exploits: “At 32, Noll fell into a whopping 35ft at Makaha in 1969, leaping off his board as the smashing lip landed behind it. him. It was the biggest wave surfed at the time and remained that way for over 20 years.
He and others from the mainland would go to sleep under the trees, waiting for the next big swell to hit the island.
“He was one of the first guys to connect with Hawaiian culture. We owe him a lot, ”Jarvis said.
Peter “PT” Townend, the first world surfing champion, traded stories with Noll last year at the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame awards.
Townend spoke about one of the most iconic sessions in Waimea Bay, where only four or five guys paddled that day, Noll the motivator.
“He was the first of those guys who just loaded up some giant waves. He was just a man from hell, ”Townend said, using surf slang for a daredevil.
In 1956, Noll was invited to Australia during the Melbourne Summer Olympics to do a surfing show with local lifeguards.
Noll paddled the shorter, lighter balsa boards he used in Malibu – designs Australians had never seen before.
“His influence is so much bigger than people think,” said Townend, from Australia. “It just changed everything in Australia. It was the first time Australians saw boards like this – all shapers started to change their designs.
After returning from Melborne, Nell worked as a lifeguard in Manhattan Beach, shaping herself in her garage after work.
In the South Bay, Noll would become one of the first mass production builders who helped ship boards around the world, being part of an innovative group that included Dewey Weber, Hap Jacobs and Velzy.
“Surfing has been around for a long time,” Jarvis said. “But what they might have done in Little Hermosa Beach and in the South Bay area, when someone asks about the history of surfing, without South Bay and this bunch of people, you wouldn’t wouldn’t have this broad spectrum of production surfboards.
Noll built a large surfboard factory and storefront in Hermosa Beach in 1965 – it closed in 1971. He had small stores in Manhattan Beach, then Hermosa Beach and later in San Clemente.
Jarvis called Noll the “Gutenberg of surfboards,” revolutionizing surfboard production like Gutenberg did with the printing press.
“They made sure the guys in Florida could have a surfboard. They were making tens of thousands of boards, shipping them everywhere, ”Jarvis said.
News of Noll’s passing spread through social media on Monday, with many tributes to the icon from across the country.
“Greg was a giant in the world of global surfing and a hero to many here on the East Coast,” said Cecil Lear upon hearing news of Noll’s passing, posted on the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame Facebook page.
The post noted that Noll had many distributors along the East Coast in the 1960s and that launching the East Coast Hall of Fame was Noll’s idea.
“My heart goes out to his lovely wife, Laura, to his son Jed and to the whole family. I will miss my good friend dearly,” said Lear’s post.
Townend said the Greg Noll surfboard franchise was one of the largest and dominated during America’s first surfboard boom.
“He’s had a lot of influence in a lot of ways,” Townend said.
Noll, in his later years, moved to northern California, fishing and harvesting his own walnut trees to make surfboards considered collectibles that grossed over $ 15,000.
“They were beautiful works of art,” Jarvis said.
Townend just completed a 176-page book on 25 years of Induction for the Surfing Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach, recently reviewing Noll’s accomplishments.
“He was truly an icon of surf culture, not just the industry – the culture,” Townend said.
For Noll, everything seemed to revolve around the journey. In an interview with the Daily Breeze a decade ago, he called it a “nifty thing” to look back and say he has a good life.
“I owe everything to the ocean,” Noll said.