The E.O.S. is Alive

Allow us to introduce you to the digital Encyclopedia of Surfing

| posted on October 02, 2013
Surf history—now in color.

Surf history—now in color.

I have a set of keys to Mark Renneker’s house. I hardly know the guy, he really doesn’t know me at all, but there they are, on a key ring tossed casually into my sock drawer. He handed them over to me a couple winters ago after we spoke for less than five minutes in a coffee shop. I was total stranger to him, but I needed access to his formidable surf library. “I’m working with Matt Warshaw on a new, online, Encyclopedia of Surfing,” I told him. That was all he needed to hear before handing me keys to his brand new house, overlooking the lonely, terrifying sandbar peaks stretching along the middle section of San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, and to let me paw, often alone in his home, through his collection whenever I wanted. As it turns out, those three words “Encyclopedia of Surfing,” open more doors in the surf world than you could possibly imagine.

For the past two-and-a-half years, Matt Warshaw has devoted his entire life to building the biggest archive of surf culture history on the planet (though he hates the words “history” and “culture” and will be pissed I used ‘em here), and is not only making it available to the public, but making it fresh, vibrant, and contemporary. Not an easy thing for an encyclopedia. And most unbelievable is the access to resources that Warshaw—through his charms, flattery, or Lord knows what else—has been able to secure. Pretty much every surf photographer and filmmaker of any impact at all has granted Warshaw free access to their work, a treasure trove that he’s made available to the public in the form of his well-curated entries. I’ve been Warshaw’s assistant on the project, and anytime I’ve been charged with interviewing a well-known surfer, or sweet-talking a surf media luminary into letting us include their portfolios in our entries, simply mentioning the Encyclopedia of Surfing has seen photographers and filmmakers practically shoving their work, or house keys, into my hands.

That’s great news for the surf world. Much of the history of our sport, especially the mundane but important details, can be difficult to track down. Countless times while writing new entries, I’d be knee deep in research, chasing details around the web, wishing that there was a single digital archive that housed everything I needed. Oh, right. The Encyclopedia of Surfing. How about that?

At last count, meaning two minutes ago when I checked, the boasts more than 1,700 entries. Somewhere north of 500,000 words. 500-plus video clips. Thousands of photos. We chose about 600 entries to launch with from the outset, with the remaining 1,000 or so to roll out over time. Everything’s indexed and searchable and linked to other related entries and outside websites. Pick your favorite entry, follow one of the links, and you’re off down the rabbit hole. It’s not all history either. The entries have all been updated, new entries are written as needed, and there’ll be frequent diatribes in the Encyclopedia’s blog section.

And…it’s all free to visit. It’s also free of ads. The Encyclopedia is set up as a non-profit corporation, and you can support it if you like by sponsoring your favorite entries; but sponsors get no say in the content of the site. No spinning banner ads, no distractions. Just pure, unadulterated, reader-supported surf culture. Go forth and explore.

The Encyclopedia of Surfing will be taking over SURFER’s Twitter feed on Thursday, October 3 at 2 p.m. PST, so leave us trivia questions in the comments section below or submit them via Twitter using #AskEOS and we’ll send ‘em on to Warshaw.

  • gannysesh

    This site really rules. I’ve been exploring it since it was launched. Great video clips, great photos, with detailed and easy to read entries.

    Great work!

  • Surfing Boomer

    For those of us Baby Boomers who began surfing over 50 years ago, and have not as yet joined all of the most popular social media (including Twitter), let me ask: Do we have to join Twitter to read the Encyclopedia Of Surfing (EOS), or can we merely click on SURFER’s Twitter feed to see the EOS? Thanks in advance for your answer, and best of luck in this new, and exciting, endeavor!

    • Tommyatsurfermagdotcom

      It is not necessary to join twitter. You can view the conversation here:

    • gannysesh

      Your question is kind of confusing. The EOS is its own website:

      You definitely do not need to join any social media platform in order to access it.

      If you want to read the answers to trivia questions that Surfer/EOS will be posting on Twitter, as part of a promotion for EOS, you also do not need a twitter account. You can just go to

      However, you won’t be able to ask trivia questions if you don’t have a twitter account.

  • JewOriginalDenim

    Hashtag: WARSHAW gets idea to go public with every surfing endorsement known to man. Starts WARSHAW foundation for the aspiring writers of Britanica, a non-profit making psuedonym for other desk job jockeys with a bag of popcorn. UK delivers with Bacheloriate Degrees of Letters and recruiters play a fife to get the jobs through merchantile accounts within the surf industry. Every Jew in Isreal is excommunicated and renamed Toledo after Felepes win over Slater in France. Galea is cancelled due to no surf. Godspeed.

  • tony (ty) carson big island

    This could be one of the better surf scams of the 21st century, Matt getting bucks, so you can “sponsor a page” and see your name up in lights. Have to mull this one over a little more. Maybe Matt is smarter than we thought.