photo blog

Remembering Max

Paying tribute to one of the unsung surf legends of the '70s

| posted on August 22, 2013
Max gives his address to the surf media on his 15th birthday—the day he hung up his custom wetsuit for good. Photo: Gilley

Max gives his address to the surf media on his 15th birthday—the day he hung up his custom wetsuit for good. Photo: Gilley

Gerry Lopez, Wayne Lynch, Barry Kanaiaupuni, Rabbit Bartholomew, Buttons Kaluhiokalani, Shaun Tomson, Larry Bertleman, Mark Richards…there’s definitely not a shortage of ’70s surf legends. If you ask me, however, one name from that era is too often overlooked: Max.

As in Max the surf dog.

For fourteen years Max and his tandem partner, Dave Chalmers, surfed up and down the coast of Southern California and Baja. Max was one of those scruffy, mixed breeds that had so much personality—so much surf stoke—that it was really kind of eerie.

Max would bark and howl and whine on the beach if he couldn’t go out. At home, he would literally pout and go lay in the corner if he saw Chalmers pick up his shortboard. As soon as he motioned for his custom log, though, Max would go crazy—just run back and forth across the yard like a frothing banshee.

More importantly, Max was the real deal—just a full-on prodigy—as anyone who saw A Matter Of Style could attest. Max had a bit of a starring role in that 1976 Steve Soderbergh film—a several minute segment that showed Chalmers and Max in solid surf. To howling audiences, the tandem pair flew across the screen on overhead walls with Max’s ears flapping in the wind and his incredible balance and subtle weight-shifts on display. Max had a way of hanging on in near-impossible situations, and made very, very few trips to the proverbial dog pound.

Max’s defining moment, however, arrived with the local San Diego premiere of A Matter of Style. For promotional purposes, the theater owner agreed to let Max have his own seat during the show, and what happened that night is something for the ages, something better left to an eyewitness account from Chalmers:

“Right after Max’s segment, Max got up and out of his seat and—I swear to God—walked down the aisle to the screen, pissed on the screen, turned and walked back to his seat.”

Max made his statement and the theater exploded.

A ’70s surfer to the bone.

  • collin

    That’s awesome!

  • steve soderberg

    I remember D.C. and Max really well even though it seems like a lifetime ago when I met them both. Max had a huge overbite which just added to his charm. D.C. was a dynamite guy and hardcore to the bone. D.C. owned Baja. Filming them at Abreojos was a riot and the highlight of the trip as they seemed to exemplify the baja experience, being such a crusty pair. Meeting them more than made up for the Baja barfo terrifico I suffered through the last nine days of the trip!

    Rest in Peace brothers in surfing.

  • Nadonicolls

    I grew up next door to DC and Max. Their lair was epic. The mulberry tree, roach clips and that’s incredible attempts.
    Miss you two

  • Matador

    I had the honor to know DC and go on some of his last trips to Baja with him. He had the best stories and made us laugh the whole time!!!! RIP DC and Max… this joints for you my good friend!!!!

  • Wayne

    I used to surf with DC & Max at Coronado’s North Beach & hang out in their backyard on other occasions. Gone too soon & a surfer legend team to be remembered.

  • eli ma soza

    mystical how that dog marked the screen area! tuned-in via 2nd hand herbsmoke?

  • Ben Siegfried

    Thanks for writing this Rob, DC and Max are certainly legendary in surfing and dog life. Max definitely had a true surfer aura about him. With exposures such as being the first ever surfing dog featured on National Television on Those Amazing Animals he is surfing’s first top-dog. There have been dogs to surf before Max but none like Max. Max was low-key and humble and wasn’t always approachable with camera in hand, but he sure seemed to know who he was and what he liked—surfing! Thanks Soderberg, you are so right about DC and Baja. Such fantastic stories DC had! People from all over would show up at his place to “talk story,” and hang out.

    More on DC and Max here:

  • mike dennis

    what a joy to see max’s scruffy face on here this morning. that dog was so cool i cant explain. and dc was a kind, generous, pure person we all loved. thanks so much for this trip back. what a time hanging out playing croquet thru that beautiful garden at dc’s. i’ll never forget those times. great and worthy article rob.