Dana Point, July 29, 2008 – – Pioneer surf film maker Bud Browne passed away last Friday at a residential care facility in San Luis Obispo according to officials at the Wheeler-Smith Mortuary. Browne was 96 years old.
Born in 1912 in Massachusetts, Browne eventually moved to Southern California to attend USC where he competed on the swim team, becoming its captain. Browne’s aquatic skills would later prove invaluable as a filmmaker.
According to Matt Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing, Browne’s film making career spanned 20 years (1953-1973) and included Cat on a Hot Foam Board (‘59), Locked In (’64) and Goin’ Surfing (’73). Browne’s strong athleticism and powerful swimming ability allowed him to shoot from the water, an angle that was, at the time, revolutionary to surf films. Browne made his own camera housings, capturing images of big Hawaiian surf that made his surf films unique.
Also unique was Browne’s acceptance into the inner circle of a rather brazen and youthfully exuberant sub-culture. Browne carried himself in a professional manner and, by most accounts, could pass as the neighborhood insurance salesman. Yet he easily roamed in the realm of rowdy and sometimes unscrupulous surfers, which allowed his camera access to the world’s best including Phil Edwards and Miki Dora.
“It says a lot that Bruce Brown (Endless Summer),
before he made his first surf movie, actually went up to Bud and asked
permission to do so. Which Bud of course granted,” explained surf historian Matt Warshaw. “I also think it says a lot
that Browne loved his work enough, and the sport enough, that he continually
improved his craft. Going Surfin’, which he started making when he was 60,
was his best movie by far. Thinking of Browne also reminds me that surfing does have room —
although a lot of times you wouldn’t know it — for soft-spoken,
non-aggressive, gentlemanly characters.”
In 1987, along with Endless Summer and Five Summer Stories , Browne’s Locked In was recognized by SURFER Magazine as one of the best three surf movies ever made. In 1998 Bud Browne was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the SURFER Poll and Video Awards.