In most cases, “history” is kept by a myriad of historians. They write books about the past and teach classes in universities in their musty sweaters with leather elbow patches. Their hair turns gray with time, their beards grow scraggly and they smell of old tobacco and coffee. It’s a group effort. But surf history? We have but one lone guardian of surfing’s speckled past: Matt Warshaw. And he needs a little bit of help.
He, of course, is the man behind The Encyclopedia of Surfing, a weighty tome full of fascinating facts about this funny little pastime we all love so much. First published in 2003, the book was reborn into a non-profit website “with a mission to preserve, archive, and present surf history.” As you might imagine, though, a non-profit website with the intention of preserving surf history isn’t exactly a lucrative gig. Important, but no one’s getting rich. Warshaw takes a paltry sum of $25,000 a year — just enough to keep the lights on — and the whole thing is funded by subscribers who understand the importance of keeping the EOS doors open. And it is important, but it’s also endlessly fascinating, full of tiny little time machines that take the reader back to some of the coolest parts of surfing, like the 1959 Makaha Championships, the 1965 Duke Invitational at Sunset, the story of Doc Paskowitz, Gerry Lopez’s section in Five Summer Stories, and even a brief visual history of wave pools. The amount of work that goes into the whole project is, quite frankly, staggering. And the final product is priceless.
“The EOS 2020 fundraiser is 100 percent dedicated to raising money to buy more work hours,” Warshaw wrote. “The site should be growing faster. Just look at the Surfboards section. Seven boards posted so far. There should be 100 on there by now, and more added weekly… there is a staggering amount of material — magazines, books, movies, video, photos, and more — that needs to be collected, digitized, archived, and databased. This is a project unto itself. Ultimately, in fact, it is the most important part of the EOS mission. A huge number of surf movies and videos are yet to be digitized, for example, and will vanish forever if we don’t grab ’em. SURFER and Surfing magazines, and dozens of other titles, have not yet been scanned.”
Right now, there are about 2,500 subscribers devouring all the tidbits of surfing’s history on a daily basis. Honestly, there should be a hell of a lot more. The fundraiser is looking to raise $30,000, which will help keep the Sunday Joint rolling (Warshaw’s weekly newsletter), add new pages to EOS, and continue preserving surf history and culture. It’s an endeavor worthy of your donation. It’s cheap, too: $3 a month or $30 per year. Like the old saying goes, “those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” But in surfing’s case, that might not be a bad thing.