Virginia Beach native Mickey McCarthy started surfing in 1966 and regularly burned up Highway 158 in pursuit of the Outer Banks’ tubular treasures, just an hour-and-a-half down the road. In the mid-1970s, he moved into a trailer in Buxton, North Carolina and was instantly drawn into the surfboard revolution happening down the street at Natural Art, where Floridian fixtures Greg Loehr, Pete Dooley and Scott Busbey provided artistic and scientific inspiration.
McCarthy started goofing around with his Sun Surfboards label before Wave Riding Vehicles offered him a job back in Virginia Beach. Down in Nags Head in 1980, the acid-smear “Surfboards by Don” sign was gathering dust while McCarthy was doing some soul-searching with his wife Betsy. They decided to relocate, and this time it was permanent. He teamed up with Mike Hamil to buy Don’s old shop, renaming it New Sun Surfboards.
With an amateur photographer for a father, McCarthy had an interest in the craft before ever picking up his own camera. It wasn’t until he started riding waves and shaping boards, however, that shooting became his primary passion outside of tinkering.
“In ’79, I got one shot published in Surfer magazine of a wave off Duck Research Pier,” said McCarthy. “That was a great feeling, because I really didn’t have the equipment to compete with the big guys. Then photographers, like Dick Meseroll, gave me a lot of great professional hints. I sent photos to Tom Dugan, who had this mag called South Swell and there was this little mag in VB called Shred that used some shots… Then ESM started in 1991 and they used my shots from the start. From that point on it was fairly steady.”
McCarthy’s photography and boardbuilding took on lives of their own. His shaping evolved into Sun’s offspring company, New Sun Surfboards, which he ran for more than 17 years. He became one of Eastern Surf Magazine’s first and most prolific contributing photographers, and his images changed the way people viewed surfing in the Mid-Atlantic. Even Californians and Hawaiians, inspired by “2M”’s photos, began visiting.
In addition to giving the region some much-deserved notoriety, McCarthy gave back directly to his beloved Outer Banks surf family, making radio station surf reports and mentoring young journalists on the surf beat. “Even in the off-season, Mickey is Santa Claus in disguise,” says award-winning Surfing magazine staff photographer DJ Struntz. “He gives back so much to his community… whether it’s submitting photos to the local newspaper, giving stuff to the mags, or doing slideshows in his basement. He’s truly one of a kind.”
Mickey McCarthy passed away in December 2016. He was inducted into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in 2018.