Warren Bolster*

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Legendary surf and skate photographer Warren Bolster was born in Arlington, Virginia in 1947 and started traveling the world at a young age with his father, who was a foreign service officer. In Sydney, Australia in 1965, Bolster picked up boardsports, and he would establish himself as one of Cocoa Beach, Florida’s top competitive surfers by 1967. In his early twenties, Bolster moved to San Diego to pursue his surfing passion. Here, he began taking surf photos and landed the cover of Surfing magazine with his very first submission. By 1975, he was a full-time staff photographer for Surfer. 

Bolster was a highly versatile photographer, able to play many different roles on a shoot. He was also extremely dedicated to his craft. As Ron Dahlquist, formerly a photo editor at Surfer, told Matt Warshaw from The Encyclopedia of Surfing, “I don’t think he missed an opportunity to shoot the Waimea shorebreak. Every time I’d fly over to Oahu to shoot the epic shore break scene, there would be Warren sitting on his Pentax Telephoto case already at work while I set up my tripod.” 

Bolster was the Associate editor at Surfer from 1976 to ’77, doing double duty as the editor of Skateboarder magazine during that sport’s urethane revolution. Daniel Gesmer, who edited the book The Legacy of Warren Bolster, Master of Skateboard Photography told Warshaw, “Bolster was constantly on the lookout for new angles, shooting from helicopters and often using a deck-mounted camera to get spectacular in-the-tube photos from behind the surfer, or nose riding photos from in front of the surfer. Warren gave everything he had to what he loved.”

Bolster was extremely dedicated to the fundamentals of boardsports photography — to the point that it might have cost him his job at Skateboarder. He prioritized artistry over his business acumen, and was unwilling to temper his passion and purism. 

In 1972, Bolster moved to Hawaii, where he raised two sons and served as an official Surfer staff photographer until 1992. He was inducted into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in 2000 and passed away in 2006.

Photos by Art Brewer and courtesy Bolster family, Surfer magazine, and The Surfing Journal