John Van Hamersveld - The Maker of Surfing's Most Iconic Poster
Those familiar with John Van Hamersveld’s work would not be surprised to learn that his interest in art was first sparked by his mother’s en plein air watercolors of his childhood home, Palos Verdes, in south-west LA. It’s not hard to imagine how the vibrant, blocky expanses of orange, green, and blue that typify the scenery along the coast of California could’ve inspired a 50-year career that has produced some of the most iconic pop-art in history.
John’s work producing album artworks for a dizzying list of rock ‘n’ roll legends, such as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Kiss, Blondie, and many others established him early on in his career as nothing short of a pop-art phenomenon.
But John was still in art school when he produced what is by far his most famous and widely recognized work - the poster for Bruce Brown’s breakout film, The Endless Summer.
The connection between John and Bruce started well before they even knew each other - both had the shared experience of growing up in SoCal at a time when the legends of the Beat surfing generation were at their height. As a teenager, John became a surfer and spent his afternoons in the water with the likes of ‘da cat’ Miki Dora, Lance Carson, and Phil Becker. Tom Blake, one of the most revered figures in the history of surfing and the first man to put a fin on a board, taught John to swim.
Bruce and Van Hamersveld began their collaboration when John designed Bruce’s business card - which he had liked. After showing him the film’s opening scene on an old Moviola editing machine, Bruce invited John to produce the poster for a fee of $150.
“On this little, tiny screen, there he is with the board on top of his head,” Van Hamersveld recalls. “I said, ‘I can take that and do a poster.'”
John photographed Bruce Brown and his film’s two stars, Mike Hynson and Robert August, late one afternoon in January 1964 at Salt Creek Beach, Dana Point. As Hynson and August stood in front of the setting sun, John suggested at the last moment that Bruce step into the foreground and adopt that famous pose. The masterpiece was complete.
Using a technique he had just learned at art school, John then turned that photo into an abstract design by reducing each color to a single tone and giving each image a single, hard edge. He bought Day-Glo paint for the silk-screening and hand-lettered the words “The Endless Summer” at the bottom.
Although the film Gidget had brought the idea of surfing to the masses, it inspired many other cheap and nasty Hollywood imitations. The Endless Summer brought to the public the soul of surfing as it really was.
And that soul was perfectly captured in one Day-Glo image that very quickly came to hang all around the world - from hip New York City flats to sweaty Army tents in the jungles of Vietnam. Surf culture has never been the same since.
To this day, The Endless Summer poster remains one of the most enduring symbols of surfing. That’s why Noosa Longboards is so proud to partner under licence agreement with Bruce Brown Films Image Library and work with John Van Hamersveld to bring this artwork to all lovers of surf culture in Australia.