Pasadena. It ain’t exactly the town you’d expect to stumble upon three boxes full of nearly 30,000 Surfing Magazine photo negatives, all from the 1970s. But 10 years ago, that’s exactly what happened to Doug Walker. At the Rose Bowl flea market.
“It was a time in my life where I was kind of at a crossroads,” he told me one evening at a coffee shop in Venice. “I had grown up in LA, you know, surfing, posters on my walls, the whole thing. And here I was in San Francisco and my son was applying to college and it was like, where had all the time gone?”
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Walker is a commercial film editor living full time now in San Francisco.
“Surfing had always been a passion of mine, and I told my wife I wanted to reconnect with it. So one day she came home with a camera and told me to go ahead and make something with it.”
It was that spark that led him back to LA, and ultimately to the Rose Bowl flea market on a friend’s invitation. To be clear, Walker was looking for something, but not anything in particular. A source of inspiration, a new direction to pursue. Coming across the negatives was completely unexpected, but it changed the course of his life.
“The guy selling the negatives wanted eight bucks a sheet,” Doug said. “So I started with one sheet, and thought, ‘Bitchin. Now I’ve got thirty killer photos from the 1970s.'” But the thought of what else was in those boxes nagged at him, so Doug went back later that day, and gave the guy $800 for the whole collection.
“I was up all night scanning and archiving, and then I came across a few names I quickly recognized, including Bob Barbour, Lance Trout, Shirley Rogers, Larry ‘Flame’ Moore and Aaron Chang. It’s funny because I had cold-called Aaron years before about doing something together, but we both got busy and it just kind of fizzled. But, this time I called him up again and told him I had something he needed to see. He invited me to come down the next day for a surf. The morning of, I scrambled to put together a little clip with music in the background and some photos. We went for a surf, and when we got back to the parking lot I showed him what I had on my phone. After he just stared at me. ‘I think you’ve really got something here,’ he said.”
In the ten years since coming across the photos, Walker’s released a documentary, a photo book, and even begun to print some of the images on clothing for purchase. He says a second photo book is in the works, and beyond that, there’s limitless potential to keep going. What he’s emphatic about, though, is no matter how the project has morphed over the years his primary goal is to do right by the photographers, honoring their legacy and their artistic expression.
The beautiful glossy photo book bills itself as volume one. It depicts an era that “can never be duplicated.” And judging by the volume of photos that remain in the collection Doug’s inherited there’s way more where this comes from.
“Since coming out with the first documentary, tons of people have come up to me asking if so and so could tell their story, or if I think there’s anything I could do with so and so’s old photos. It’s about preserving that history that’s boxed up in someone’s closet somewhere.”
Says Doug, “This project is about keeping history alive. Let’s all support the cause and share and enjoy the ALOHA!!”