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Granny Granstrom 3


Winds of Change



Granny’s time was freed-up a little, at International Surfing, in 1969 when he switched over as Director of Photography and left the editorship to Toby Annenberg. [1]

The end of that year marked one of the greatest swells in recorded history and Granny was on-site, shooting.

“What we went through in December ’69,” Skip Frye recalled, “was ‘The Big Swell.’ This swell was defined as one of the biggest in more than a generation (it was the biggest swell since I’ve been surfing). It was a double era swell and in a way marked the transition from the whole Sixties longboard thing to the shortboard era. It was kind of a wash through, and we were playing a whole different ball game afterwards. December ’69, the end of the Sixties, was a total change in eras, a changing of the sport, a changing of the guard, and it was marked by the biggest swell maybe in recorded history.” [2]

“I tried to get involved” with shortboards, Granny told me. “I went down to a 7’2”; went into the Huntington Beach contest and couldn’t catch a wave and decided, well, 7-2 isn’t for me, so I went back to 8-4.

“I saw it [the shortboard revolution] wipe out several businesses… It was a rough period to go thru for a lot of the manufacturers and, of course, a lot of us that didn’t have the ability to handle short boards had to make up our minds it wasn’t for us…

“The one nice thing about what the shortboard has done is let younger kids get into it. They don’t have to worry about handling a 30 or 40-pound board. They can get out there when they’re 6 or 7 years-old and start surfing. That’s a big advantage. The younger you are getting into surfing, the easier it is to pick it up.” [3]

As time went on, further changes took place. In 1974, inspired by friend Jim Mahoney,[4] Granny got into photographing hang gliding and this took much of his time during the 1970s. In 1981, his photographic attention was drawn to wind surfing. 1984 marks the year LeRoy ended his active surf photographic period, highlighted by what Granny considers his most well-known surf photo ‑ his 1960s bottom turn of Johnny Fain’s at Malibu. [5]



Toward The End


Toward the end of his life, Granny still shot, although “not aggressively.” I asked him about the renewed interest of surfers toward his photography and his contributions. Granny was typically modest, sprinkling his response with his own sense of dry humor:

“I’m buying some new hat sizes,” he answered. “It’s wonderful. It’s something I never expected. I just think the fact that I’ve grown to be 80 years old and I’m still around and kicking… that’s helped get the ‘legends’ stuff started.”

“Think that did it?” I asked.

“It sure helps.” [6]

What about a summation on the good and the bad of surfing today?

“What bothers me is that the two top magazines are pushing professionalism. These young kids get the idea they want to be professionals and let everything else go – including their education. That’s the wrong way to go… I’ve seen a lot of kids go down the drain trying to become professionals.” [7]



Technical Notes


Granny’s early cameras and lenses included:

Land Camera #1 – 1960 – East German 35mm single lens reflex with stock 50mm lens and 400mm Meyer Gorlitz telephoto.

Land Camera #2 – 1961 – Pentax S with stock 50mm and 28mm lenses; also a 650mm Century telephoto lens.

Additional Lens – 1963 – 1000mm Century telephoto.

Water Camera #1 – 1963 – Calypso, a Jacques Cousteau-invented 35mm underwater camera equipped with a wide angle 35mm lends.

Land Camera #3 – 1963 – Praktisix, German 2 ¼.

Lens Adaptations – 1963 – His two telephoto lens were adapted for use with both his Pentax and Praktisix. [8]


Over the course of the 1960s, Granny bought 45, 80 and 180mm lenses for the Praktisix. The 180mm Zeiss Jena was used with his wooden box camera. Later, when Praktisix upgraded, he replaced it with a new Pentaconsix. [9]

In 1965, LeRoy’s Calypso was stolen from his son Frank. He replaced it with a new Nikonos, which was essentially the same camera as the Calypso, only manufactured by Nikon. [10]

At the outset, Granny bought black and white film in 100-foot bulk rolls and loaded his own cassettes. He primarily used Kodak Panatomic-X (32 ASA) and pushed it to 125 ASA in Acufine developer. He experimented with other fine-grain films such as Adox and Ilford but always came back to the Panatomic. Sometimes he shot Plus-X and Tri-X film, rated at their normal speeds of 125 ASA and 400 ASA. He processed his black and white film himself, in his homemade darkroom, and also made his own prints, first using various Kodak products and later switching to Agfa. [11]

For his color shots, he used 35mm Kodachrome II (25 ASA) until Kodak came out with Kodachrome 64 in 1974. All his 2 ¼ transparencies were shot on Ektachrome (64 ASA). [12]



[1] Photo: Grannis -- Surfing’s Golden Age, 1960-1969, edited by Brad Barrett, ©1998, Journal Concepts, Inc., San Clemente, California. Photos ©1960-1969, LeRoy Grannis. Text ©1998, Brad Barrett, p. 192.
[2] Photo: Grannis -- Surfing’s Golden Age, 1960-1969, edited by Brad Barrett, ©1998, Journal Concepts, Inc., San Clemente, California. Photos ©1960-1969, LeRoy Grannis. Text ©1998, Brad Barrett, p. 219. Skip Frye.
[3] Gault-Williams, Malcolm. Interview with LeRoy Grannis, Carlsbad, California, 26 June 1999.
[4] Jim Mahoney today curates the SB Surfing Museum.
[5] Gault-Williams, Malcolm. Interview with LeRoy Grannis, Carlsbad, California, 26 June 1999. “That bottom turn of John Fain’s at Malibu… I have lots of favorites.”
[6] Gault-Williams, Malcolm. Interview with LeRoy Grannis, Carlsbad, California, 26 June 1999.
[7] Gault-Williams, Malcolm. Interview with LeRoy Grannis, Carlsbad, California, 26 June 1999.
[8] Photo: Grannis -- Surfing’s Golden Age, 1960-1969, edited by Brad Barrett, ©1998, Journal Concepts, Inc., San Clemente, California. Photos ©1960-1969, LeRoy Grannis. Text ©1998, Brad Barrett, p. 221.
[9] Photo: Grannis -- Surfing’s Golden Age, 1960-1969, edited by Brad Barrett, ©1998, Journal Concepts, Inc., San Clemente, California. Photos ©1960-1969, LeRoy Grannis. Text ©1998, Brad Barrett, p. 221.
[10] Photo: Grannis -- Surfing’s Golden Age, 1960-1969, edited by Brad Barrett, ©1998, Journal Concepts, Inc., San Clemente, California. Photos ©1960-1969, LeRoy Grannis. Text ©1998, Brad Barrett, p. 221.
[11] Photo: Grannis -- Surfing’s Golden Age, 1960-1969, edited by Brad Barrett, ©1998, Journal Concepts, Inc., San Clemente, California. Photos ©1960-1969, LeRoy Grannis. Text ©1998, Brad Barrett, p. 221.
[12] Photo: Grannis -- Surfing’s Golden Age, 1960-1969, edited by Brad Barrett, ©1998, Journal Concepts, Inc., San Clemente, California. Photos ©1960-1969, LeRoy Grannis. Text ©1998, Brad Barrett, p. 221.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Brittany said...

Such a great article which these young kids get the idea they want to be professionals and let everything else go including their education. In which the end of the Sixties, was a total change in eras, a changing of the sport, a changing of the guard, and it was marked by the biggest swell maybe in recorded history. Thanks for sharing this article.

February 27, 2012  

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