Surf Contest Pioneer John Griffin-RIP

John Griffin, pioneering contest promoter and professional surfing innovator, passed away on April 3rd 2021. John, and his brother Gunner, were instrumental in creating pro surfing as we know it today. When Peter Townsend formed the International Professional Surfers organization in 1975 in Hawaii John and Gunner quickly formed the American Professional Surfers to represent stateside pro surfing. Simultaneously, they began publication of Waverider Magazine to support the fledgling organization. John later added Skaterider Magazine to his publication which was equally involved in promoting the sport of skateboarding.

In 1977 John and Gunner organized the Florida Pro contest at Sebastian Inlet with a prize purse of $10,000. This was when most surfers were lucky to win $50 and a t-shirt for their efforts. Virtually every famous surfer at the time competed in the event including Jeff Crawford, Peter Townsend, Shaun Thompson, and David Nuuhiwa. Jeff Crawford took first place.
John continued to be involved in organizing the Stubbies Pro Trial series, the Sundeck classic series, the Hang Ten Noseriding Classic and many other competitions. In 1982 John and Dick Catri took over the Easter Contest from the Jaycees which became the Easter Surf Fest, the biggest surf contest on the East Coast, which they ran until Dicks’ death in 2016.


Aloha Friends of John Griffin,

I am John’s son Jason Griffin. John passed away April 3rd Easter weekend. It is poetic that my father passed away during Easter, a time he most enjoyed. As spring flowers came so would the waves and the Easter Surf Festival.

Thank you all for being part in the celebration that is and was John’s life by just being a part of his life. Since I was three years old, I have loved going to his surfing contest, and I have followed a love of the ocean ever since. Some of my fondest times were hanging out at the Wave Rider offices while Gunner and my dad would write a small part of the east coast surfing history. One of my earliest surfing memories is shooting pool with Jeff Crawford while on a surf trip to North Carolina with my dad. There are countless memories like that along with the nights at Brassy’s, the Pier and Sebastian Inlet.

From Florida to Hawaii and all along the east coast my father promoted a pure love of surfing while creating a life style that showed his love for the sport and the people who loved to surf.

I spent many a day at sea with Dick and my father in the late 80’s fishing while they wrangled idea after idea on how to put on the best events possible, from bikini contest’s to greased pole climbing and alligator wrestling. John found the flow of life while developing a deep and intimate surfing family.

Thank you all for being part of the adventure.


From surf photographer, Kevin Welsh:

John hired me as Photo Editor one day after I stopped by to drop off some photos (slides) from one of the Easter Surf Festivals. I was one month away from graduating with an A.S. Degree in Photography when he officially took me on staff. In essence, I can credit him as kicking off my long career in the surf industry which evolved into being a long time staff member of SURFER Magazine. Because of my knack in sales, he also let me ramble up some new advertising accounts for the magazine – first full page color ad being sold to SEA TREND, a California based surfboard company ran by Randal French who eventually became Surf Tech.

Out of the John ’n Dick Show, which I use to call it, aka Easter Surf Festival, John was the one coming up with crazy activities like Alligator Wrestling, Grease Pole climbing, Tug of Wars, to name a few side shows of the surfing event. John would also be in charge of booking the bands that performed on stage at the event.

He was a big fan of music with one of his favorite bands being John Fogarty and Credence Clear Water Revival. I recall many a mile sitting in the back seat of his black Pontiac LeMans heading down to Zenith Communications (printers) down in Miami with CCR blasting.

I have some PRETTY CRAZY EPISODES WITH JOHN if interested.,

One of first trips to the printers was during the time of the Riots of Liberty City in Miami. After dropping off the magazine, John decides it’d be a good idea to take a ride thru the hub of Liberty City – which was highly advised to stay clear of especially with me and my Art Director being white males. Just so happens to be my 21st birthday (June 9th, 1980) when the riots were like at it’s peak. We pull into a parking lot of a 7 Eleven in John’s black with dark tinted gangster looking Pontiac. John, who’s quite a bit above average size, hops out, walks past some sketchy local bystanders, goes into the store and comes out with a cake. When back in the car he turns around sticks a candle in the cake, lights it and says Happy Birthday. My wish was to GET THE FREAK OUT OF THERE so I can live to see another year! Just the kind of guy John was. He had a big heart at times.