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.

John’s son Jason recalls:

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…
Noted surf photographer/videographer and East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame member Kevin Welsh recounts how John gave him his start in the surf industry:
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.
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…

John will be remembered for his devotion to the sport of surfing , his generosity and big heart.



  • What a good life, John & Gunner had. I miss you both.

    Lorraine Griffin Lineham20 May, 2021
  • I remember watching John &. Gunner
    Surfing when I was little, I believe both my brothers are still riding the waves and see them again one day so wave on to my brothers much love always their sister Cheryl

    cheryl griffin21 May, 2021
  • Jon griffin, what can i really say about him, well i first met jon in the late 90’s after knowing his brothers gunner, larry, and gerald, as well as a few of his sisters, Lorraine, cindy, and cheryll, a few of his nephews and nieces as well. I have to say he was a kind person to me, willing to extend an olive branch to me when i most needed it. He was a kind soul as well as all of the griffins ive met so far. May god rest his soul and keep him safe. A friend who lives in your memories still lives.

    Jeremy todd vandiver22 May, 2021

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