Surf superstar Greg Noll who faced big waves dies at 84


“He’s had a number of rescues over the years,” his son said.

Noll was born Greg Lawhead on February 11, 1937 in San Diego and moved about 120 miles north of Manhattan Beach, Calif., When he was about 3 years old after his mother, Grace Zalabak, a housewife, divorced from her father, Robert. When she married Ash Noll, a chemical engineer, Greg took her stepfather’s last name.

Living near the Manhattan Beach Pier, Greg came in close contact with the ocean; In his youth he started fishing, distributing live bait to fishermen and watching surfers ride the waves. As a teenager, he learned to make surfboards at a local store, then began to make his own, first in his parents’ garden and then in small facilities.

And he was overdoing it.

“In my day people thought we were from another planet or something because we were surfing,” he said in a podcast interview on The Temple of Surf website in 2020, “ and that we were some kind of disease that must be eradicated. “

In 1956, he was part of a rescue team in the United States that participated in a multinational surf rescue demonstration in Australia around the time of the Summer Olympics in Melbourne. The surfboards used by the team stunned Australians with their handling.

“Took them from the horse and buggy straight to the Porsche,” Noll said in “The Story of Surfing” (2010), by Matt Warshaw.

Before professional surfing took hold, Noll was able to make a living making boards – he opened a factory in Hermosa Beach in 1965 which was very successful – while chasing the bigger waves.

He has also appeared in surf documentaries like “Walk on the Wetside” (1965) and “Surfari” (1967), on which he was also a credited photographer. He was actor James Mitchum’s double surfer for “Ride the Wild Surf” (1964), a feature film shot in Hawaii with a cast that also included Fabian and Shelley Fabares.