Warren Bolster

The Los Angeles Times ran a nice and fairly thorough obituary of the late Warren Bolster this morning (September 15, 2006).

Given that there are a number of skaters and Fishaficinados around here I thought his passing should at least be noted.

Photo: Bolster

-= the standard of the industry =-


everyday’s a gift. love your family and take nothing for granted.

what ???

Warren has died ??

what of ??

that is AWFUL !!

I’m so sad to hear that. And he was not that old , either…

He was , and will forever remain , my hero ,

when it comes to EXCELLENT surf and skating photography , no-one did it better , sharper , clearer and with better colour than him , in the days before velvia and auto-focus and digital .

I am shocked .

My sympathies to his wife , family , and kids .

Do you have the article on his passing to print here , please , ‘Nels’ ?



…Warren Bolster , jeff divine , steve wilkings and dan merkel were the mainstays of the guys photographing and , especaially, taking watershots for Surfer and Surfing in Hawaii in the 1970s. I will always remember his shots of buttons , liddell , and bertlemann , the most ! And his camera board photos at teahupoo in the 1990s took steve wilkings and yuri farrant’s work from the 70s to the next level . [Water droplet- free , crisp images as only Warren knew how !! … As one who has taken more than the ocassional watershot over the years , I KNOW how HARD that can be !]

…this was all I could find on google search about his death at present , but it only really tells of his proloific work , really . [God , how I wish I still had all those Skateboarder magazines from the 70s now !]

"Posted on: Saturday, September 9, 2006


Warren Bolster, surf photographer dies

By Greg Wiles

Advertiser Staff Writer

Warren Bolster, whose shots appeared in The Advertiser in the '80s and '90s, set the standard for surf and skateboard photography.

 	 	 	 	 		 		 		 		 			 			 				WARREN BOLSTER  |  Advertiser library photo 			 			 		 	 		      <img src="http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/inc/pix/transparent.gif" alt="" class="bb-image" /> <img src="http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/inc/pix/transparent.gif" alt="" class="bb-image" />         

Photographer Warren Bolster, whose striking images of Hawai’i’s waves and surfers were seen by millions, died Wednesday. He was 59.

Bolster was considered by many to be one of the world’s top surf lensmen, often donning fins to paddle out with a camera to capture dramatic photos of surfers riding spectacular waves. His work was published in major surfing magazines in the United States, Australia, Europe, Brazil and Japan, as well as other publications including Sports Illustrated and The Honolulu Advertiser.

“He captured things that a normal person would never, ever see and brought it to the public,” said Jeff Divine, who knew Bolster as a photo editor, competing surf photographer and friend. “He ranks as one of the greatest names in surf photography.”

Bolster, who moved to Hawai’i from the Mainland in the late 1970s, was well-known in Hawai’i’s surfing community, frequently showing up at the best surf breaks or contests to take pictures. Bolster chronicled some of the state’s best surfers, with subjects ranging from Rabbit Kekai to Andy Irons. Others he shot were a veritable who’s-who of local surfing in the 1980s and 1990s, including Buffalo Keaulana, Larry Bertlemann, Dane Kealoha, Michael and Derek Ho and visiting world champions.

In recent years, Bolster had slowed in his work, though still took on new projects such as trying to perfect a wide-angle camera mounted on a surfboard. More than one person who knew Bolster said he was a sweet guy, though some noted he was somewhat like a talented artist who had a tortured soul. Bolster also had a host of ailments as he grew older, including hip, knee and shoulder problems.

Teresa Tico, Bolster’s attorney, said the photographer had lived in pain for many years and had taken the drug OxyContin to deal with it. She said even with the painkiller, it was difficult for Bolster to take shots in big surf as he once had.

“It’s just so tragic because he was so brilliant,” said Tico, a Kaua’i-based attorney. “It’s not just a loss to the surfing world, but anyone who loves photography and art.”

His death shocked and saddened those who knew him and prompted the headline “Surf World Loses a Legend” on Surfer magazine’s Web site. Surfing magazine wrote that Bolster was “one of the most prolific and gifted surf/skate photographers.”

“It’s a sad, sad day,” said state Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings, R-25th (Kailua, Waimanalo, Hawai’i Kai). Hemmings had known Bolster for more than three decades, having met the photographer when he showed up to cover surfing contests on the North Shore.

Hemmings said he had talked with Bolster two or three days ago and that the photographer had been discussing possible new book projects, including one on surfing and a black-and-white study of Hawai’i’s prisons.

“I am truly sorry to hear of his passing,” Hemmings said.

Bolster, the son of an American diplomat, was born in 1947, according to author Matt Warshaw’s “Encyclopedia of Surfing.” The book said Bolster took up surfing at Australia’s famed Bondi Beach in 1963 and at one time was a ranked surfer in the Florida. It was Bolster’s love of surfing that led him to San Diego and to take up surf photography in the early 1970s, a time after the Gidget glamour days had died and surfing wasn’t as fashionable or as mainstream as it is today.

His pictures of surfing at San Diego’s craggy reefs and beach breaks vaulted him onto the pages of Surfing and Surfer magazines, the biggest American surf periodicals. While at Surfer, Bolster began shooting what became seminal pictures in the rebirth of skateboarding, then a moribund sport. He recorded many firsts in the sport and served for three years as editor of Surfer’s sister publication, SkateBoarder, according to the Encyclopedia of Surfing.

In Hawai’i, Bolster honed one of his trademarks, that of fine-tuning technological breakthroughs made by others to get spectacular photos. This included famous shots from helicopters, including documenting surfer Alec Cooke at Ka’ena Point on what were some of the biggest waves ever ridden at the time, Divine said.

He also used cameras mounted on surfboards to get photos from behind surfers, and experimented with gyrostabilizers to convey a sense of motion with speed blurs and strobe lights to capture micro-second dynamics of skateboarding. He also had built a special waterhousing for taking shots that showed scenes above and below water in the same picture.

“He was almost a genius at that and worked like a maniac,” said Divine, who served for 17 years at Surfer magazine and now occupies a similar position with Surfer’s Journal.

Bolster, who was considered an excellent surfer, also traveled the world, creating a photographic portfolio that adorned posters and books. In 2002,The Surfer’s Journal selected Bolster for the third of its “Masters of Surf Photography” coffee-table series, producing a 252-page book of his work.

Bolster was similarly celebrated for his help in skateboard’s resurgence as a sport in the mid-1970s. Another book, “The Legacy of Warren Bolster: Master of Skateboard Photography,” was published in 2004.

Bolster was divorced and is survived by his sons Edward, 17, and Warren Jr., 12, as well as a sister and his mother, both of whom live in the Washington, D.C., area. His sister served as administrative assistant to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.



Just got locked into this thread ! I can’t believe it ! I grew up waiting for the next issue of Surfer Mag ( and in circa 1970’s England that could be a long wait) just to see Bolster’s images. He will be greatly missed !

Aloha Warren.


I as a pre-teenager , then teenager growing up in sydney , used to religiously scan the photos of my brother’s Surfer magazines , and buy my latest copy of skateboarder . He was editor of BOTH magazines , during the 1970s.

this , from the Honululu Star Bulletin …


Innovative surf photographer was gold standard Warren Bolster / 1947-2006 By Diana Leone


Pioneering surf photographer Warren Bolster, 59, died Wednesday on Oahu, friends and family said.

Soon after the North Shore’s Triple Crown of Surfing began in 1971, Bolster “was there every winter as the official photographer,” said state Sen. Fred Hemmings, former championship surfer.

Bolster was known for “upping the ante, like surfers do,” for his daring camera angles, Hemmings said.

“One year at the Pipeline he got wiped out on a wave and lost his camera,” Hemmings recalled. “He was known for getting up and close.”

After not seeing Bolster for several years, Hemmings said they ran into each other at the Duke’s OceanFest in Waikiki the last weekend in August.

“About a week after that, he called me and said he wanted to do another surfing book and one about prisons, in black and white,” Hemmings said. Bolster sounded excited about the projects, he said.

North Shore surfer Peter Cole called Bolster’s photo work “as good as anybody’s.”

“I don’t know how he did it but he would speed up the camera and get these real action shots, a lot of real innovative water shots,” Cole said.

Fellow surf photographer Jamie Ballenger wrote in a tribute to Bolster on his Web site hawaiianwatershots.com: “He took camera board shooting to another level with guys like Bonga Perkins and Sion charging huge pipe with one of Warren’s cameras attached to the tail of their boards! There was a time when Warren’s pics filled every mag known to man and … HE WAS THE MAN!”

Bolster was born in Arlington, Va., in 1947, learned to surf in Sydney, Australia, and went on to become a pro surfer in Florida in the late 1960s, according to Surfline.com.

The Web site said Bolster shot his first cover shot for Surfing Magazine in 1972 and was a staff photographer for Surfer magazine in 1975-1992.

Louella Bolster was married to Bolster from 1988 to 1999. She described Bolster as “an athletic person, very active, who is really into the ocean, doing a lot and doesn’t even care how painful it is.”

Louella Bolster said her ex-husband suffered from shoulder and hip injuries, some sustained while skateboarding or photographing skateboarding.

To her knowledge Bolster didn’t surf much anymore because “he can’t paddle that much anymore. When we were married, he used to surf a lot.”

Bolster had two books published: “The Legacy of Warren Bolster, Master of Skateboard Photography” and “Masters of Surf Photography: Warren Bolster.”

He is survived by sons Edward, 17, and Warren Jr., 12, and a sister who lives in Washington, D.C., Louella Bolster said."


how sad it was a suicide …the surfing and skating world’s loss . [Chronic pain must be very difficult and disheartening to live with. ]

I wish we had that “legacy of warren bolster” book here …I would LOVE to get it , been after it since it was printed.

Warren Bolster , you will be remembered …

[referring to the photo session by Warren that led Steve Pezman to resurrect “Skateboarder” magazine ]

Bolster later said of that afternoon: “I guess it was my stoke on the atmosphere that sealed the deal.”

I think that came across in his AMAZING photos , spanning nearly 40 years .


About 3 years ago Warren contacted me and ordered a couple mats, one for water photography and the other just for surfing. We had several long conversations… he was great to work for. Warren said his all-time inspiration was George Greenough, and that one of his dreams was to spend more time in Fiji. He reflected on the highs and lows of his life, a collection of unpublished photos, injuries, surgeries and the increasing burden of living with chronic pain… concluding, “my body is just about worn out”.

Aloha  Hui Hou Warren

thanks Dale !

he would have been GREAT to meet and listen to, I reckon !

I hope all his unpublished photos get printed , in a series of books , and that they are available in Australia one day !

I bet you wish you could have videod or recorded that meeting with him eh ?

we just never know how long we and others will be around eh ?

That’s why I was SO glad to have met Scott Dillon and listened to his stories a few years ago .



I used to see Warren bobbing around “The Gate” at a certain top secret reef I used to surf 30+ years ago. If he was out, it meant we weren’t going to get any waves 'cause Lis, Huffman, and the boyz had to be there too. I also saw him dangling in the most precarious places on the cliffs trying for a new angle. A few of his overview photos of these walk-in spots would pop up now and then and were fantastic. I was happily amazed that they never got published. I don’t know what ever happened to them but a couple are indelibly etched in my dreams…