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Welcome to the John Whitmore Book Project website, dedicated to the publication of the life story of South African watersports pioneer John 'The Oom' Whitmore


March 2023 update – The John Whitmore book will be ready for publication soon. The completed manuscript has recently been edited by Steve ‘Spike’ Pike, journalist, editor and owner of Wavescape website and surf ocean film festival and we are currently working towards getting the book published in 2023.

“I thoroughly enjoyed editing Miles Masterson’s biography of the founder of surfing in Cape Town, John Whitmore. Going through the manuscript I could tell that Miles had put an incredible amount of research and work into this book, which contains a wealth of information about ‘The Oom’ and his adventures as a surfing, diving and catamaran sailing pioneer in South Africa, many of which have never been published. Filled with enlightening anecdotes, the book was already clean and polished when I began to work on it. The end result is a well-written documentation of the history of these sports in the country, one that also keeps you turning the pages and thoroughly engrossed until the end. A highly recommended read for anyone interested in finding out more about John Whitmore and the incredible influence he had on water sports in South Africa. Miles has created a remarkable piece of journalism.” – Steve Pike, John Whitmore Biography editor, February 2023.

Until then – please watch this space, or even better click the icons at the top of the page and follow us on social media and sign up for email updates here:

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Aloha and welcome to the John Whitmore Book Project website, dedicated to the publication of the life story of South African watersports pioneer John ‘The Oom’ Whitmore. John was a man who undoubtedly lived a life worth documenting in book form.

Also known as ‘The Doyen’, John was the driving force behind many notable firsts in South African water sports and beach culture. Among his many achievements are pioneering skin diving in Cape Town, being the first person to surf a wave upright on a modern surfboard on the entire West Coast of Africa, building the first foam surfboards in Cape Town, forming the first Springbok surfing teams and introducing Hobie Catting to South Africa. For a list of at least 27 things John accomplished in his incredibly productive life, please click here.

John with the 1966 Springbok surfing team. From left to right, Donald Paarman, Robert MacWade, John Whitmore, Margaret Smith, Marlene Webb, George Thomopoulos (C), Errol Hickman, Cornel Barnett. Image Whitmore Collection.

John ‘The Oom’ Whitmore left a positive legacy for tens of thousands of South Africans. This website has been created to showcase the progress that has been made so far on documenting his fascinating life story and to gain support for the book project. The manuscript is currently completed and being edited, with the aim to publish it before the end of 2021.

Of course, if you are at all familiar with John and all of his incredible contributions, you probably already knew all of the above – but if you don’t know who John Whitmore is or want to know even more about him, please click here.

Otherwise, please sign up to our newsletter, to receive notice of future blog updates (see here) and outtakes from the book, as well as exclusive offers we will introduce soon – including Whitmore branded products.

Please also share the cause with your networks, and let us know if you can contribute to our research or photographic archive. You can also contact us to make a financial contribution or back the project through a donation (click here) or sponsorship (click here), or to offer any other kind of support (please click the link to support page here and below).

Otherwise please take a tour of this site and play a small part in creating something unique and special this year: The John Whitmore Book Project.

Many thanks,

Miles Masterson (Author), March 2022

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6 thoughts on “Home

  1. Hi Miles. I have an interest in John Whitmore’a impact on surfing in SA. I have had one of his boards, not with a logo on, but with the line on it “Shaped by the Oom.” That board used to talk to me… what a board!

    More importantly, I have a marine ply twin fin body board, logo and all, still in very good condition. I had a chat to him before he died, re this. He said he made about four of them in approx 1963. That board is as old as me!

    Do you know anything about these Bodyboards? I’m in Somerset West, so if you’re still in Cape Town, I’m happy to connect with you.

    If it can add value to your story on him, I’m happy to assist in this regard.


    1. hi Haydn you can call me on 079 966 2548 or email, Cheers


  2. Hi Miles,
    Most interesting read in blogs. Margaret Smith was my sister (passed away recently). I had just returned from an apprenticeship as a Ships Officer aged about 19 and Margie being 5 years younger, and already had the SA Ladies under her belt an on her way to California.
    My older brother, not interested in surfing, was still in the throws of making a hollow ply board, and once completed
    him, his mate and myself went down to Muizenberg to try it out None of us could surf but as it happened a school friend of mine was a lifeguard , (Robin Soloman)) and took it to sea. While I watched, it was almost a religious experience as I had never seen surfing, and I was (and still am!!) totally hooked on the sport. Most of the Capetonians I surfed with were a younger bunch including top young surfers of the period such as Piers Pittard, the brilliant if erratic Donald Paarman, and have always followed the career of a real young kid at the time (8 or 9 yo) but fearless kid, johnathon Paarman who I believe won a big wave Comp at outerKom at a very young age.
    Shortly after, I spent 6 weeks at Jeffery’s bay before going to Oz to surf.
    While at Jefferys Bay I was introduced to an Aussie surfer Darryl Holmes and later in that idyl l also met another damn good goofy who loved a bigger wave. Name: Gordon Merchant whose feats in creating Billabong are legion
    I ended up in Sydney and as the short board turned to a thruster I felt totally liberated riding the Bower (not too big!) as I lived close by. Rode 6’10″until I was about 5o after which medically I was forced out, tried a mal again, hated it so gave it away.
    If I can assist in any way please advise.
    Regards Alex
    AKA Slacky in the Cape Town surfing community. at the time


    1. Hi Alex, thanks for the post, very cool to hear from you! Cheers, Miles


  3. Hi! I like your site ! I come to RSA since many years and so I was at johns paddle out at Glen beach when he unfortunately passed ! I really would like to have a board,like 9.0 -9.4 shaped by him as a reminder! Please could u help!?
    Kindly regards Anderas Behrens


    1. Hi Andreas, second hand Whitmores do pop up from time to time, sometimes on the Facebook group dedicated to him – join the group and then you will be notified! ` cheers Miles


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