27 reasons John Whitmore is a legend.

The subject of a soon-to-be-published biography, during his incredibly productive life, John Whitmore:

  • Pioneered skin diving and spearfishing in Cape Town in the late 1940s and helped to start the city’s first diving clubs.
  • Was the first person to surf a wave upright on a modern surfboard on the entire West Coast of Africa in the early 1950s.
  • Produced the first polystyrene foam surfboard in Cape Town in 1954 and shaped the first polyurethane surfboard in 1964.
  • Created South Africa’s first surfing brand, Whitmore Surfboards, Pty. Ltd.
John in his surfboard factory at 185 Buitengracht Street, Cape Town, circa 1961. Photo by OC Carstens.
  • Discovered dozens of remote, deserted surf breaks in South Africa, many of which now are thriving towns that depend on surfing and tourism for a living, including St Francis, Jeffreys Bay and Elands Bay.
  • Profoundly impacted the success of Bruce Brown’s epic surfing movie The Endless Summer and became one of the film’s break out stars, becoming world famous in the process.
John Whitmore was an unwitting star of The Endless Summer (pictured above and in the main blog image), but not many people know that the iconic movie would not have turned out the way it did without his direct influence. Image Bruce Brown.
  • Founded the Western Province Surfing Association and South African Surfriders Association.
  • Secured Springbok colours for competitive surfers and presided over both associations for a decade.
  • Influenced world surfing as a member of the International Surfing Federation executive.
  • Coached and managed Springbok surfers to great success at several ISF world championships.
  • Was appointed founding President of the South African Long Distance Swimming Association in 1969.
John with members of the 1972 Springbok surfing team bound for San Diego. From left to right, Johnny Paarman, Pippa Sales, Sally Sturrock-Bekker, John Whitmore (manager) and Gavin Rudolph. Image courtesy Whitmore Family Collection..
  • Paved the way for South African first surfing world champions, including Shaun Tomson (IPS) and Ant Brodowicz (ISA) in 1977 and 1978 respectively.
  • Hosted South Africa’s first and most popular national radio surf and weather report every morning for more than 20 years.
  • Introduced Hobie Catting to South Africa.
  • Created a world class Hobie Cat manufacturing concern in Cape Town.
John and his team put together the 1979 Hobie 16 World Championships in Plettenberg Bay. To this day it is recognised as one of the best events of its kind in Hobie Cat history. Image courtesy Eddie Scarpa.
  • Founded the Hobie Cat racing class in Southern Africa and hosted hundreds of regattas in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
  • Led South African Hobie Catting to the country’s first international yachting world title in the form of Mick and Colin Whitehead in Texas in 1978.
  • Obtained Springbok colours for select South African Hobie Cat national team members.
  • Brought the Hobie World Championships to South Africa in 1979 and Mauritius in 1987.
John published SA Hobie Scene magazine for several years across the late 1970s and early 1980s.
  • Paved the way for South Africa to win more world titles and boast more higher place finishes in Hobie world events than any other country in Hobie Cat history.
  • Introduced Morey Boogie bodyboards to South Africa.
  • Set up a Morey Boogie factory in Cape Town.
  • Motivated the formation the South African Bodyboarding Association and its first SA Champs
  • Paved the way for South African Andre Botha to win the country’s first bodyboarding world title in 1998.
One of John’s exquisite hand made knives. This one belongs to Durban surf pioneer and surfing administrator Dave Lee, a special gift from The Oom, including a sheath resembling a left hand breaking wave, as Dave is a goofy footer.
  • Mentored hundreds of South African surfboard shapers, competitive surfers, Hobie Catters, bodyboarders, boat builders and fibreglass craftsmen et al.
  • Hand made exquisite and much sought after knives praised by the top Knife Guild craftsmen in his latter years.
  • Was a successful salesman, entrepreneur, craftsman, businessman, father, friend and family man, whose myriad pioneering actions resonate to this day.

There are, of course, many other reasons John Whitmore deserves legend status, enough to fill a book.

John helped to introduce California beach culture into South Africa, his myriad accomplishments enriching the lives of thousands of people to this day. Noordhoek Beach, early 1960s. Image courtesy Whitmore Family Collection.

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