Surfing in San Diego, written by John C. Elwell

John Elwell is from Coronado and is a former California State, San Diego County Lifeguard, Coronado City Lifeguard, and when he was in the Navy was a Navy Rescue Swimmer.

Surfing in San Diego was inspired by his experiences with surfers, lifeguards, and watermen who were his mentors and aquatic history. 

Not much was known about early surfing history, there were a lot of assumptions and surf stories about the beginnings of the sport.  The surfboard was a mystery of what it was and how it surfed, and where waves came from in the early days.

Some history was almost forgotten and modern history is more documented with photographs. Acadia Press asked John Elwell to create this book, because of his surfing and waterman history, and educator-author experiences with collecting photographs and stories for a brief pictorial history of early San Diego’s surfing history up to the 1960’s. California Surf Museum was invited to be a co-sponsor for the museum’s benefit.

The book  is best seller of more than 7000 copies.

Coronado Surf Designs Apparel & John Elwell Collection

I happy to let you all know that I’m collaborating with Coronado Surf Designs for apparel with select images from my collection. Be sure and check out new product with John Elwell Collection images on them Here’s the first, I think it is a wonderful beach towel!

John Elwell Collection Beach Towel

John Elwell at Wind n’ Sea Shack, La Jolla, CA


John Elwell holding his 10’6 Simmons’ board at the Windansea shack. Don Oakey’s in foreground & two 6’0’s/Patterson Bros.? & in back/Carl Eckstrom’s? I thought this would be a good picture showing what was going on in 1952 with shapes of boards. [Read more…]

John Elwell and Tom Carlin, Sunset Cliffs, San Diego CA

Tom Carlin, John Elwell at Sunset Cliffs with Car

John Elwell and Tom Carlin at Sunset Cliffs 1949, a friend took the picture with my camera. The car is 1931 Ford Model A four door sedan. The boards are a hollowed out red wood plank and a reshaped plank by Simmons on top. A good comparison between the old planks and Simmons’ light displacement boards.

[Read more…]

John Elwell, San Diego County Lifeguard at Cardiff By The Sea with his 1932 Ford Phaeton, year 1952


In the rear “Tub” of my 1932 Ford Phaeton I kept my diving gear a French Arbelette spear, my fins and mask and sleeping bag. The surfboard is a custom made Simmons board. These were good, fine days of freedom and not many people on the beach and highways—days of Watermen who dove for food, swam, paddleboarded, surfed and who were always stoked to see each other, no matter where you came from.

[Read more…]