Surf Riot: A unique photographic perspective on the 1986 Huntington Beach Surf Riot comes to SoCal

The photographs within “Surf Riot” contradict the standard imagery associated with American surf culture from the 1980s. No laid-back Adonis figures with flaxen-haired beach babes. Instead, “Surf Riot,” released in a strictly limited edition of 300 copies, with 100 specially packaged and containing a hand-numbered photographic edition, displays a youth revolt, in full dramatic color, of frenetic teens running wild.

“I knew I only had one roll of film,” New York-based British photographer Nick Waplington says, “so I was very careful about the shots.”

Waplington, who was then a 16-year-old on holiday in Los Angeles from college in Nottingham, England, carefully snapped away (with one roll of 25 exposures) to capture the fiery scene in Huntington Beach, on the final day of the Ocean Pacific Pro Surfing Championships. On that last day of August in 1986, thousands of youths went on a rampage. Waplington’s full-color photographs from that day are now on show for a month-long exhibition titled “Surf Riot” at Deyermond Art + Books in Santa Monica, California.

The action captured in his vibrant images is so impactful and immediate that you can almost feel the smoke yourself. In one, a man stands in front of a car swallowed up by thick, black smoke; in another, a man either saves a bright-yellow surfboard, facing a car-borne inferno blackening the sky, just as the Aeroméxico blaze raged in Cerritos. Other photos show the other aspects of the riot, embodying the darker side of youth.

In addition to the exhibition in Santa Monica, the shots have been collected for a limited-edition book, also titled Surf Riot, published by Little Big Man Books. Plus, limited-edition, fine-art prints of Waplington’s photographs are available.

Waplington has created a number of acclaimed photographic books including Living Room (1991), Other Edens (1993), The Wedding (1994) Safety in Numbers (1996), and Truth or Consequences (2001). Solo exhibitions include The Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art, 1992, Photographer’s Gallery, 1995, the Underwood Street Gallery, 1999, and the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 2007. In addition, Waplington’s work was exhibited at the 2001 Venice Biennale and is held within a number of international collections, not limited to the MoMA, The Guggenheim, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Image Source:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>