Why Aren’t There More Websites Like the Encyclopedia of Surfing?

If you’re a skier, a climber, a runner, or a lover of outdoor sports like these, with long histories filled with fascinating characters, stories, places, and competitions—do you have a digital space you can go to do bleary-eyed deep dives into the histories of these sports? Say, a website filled to the brim with every bit of minutiae about those sports one could possibly imagine? The only website I can think of that even approaches something like this is the Himalayan Database, an exhaustive catalog of who climbed what Himalayan peak and when, but as thorough as it is, it’s not a particular sexy site, not living and breathing and filled with photos and videos of the characters of mountaineering’s past. 

The Encyclopedia of Surfing is and that’s why it’s so freaking cool. 

EOS, as it’s known, is the brainchild of Matt Warshaw, the most venerated historian of surfing and surf culture, and it’s pretty much the dictionary definition of a labor of love. The site has existed now for a decade, but there were years of hard work just dragging that behemoth over the digital finish line, and before that, an actual printed encyclopedia that itself took years to compile. You’ve probably made more money reading this on your phone during a work break than Warshaw has made in his decades of surf historian status, so, yeah, labor of love. 

But the site isn’t just a catalog of who, what, and where. That’s the beauty of it. EOS is a gorgeous, sexy website, practically dripping with cool, befitting of a sport with the tan lines of surfing. Warshaw spent years working connections to get unprecedented access to photos and videos from surfing’s most cherished chroniclers. Wanna see loving video tribute of Surfing’s late Aloha queen Rell Sunn? EOS. Wanna see the complete record of Pipeline Masters winners? Filter by year, and boom, you’re in. Read a bawdy interview with 80s bad boy Richie Collins? Wondering who came up with the twin-fin setup? And what was the biggest wave ever surfed, anyway? That’s all in EOS, and it’s all so fun to discover. 

Who woulda thought a dang search bar would be impressive, but the EOS search bar is really the secret sauce. You can filter by decade, by year, by whether the person you’re looking for was a photographer or famous surfer or event organizer. You can filter by type of equipment you’re trying to find. You can filter by wave. It’s magic. 

Imagine if you were a climbing historian and you wanted to go to a website to discover something like, “who was the first person to wear a Mountain Hardwear mountaineering suit to the top of the world?” Or, say, you wanted to track down an interview you read once with climber Alison Hargreaves but you can’t remember where you read it—that’s the kinda thing you can do with surfers in EOS. 

Students, journalists, history nerds, surfers who’ve had a few beers and started arguing about who was the first to ride a quad at Mavs, EOS is for you. Plus, it’s only $5 per month. 

Truly, an unprecedented treasure trove of culture, stats, and visual assets. Nothing in the world like it.

And it all just works. EOS is built to encourage rabbit hole-diving by way of links connecting seemly every entry to every other entry. It’s Wikipedia-like in that you may pop onto the site to, oh, I dunno, remind yourself what Buzzy Kerbox looks like, then, after a few minutes, you’ve followed a trail of breadcrumbs to the origin of tow-in surfing, but then backward to Billy Hamilton’s impossible cool, which led to a series of quotes about the best surfers hating competition, and then to a full-fledged essay about the rise of contest surfing, then to a run-through of Margo Oberg’s zillion accomplishments, and suddenly it’s 3 am and you’re slackjawed and drooling on your laptop. In the healthiest possible way though, I swear. 

It’s also a non-profit. Originally, the vision was a big surf industry sponsor, but that fizzled, and, frankly, it’s for the best. This kind of info bank should be free from ads, as it is. $5 a month gets you in. You can of course, donate more if you would like. But it’s about as indie as indie media gets, and, if you’re an AJ fan you know this—indie media needs all the support it can get. 

Give EOS a look, and if there are any enterprising historians of other outdoor sports out there, here’s a blueprint for your own vision. 


Words by Justin Housman



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