Rest In Peace, Greg Noll - Stab Mag
Photo by John Severson

Rest In Peace, Greg Noll

Da Bull has passed away at 84 years old.

news // Jun 28, 2021
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

We’ve come to you all too often as of late, with heavy hearts at the deaths of our own. 

Today that is most certainly the case. 

Greg Noll. Da Bull. Gone, at the age of 84.

According to Matt Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing:

“Noll was born Greg Lawhead (1937) in San Diego, California, moved to Manhattan Beach at age six with his just-divorced mother, and changed his name when she married chemical engineer Ash Noll. He began surfing at age 10, and by the early ’50s was one of the Los Angeles area’s best hot doggers.

Noll visited Hawaii for the first time in 1954 at age 17, stayed for seven months in a Quonset hut at Makaha on Oahu’s west side, and finished his senior year at nearby Waipahu High School. He mostly rode Makaha but also made an initial foray to the North Shore, a wave-lashed seven-mile rural strip of coastline already known for its dangerous and potentially deadly big surf. It was during his first trip to Hawaii that Noll developed a taste for bigger waves…

By late 1957 Noll was ready to try Waimea Bay.” 

Noll’s big wave exploits are the stuff of myth, but there has always been much more to Noll’s story, even back then. 

Warshaw continues, “In 1956, Noll had made a pioneering effort, as a member of the American lifeguard team that visited Australia during the 1956 Melbourne-held Olympic Games. Noll and his surfing teammates arrived with their Malibu chipboards, and their impromptu wave-riding demonstrations yanked Australia into the modern surfing age.”

“We hit ’em like a comet,” Noll later recalled. “Took ’em from the horse and buggy straight to the Porsche.”

Thirty-eight-years before Derek Hynd took Tom Curren on The Search, Greg Noll released five Search For Surf films from 1957-1961, before opening what was then the largest surfboard factory in the world in 1965, in Hermosa Beach, building Greg Noll Surfboards. They would go on to produce the iconic Mickey Dora model, Da Cat

“Instantly recognizable in his trademark black-and-white-stripe jailhouse surf trunks,” writes Warshaw. “The big-voiced Noll also earned a reputation as a drinker and a brawler, with a sometimes-macabre sense of humor. A Greg Noll Surfboards employee once cut off his thumb while on the job; after Noll took the man to the hospital and found out the thumb couldn’t be reattached, he returned to the factory and placed the severed digit in a cup full of resin to make a paperweight.”

One of the more recent times Greg Noll made his way south from the Pacific Northwest, where he lived for decades, he was tasked with giving a speech at the 2016 XXL Awards. The WSL and Billabong apparently asked 79-year-old Greg to “clean up his speech a little.” It didn’t work.

“I just gotta tell you, you guys are young, and you gotta take care of your health when you’re young because you don’t realize until you get to be an old shit like me,”  Greg started. “My friend Phil didn’t pay attention to his health and ended up with a problem with his throat. He had to go to the hospital to have an operation. I told him, please, the next morning, after the operation check in with me and let me know how it went. Sure enough, the next morning, the phone rings. This is Mrs. Sanders from the hospital that Phil had his operation in and I’m pleased to tell you that it wasn’t cancerous. But the surgeons did have to remove a rather large hairball from his throat…

from eating too much pussy.

As you’d imagine, the story didn’t go over very well with much of the conservative OC crowd. But, Greg lived his entire life by his own rules.

Rest In Power, Greg Noll.


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