22 January, 2015 22 January, 2015

“The First True Surfer”

In 1982, when Zigzag’s Doug Macdonald went to have a ‘casual chat’ with John Whitmore at Coast Catamaran’s Cape Town headquarters, he didn’t expect to get “engrossed by the lifestyle and adventures of surfing’s [then] living legend…” This week we throw you all the way back to South Africa’s surfing roots, planted in the fifties by John Whitmore, often referred to as ‘the father of SA surfing.’


John Whitmore, also a pioneer in facial hair with his signature goatee. 


(Circa 1982, Vol. 6.1. Click the image to view larger version and read the article)


Born in 1929 and raised in Sea Point, John’s love for the ocean and wave-riding stretches back to bodysurfing Clifton, CT as a grom.


John braving the Cape in nothing but a speedo.


John Whitmore (foreground) and Dick Metz sharing a wave at the Kom, 1959.


John Whitmore leading the 1970 SA World Title team.


John became the Cape Town distributor for Surfer magazine, and guided Bruce Brown during this filming of Endless Summer. It was John who originally suggested that Brown and crew look for waves at Cape St. Francis.


World-ranked surfer from the seventies , Jonathan Paarman, is Whitmore’s nephew. Whitmore died of lung cancer in 2001.



*Information and photographs in this article were aided by the following sources:

Legendarysurfers.comsurfingheritage.co.za and the encyclopediaofsurfing.com.


  1. SAFFA Legends
    23 January, 2015 at 8:30 am · Reply

    These are the true legends -well done Zag and Mr Bradley.

    Wow Wearing Speedo’s in CT waters …Strooong Branderwyn ek se !!!

  2. Mickey Westmoreland
    25 January, 2023 at 11:09 am · Reply

    Dear Zig Zag, Fantastic record of John Whitmore and his achievements and old photographs. I was privelaged to know John and still one or two of his 1st Springbok Team . Well done. My Broker Guy built his house in Camps Bay where John would (sit on the loo) look out to sea and give the morning surf report. That was before he handed over to Jonny. I have an old Whitmore 44 pin tail given to me by ex WP Surfer Mike Taylor. John is a legend to Surfers and Hobie Saiors and many others. Regards Mickey.

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