Remembering East Coast Surf Legend Alan Margolis

Nov 6th 2019

Remembering East Coast Surf Legend Alan Margolis

This Wednesday we lost a legend on the East Coast. 2014 East Coast Surfing Hall Of Famer and former Surfing Magazine photographer, Alan Margolis has passed away Wednesday.

Surf magazine with photos from Allen Margolis

Alan and Mike Mann were noted to much of the East coast surf history including started the one of the first all-color East coast surf mag in 1970s called Surf.This magazine later went on to inspire ESM, impacting many aspiring surfers and surf photographers. Mann and Margolis later published Waves of the World (16 fold-out posters of some of Margolis' best shots).

Allan was known for shooting crisp surf photos with a hand-held Century 650 mm lens when other photographers from the era relied on tripods.

Florida Surf Museum explains that season:

Back in the days when color surfing photos were 35 mm slides, Margolis developed a clever technique to impress surfing magazine editors. After tightly editing his stacks of slides down to only good shots, he inserted them in transparent plastic sleeves that were three-hole punched and sized to fit in a looseleaf notebook. Each sleeve held 20 photos in five rows of four slides each. Margolis always put his very best shots in the upper left slots of the sleeves, knowing the editors would look there first. Seeing those dynamite shots first tilted the editors to favor and use more of Margolis’ shots than otherwise might have been the case.

Doug Fiske explained Margolis' nature as a photographer,

Margolis was in Florida and shot exclusively from the beach, usually with a Century 650 mm lens. His shots were amazingly sharp, almost impossibly sharp. He sent his slides in sleeves that held 20 photos each. He knew that anybody who grew up in the US with English as his first language would first look at the top left of a sleeve of slides, so he always put his best shots there. They would knock our socks off and positively influence our impression of the other shots in each sleeve.

Issue of Surf Magazine

Fiske goes on to share his experience working with the magazine,

In early ’77, Mike Mann and Allan Margolis asked me to come to Indialantic, Florida, to help them with Surf magazine. They had done one issue and found they were in over their heads. I retained a national distributor, Midwest printer, color separator, typesetter and network of freelance contributors. I set up a production room and began to acquaint Mike and Allan with the process of making a magazine. As Mike was standing in the production room one day after things had begun rolling along, he looked around and said, “You know, there’s really something to this.”

Unfortunately, Margolis’ archive of surf photos was destroyed in a fire. This was a great loss for East Coast surfing history but his work is remember throughout the surf community.

Allen passed away doing what he loved with friends near his home at Fort Pierce Inlet, Florida.

Local surfer Graham Parker gave this eye witness account:

Today’s life lesson: life is short, enjoy it. Never expected that when I paddled out at fort Pierce inlet I’d be doing cpr on someone on the beach. William Davis and myself and others pulled an unconscious surfer out of the water and we did CPR on the beach for 10 minutes. I didn’t know Allen Margolis personally other than seeing him at the inlet over the years but seeing someone so respected by the community here passing away is such a shame. And the craziest thing was as this went down, the winds went offshore and the set of the morning came thru…RIP in Allen.

Tom Dugan shared,

I first saw Allen in the 70′ shooting photos around Brevard County Fla. He helped put all the surfers of the day on the map with great photos in many magazines. We became friends over the years and I remember sharing First peak at Sebastian with him on many dawn patrols. He was a hard core surfer his whole life and died in the water doing what he enjoyed… SURFING . Classic guy who will be remembered thru his hard work as a photographer.

Local surf John Knoke recalls,

I used to dawn patrol First Peak a lot! Rarely did anyone beat me into the lineup, except Allen! I remember one day in particular. I paddled out super early, and the waves were pumping, offshore, high tide First Peak, probably double overhead. Serious waves and barreling almost past the end of the jetty!. Still mostly dark, I paddled out and was at the end of the north jetty. A big set came in and I got a long, stand-up barrel, one that I still remember today. Paddling back out, almost wishing someone was there to see it, I heard a faint "yeeeew, yeeeew, yeeeew" coming from the distance in the morning darkness-it was Alien hooting from farther out at Second Peak. I was surprised and happy he was there, but he was always there, and will always be. The manatees and I will miss him very much. Yeeeew, Allen. TEXT
I first saw Allen in the ’70s, shooting photos around Brevard County,

ESM co-founder and fellow East Coast Surfing Hall of Famer Tom Dugan remembers,

He helped put all the surfers of the day on the map with great photos in many magazines. We became friends over the years and I remember sharing many dawn patrols at First Peak Sebastian with him. He was a hardcore surfer his whole life, and died in the water doing what he enjoyed. A classic guy who will be remembered through his hard work as a photographer.

Allen will be missed and remembered as a talented photographer and ripping surfer who help put the East coast on the map. Our condolences go out to all of his family and friends. We are thankful for his love of surfing and the way he made an impact for generations to come. RIP you legend!

(Header Photo of Allen Margolis (front and center) among First Peak’s most legendary shooters by Dugan and ESM)

November 06, 2019 — Cheyne Cottrell