Greg Noll

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Greg Noll
Personal information
BornGreg Lawhead
(1937-02-11)February 11, 1937
San Diego, California, U.S.
DiedJune 28, 2021(2021-06-28) (aged 84)
Crescent City, California
Surfing career
Years active1957–1969
Surfing specifications
QuiverLong boards, Guns
Favorite wavesBanzai Pipeline

Greg Noll ( Lawhead; February 11, 1937 – June 28, 2021) was an American pioneer of big wave surfing[1] and a prominent longboard shaper.[2] Nicknamed "Da Bull" by Phil Edwards in reference to his physique and way of charging down the face of a wave,[3] he was on the U.S. lifeguard team that introduced Malibu boards to Australia around the time of the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne.[1] He produced a "legendary"[4] series of five Search for Surf films.[5]

Early life[edit]

Noll was born Greg Lawhead in San Diego, California, on February 11, 1937. He subsequently adopted the surname of his stepfather, Ash. At the age of three, Noll moved with his family to Manhattan Beach, California.[6] He began surfing at the age of 11[3] in the South Bay. He was a member of Manhattan Beach Surf Club where he learned board shaping from Dale Velzy. Noll was a member of the Los Angeles County Lifeguards and competed in paddleboarding.[1] Noll developed his big wave surfing off Palos Verdes at breaks such as Lunada Bay. He moved to Hawaii in 1954, where he finished high school, and lived and surfed at Makaha.[3]

Big waves[edit]

Noll became known for his exploits in large Hawaiian surf on the North Shore of Oahu. In November 1957, he surfed Waimea Bay in 25–30 ft surf; at the time, this was thought to be impossible, even by the local Hawaiians.[7] He was the first surfer to ride a wave breaking on the outside reef at Banzai Pipeline in November 1964.

The wave I caught at Outside Pipeline that day walled up twenty-five-feet high about half a mile in front of me. It broke to the left, so I was riding with my back to the wave, goofyfoot, and it was a god-awful uneasy feeling. Instead of getting smaller as I rode it, the sonofabitch grew on me. It got bigger and bigger, and I started going faster and faster, until I was absolutely locked into it. I felt like I was on a spaceship racing into a void. At first, I could hear my board chattering across the face of the wave in a constant rhythm. As my speed increased, the chattering noise became less frequent. Suddenly there was no noise. For about fifteen or twenty feet, I was airborne. Then I literally was blown off my board.

— Greg Noll, Da Bull: Life Over the Edge[8]

Noll was readily identified in film footage while surfing by his now iconic black and white horizontally striped "jailhouse" boardshorts.[6] It was later at Makaha, in December 1969, that he rode what many at the time believed to be the largest wave ever surfed. After that wave and the ensuing wipeout during the course of that spectacular ride down the face of a massive dark wall of water, his surfing tapered off and he closed his Hermosa Beach shop in the early 1970s. He later moved to Northern California and first worked as a commercial fisherman, before becoming a sport fishing guide.[6]

The surfing exploits of Noll and other big wave legends were chronicled in the 2004 documentary Riding Giants. He also provided his perspective on Hawaiian big wave surfing on the commentary track for DVD, along with Laird Hamilton and Jeff Clark.[9][10]

Board shaping[edit]

Having shaped surfboards since his youth, and having founded his own surfboard business in the 1950s which reached a high level of commercial success,[5] Noll then changed careers and spent two decades in commercial fishing. [3] The resurgence of longboards brought him back to resume shaping and organize events.[1] He lived in Hiouchi, California with his wife and started a business called "Noll Surfboards" that shaped re-creations of some of the historic boards from the sport of surfing.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Noll was married to Laura Archuletta until his death. Together, they had four children — Ashlyne, Jed, Tate, and Rhyn.[6]

Noll resided in Crescent City, California, during his later years. He died on June 28, 2021, at the age of 84.[12][6]


  • Kampion, Drew & Noll, Greg. Greg Noll: The Art of the Surfboard, 2007, published by: Gibbs Smith, Layton, Utah, ISBN 978-1-58685-776-9
  • Noll, Greg & Gabbard, Andrea. Da Bull: Life Over the Edge, 1989, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, Calif., ISBN 1-55643-143-0


  1. ^ a b c d Kampion, Drew (October 2000). "Greg Noll". Surfing A to Z. Surfline/Wavetrak, Inc. Retrieved May 15, 2010.
  2. ^ Bradley, Ryan (May 17, 2007). "Q+A: Greg Noll on Surfing as Art, Life". National Geographic Adventure. National Geographic Society. Archived from the original on February 7, 2010. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d "Greg Noll – Shaping the Future". World Champions of Surfing. IDW Publishing. Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved May 15, 2010. Nicknamed 'Da Bull' by Phil Edwards for his girth and hard charging, 'bull-headed' approach to riding giant waves
  4. ^ "Surfworld". Australia Trove. National Library of Australia. Retrieved May 15, 2010.
  5. ^ a b Warshaw, Matt (2005). "Noll, Greg". In Matt Warshaw (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Surfing. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt Inc. pp. 413–414.
  6. ^ a b c d e Rogers, John (June 29, 2021). "Legendary big-wave surfer Greg 'Da Bull' Noll dies at 84". Associated Press. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  7. ^ Gault-Williams, Malcolm (March 27, 2008). "Greg Noll "Da Bull"". Legendary Surfers: A Definitive History of Surfing's Culture and Heroes. Surfing Heritage Foundation. Retrieved May 15, 2010. The guy who first grabbed his board on November 5, 1957 was certainly Noll.
  8. ^ Noll, Greg; Gabbard, Andrea (1989). Da Bull: Life Over the Edge. Berkeley, Calif.: North Atlantic Books. p. 138. ISBN 1-55643-143-0.
  9. ^ "Riding Giants (2004)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  10. ^ Powers, Bethany (July 1, 2010). "Cinematic: Riding Giants". UCLA Magazine. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  11. ^ Hayes, David (November 4, 2019). "Surfing legend Greg Noll recalls biggest wave ever on its 50th anniversary". Del Norte Triplicate. Archived from the original on June 29, 2021. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  12. ^ Connelly, Laylan (June 28, 2021). "South Bay surfing icon, big-wave charger Greg Noll dies at age 84". Orange County Register. Retrieved June 29, 2021.

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