Shaun Tomson

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Shaun Tomson
Personal information
BornShaun Tomson
(1955-08-21) 21 August 1955 (age 66)
Durban, South Africa
ResidenceMontecito, California, U.S.
Surfing career
Years active1969–1990
Best year1977
Major achievements1977 IPS World Champion
Surfing specifications
StanceRegular (natural foot)

Shaun Tomson (born 21 August 1955) is a South African professional surfer[1] and former world champion, environmentalist, actor, author, and businessman. He has been listed among the top 10 surfers of the century, and was the 1977 World Surfing Champion.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Tomson was born in Durban, South Africa, and is Jewish.[3] As a Jewish athlete, he was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1995. He learned to surf in the beachbreaks in and around Durban under the watchful eye of his father Ernie, and alongside older cousin Michael Tomson and brother Paul Tomson.[4][5][6][7]

Tomson attended school in Durban - Clifton Preparatory, Carmel College, and the University of Natal, where he received a Bachelor of Commerce degree majoring in Business Finance.[8][9] He graduated from Northeastern University with a Master of Science in Leadership with a focus on social change. Tomson went on to dominate amateur surfing competition in South Africa and began venturing over to Hawaii in the late 1960s, courtesy of a bar mitzvah present from his father.[8] It was on one of these trips that an awestruck 14-year-old Tomson witnessed first hand the so-called "Biggest Wave Ever Ridden" by Californian Greg Noll at Mākaha in 1969.[8] Hawaii's surf proved to be a daunting challenge for Tomson, but he continued to mature and train in South Africa's hollow waves, such as Cave Rock, the Bay of Plenty, and Jeffrey's Bay.[10]

Tomson won 19 major professional surf events, has been listed as one of the 25 most influential surfers of the century and as one of the 10 greatest surfers of all time. During his career he was both the youngest and oldest surfer to win a pro event, and is considered to be one of the architects of professional surfing.[3][9][2]

Surfing and the Free Ride generation[edit]

In 1975, Tomson was an integral part of the "Free Ride" generation. Along with Australians Wayne Bartholomew, Mark Richards, Ian Cairns, Peter Townend, and Mark Warren, they rode the infamous waves along Oahu's legendary North Shore with a style, aggression, and raw courage unseen prior to their arrival. Collectively, these surfers changed the face of surfing and were the first to really apply themselves as serious professional surfers. With his good looks, eloquence, and undeniable athleticism, Tomson served by default as the face and voice of this movement and he is still viewed as the prototype blueprint for today's pro surfer, with legions of fans throughout the world. Tomson won the highly coveted International Professional Surfers World Championship in 1977.[11][12][13][14]

On a performance level, Tomson completely changed the way the tube section of the wave was ridden, using a unique style of pumping and weaving through and around collapsing sections of the barrel. Even today, his electrifying performances at Off the Wall and Backdoor Pipeline stand the test of time. A memorable quote of his from the period was, "Time is expanded inside the tube." A very underrated aspect of Tomson's inventiveness was his in the tube punch throughs where he escaped unscathed from hideous closeout sections over a shallow reef.[15]

In film[edit]

Tomson has appeared in many films, including Free Ride, Fantasea, Many Classic Moments, and In God's Hands. Tomson also co-produced an award-winning full-length feature film about the benchmark mid-1970s surfing era called Bustin' Down the Door, which premiered in early 2008.[8] He also wrote and narrated a documentary about Jeffreys Bay called A Pure Line.[7]

Books and digital media[edit]

Tomson is the author of the best-selling Surfer's Code – 12 Simple lessons for riding through life and the #1 Amazon teen bestseller: The Code - The Power of I Will.[3][16] He also authored Bustin' Down the Door – Revolution of '75, a companion to the film of the same name and Krazy Kreatures – Under my Surfboard!, a collection of illustrated rhymes for children.[8]

Tomson has released 3 iPhone/iPad applications – Surfboards, a reference guide for surfboards; Surfer – a digital form of Surfer's Code and Surf Creatures, animated rhymes for children.[17][18]


Tomson is a board member and ambassador for Surfrider Foundation, the world's largest environmental group dedicated to protecting the world's oceans, waves, and beaches. In 1984 he was the first professional surfer to become a member of the foundation and was chairman of the advisory board. In 2002 he received the Surf Industry Manufacturer Association Environmentalist of the Year Award for his environmental efforts. Tomson also co-founded and remains affiliated with the environmentally active celebrity surfer organization Project Save Our Surf.[19]


Tomson founded, managed, and sold two multi-million market-leading clothing brands – Instinct in the 1980s, and Solitude in the 1990s.[8]

He is currently an inspirational speaker for some of the world's largest companies and talks about the influence of positive values on success in life and business based on his own experiences of overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges, in and out of the surf. An attitude of Commitment and Positivity is the basis for Tomson's empowering business philosophy based on his "Surfer's Code – 12 Simple Lessons for Riding through Life". He has spoken internationally and inspired and touched the hearts of audiences as large as 3,000 people, has shared the stage with well-known personalities, including Sir Richard Branson and Malcolm Gladwell, and inspired corporations such as General Motors, Cisco, Price Waterhouse, Toys R Us, Sasol, Disney, Google, Primedia, MTN and Adcock Ingram.


In 2014 Tomson was inducted into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.[20] He has also been inducted into the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame (1997), the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (1998), the South African Sports Hall of Fame (1977), and received the SIMA Environmentalist of the Year Award (2002) and the Surfrider Lifetime Achievement Award (2009).[9][2]

Personal life[edit]

The Tomsons' son Mathew died at 15 years of age on 24 April 2006 in Durban, South Africa, from an accidental death caused by playing the "choking game."[21][22]

Tomson lives with his wife in Montecito, California, in Santa Barbara, California.[8] And surfs daily.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Surfer Fighting a Wipe-Out". The Age. 1 August 1983. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Shaun Tomson surfs into SA Hall of Fame". Berea Mail. 7 July 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "WATCH Surf Legend Shaun Tomson: 'SA Trip Was Greatest Thing I've Done in My Life'". SA People News. 13 May 2018.
  4. ^ "Interview: Michael Tomson". The Surfers Journal. 1 March 2018.
  5. ^ Warshaw, Matt. "Tomson, Michael".
  6. ^ "Shaun Tomson: In the shadow of sharks". Swellnet Dispatch. 2 December 2016.
  7. ^ a b Taylor, Brenda (21 August 2017). "Happy Birthday, Shaun Tomson!". People.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "Shaun Tomson interview". Huck Magazine. 22 August 2012.
  9. ^ a b c "Shaun Tomson". UCSB's Technology Management Program. 30 November 2016.
  10. ^ Patrick Flanagan. "Shaun Tomson". Zigzag’s Legends Journal.
  11. ^ Craig Jarvis (26 October 2015). "Surfing gracefully: 1977 World Champion Shaun Tomson | Talking Heads". Swellnet.
  12. ^ "The Legend That Is Shaun Tomson". Surfd. 11 November 2018.
  13. ^ "Pro Surfer: Shaun Tomson - 1977 Men's Championship Tour event results". World Surf League.
  14. ^ "World-champion surfer Shaun Tomson shares his inspiration in 'The Code'". TODAY. 12 August 2013.
  15. ^ "Shaun Tomson; The Code; The Power of I Will". The New Man Podcast. 3 January 2014.
  16. ^ Shaun Tomson (2011). Surfer's Code: 12 Simple Lessons for Riding Through Life
  17. ^ "Shaun Tomson - Surf Creatures - Surf Creatures iPhone App Learning about surf creatures is awesomely awesome fun, with rhymes that will make kids laugh and imagine themselves in the surf".
  18. ^ "Shaun Tomson Launches iPhone App". Wavescape. 19 March 2010.
  19. ^ "A Conversation w/ Project Save Our Surf's Co-Founder—Actress & Surfer Tanna Frederick". National Geographic. 19 November 2013. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  20. ^ "SHAUN TOMSON; Surfing - 2014". Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
  21. ^ Barbara Cole (3 May 2006). "Surfing star mourns son killed in 'prank'". Independent Online. South Africa. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  22. ^ "Shaun Tomson loses his son, MATHEW TOMSON: RIP". Surfline.

External links[edit]

Preceded by International Professional Surfers World Champion (men's)
Succeeded by