Shaun Tomson

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Shaun Tomson
Personal information
BornShaun Tomson
(1955-08-21) 21 August 1955 (age 64)
Durban, South Africa
ResidenceMontecito, California, U.S.
Surfing career
Years active1969–1990
Best year1977
Major achievements1977 IPS World Champion

Shaun Tomson (born 21 August 1955) is a South African professional surfer[1] and former world champion, environmentalist, actor, author and businessman.

Life and career[edit]

He was born in Durban, South Africa. 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.

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. 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. It was on one of these trips that an awestruck 14-year-old Tomson witnessed at first hand the so-called "Biggest Wave Ever Ridden" by Californian Greg Noll at Mākaha in 1969. 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.

Tomson 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.

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 IPS World Championship in 1977.

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.

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. He also wrote and narrated a documentary about Jeffreys Bay called A Pure Line.

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.

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.

He 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.


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 is also co-founded and remains affiliated with the environmentally active celebrity surfer organization Project Save Our Surf.[2]


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

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 his unique 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 like General Motors, Cisco, Price Waterhouse, Toys R Us, Sasol, Disney, Google, Primedia, MTN and Adcock Ingram.

Personal life[edit]

The Tomsons' son Mathew died on 24 April 2006 in Durban, South Africa from an accidental death caused by playing the "choking game."[3]

Tomson lives with his wife in Santa Barbara, California. And surfs daily.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Age - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  2. ^ "A Conversation w/ Project Save Our Surf's Co-Founder—Actress & Surfer Tanna Frederick – National Geographic Blog". Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  3. ^ "Surfing star mourns son killed in 'prank' | IOL News". Retrieved 21 June 2018.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Peter Townend
International Professional Surfers World Champion (men's)
Succeeded by
Wayne Bartholomew