The Endless Image

Williams fig1 cropped

In 1963 John Van Hamersveld, an art student at the time, was asked to create a poster for an upcoming surf film, The Endless Summer, in exchange for $150 (Berg). The Day-Glo poster he created by hand would become an enduring icon for surf culture in America. Despite being fifty years old, van Hamersveld’s Endless Summer image remains prevalent in America with both reproductions and parodies.  The versatility of the image is immense; it can be used as a film advertisement, as a room decoration, and as a means to sell products.  The Endless Summer image has therefore proven itself to be one of the most influential pieces of surf culture in mainstream America.

Van Hamersveld’s inspiration for the poster came from the fist scene of The Endless Summer, which shows a surfer holding his surfboard on his head.  Later, Van Hamersveld arranged Bruce Brown (the film’s producer, narrator, and videographer) with Robert August and Mike Hynson (the film’s star surfers), along with their surfboards, and captured the photograph with which he would work.  By reducing each color to a single tone, creating hard, defined edges, buying and silk-screening the Day-Glo paint, and hand-lettering the text, he created the world’s most famous surf poster (Berg). There are two official Endless Summer posters. The first is the original, made by Van Hamersveld in 1964.  The second poster, which features slightly different colors, a larger sun, a lowered horizon, and different text, is a 50th Anniversary edition of the poster, created in collaboration by Bruce Brown Enterprises and John Van Hamersveld.

Figure 1 is a photograph of my personal copy of the Endless Summer poster.  The poster, which hangs framed over my bed, was signed and given to me five years ago by the film’s star surfer Robert August. I happened to bump into him on the street. He introduced himself to me, congratulated me on my purchase, and signed both my new board and this poster.  I sold the board a few years later but the poster has always hung over my bed.  This reproduction of van Hamersveld’s image holds an elevated significance over others, because each time I see the poster, memories of buying and using my first surfboard are recalled. The image, which to a surfer is already iconic of surf culture, is signed by August–a professional surfer– again raising this particular poster’s significance.  The image is accompanied by a blurb describing the plot of the film and the Bruce Brown Films logo, which both establish close ties with The Endless Summer film.  It is assumed that this poster was originally created as an advertisement for The Endless Summer.  Due however, to the personal history and sentimental value of the poster, it is not an advertisement, but a praised memento of my childhood.


Figure 2 is a photograph of a black t-shirt featuring a print of The Endless Summer’s poster image.  The shirt was made by Moustache Brigade clothing and sold by Urban Outfitters, and was given to me for my nineteenth birthday.  The shirt’s made-to-look-worn wash and faded colors are meant to create a relationship between that shirt and the 1966 surf classic.  If one were to think of advertising’s effectiveness as how much product it can sell, then van Hamersveld’s image seems to be an extremely effective advisement.  Thousands of Endless Summer shirts like this one are sold every year for a movie that was released in Williams fig31966 (Anolik). However, the shirt wasn’t printed to advertise The Endless Summer film, but rather to sell the shirt.  The image is so popular in American culture that it sells itself.  People who might not even know that The Endless Summer is a film are wearing the shirt, further popularizing van Hamersveld’s image.  American celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Zac Efron have been photographed wearing similar shirt’s featuring the Endless Summer image (figure 3) (RSS). In addition, gossip media reporting on celebrities wearing the image shows how deeply rooted Van Hamersveld’s image is in American culture.


The Endless Summer poster’s renowned status and popularity have created a popular theme for events, and the image is commonly used as an attraction. The image of three silhouettes in front of big, setting sun has, over time, become associated with surfing in general, the beach, summer, and other general themes presented in The Endless Summer film.  However, when Williams fig4it is used in this manner, the image rarely has any actual connections to the film.  Sometimes the title of the movie is removed entirely or replaced with other text.  An example of the image being used in this way is in the “Loudness” theme for a party weekend at Colby College in fall 2013. Figure 4 is the image that was used on the event’s tank tops (Tilton). The theme for the weekend was that of a “beach party” and neither the posters nor the tank tops specifically referenced The Endless Summer.  The image, when used in this manner is a symbol for beach culture and summer that is easily understood by all.  The image has, over time, transferred from surf culture, as a representation for The Endless Summer, to American culture as a representation for anything pertaining to summer fun.

Since its creation fifty years ago, John Van Hamerveld’s Endless Summer image has only gained popularity.  Originating as an advertisement for the 1966 surf classic, The Endless Summer, the image is now used in a variety of ways.  The film, like the image, is still popular today; the image is still used on the cover of the movie and on advertisements.  Over the decades however, the image has become a symbol of all things beach and summer related in American culture.  The image is so popular outside of the surf community that companies such as Urban Outfitters can sell expensive t-shirts simply because Van Hamersveld’s image is printed on the front.  Similarly, the image’s popularity and familiarity allow it to be used as a theme for events such as Colby’s Loudness.  People who may never have seen The Endless Summer know to associate it with summer fun.  No piece of surf culture has ever impacted mainstream America in the way that Van Hamersveld’s image has—and perhaps never will.

–Ryan Williams

Works cited

Anolik, Lili. “How The Endless Summer Movie Poster Has Endured for 50 Years.” Vanity Fair. March 1, 2014.

Berg, Tom. “The Poster that Changed Orange County.” The Orange County Register. January 13, 2009.

“John Van Hamersveld: The Endless Summer 50th Anniversary Poster.” Last accessed April 19, 2014.

“Justin Bieber vs. Zac Efron: Who Wore It Best?.” RSS. January 6, 2012.

“‘The Endless Summer’ movie poster by John Van Hamersveld, 1964.” APHELIS. July 23, 2012.


Figure 1. Digital photograph of The Endless Summer poster, created by John Van Hamersveld in 1963.

Figure 2. T-shirt sold by Urban Outfitters with The Endless Summer image, ca. 2013.

Figure 3. Photograph of Justin Bieber and Zac Efron wearing The Endless Summer t-shirts, 2012.

Figure 4. Design for tank tops at Colby College, fall 2013.


  1. @elirish One thing that differentiates The Endless Summer from other surf films (especially surf films from the 60s) is that it is a true surfing film. Although the image has become associated with the beach and summer fun, the movie isn’t one of those beach party movies with actors. It is a true surfing documentary, highlighting a global surf trip with professional surfers. The Endless Summer is an archetype for true surf films of the modern age.

  2. @Preston That is a good question about the change in the surfboard. I’m going to guess it was a design change for the t-shirt. Also, the slogan above/below the image changes on the black shirt from “the search for the perfect wave” to “in search of the perfect wave.” I could not figure out the reason’s for either change though.

  3. Much like Ellie said earlier, I have not seen The Endless Summer, but I have recognized the image from many other places including t-shirts, posters, etc., so I agree with Ryan that this was a great image to choose for the appropriations project. Your inclusion of the other images definitely helps show and demonstrate the effect that this movie had on all of society, but your argument does not really go into much depth on its connection to surfing and the Surf Culture that was very present in the 1960s. I would love to see how you might go about a discourse that explained the relation and impact this movie had on surfing and the ideologies it expressed to America.

  4. Before this article I had never seen the image of three surfers. Then again, I’d be unable to identify the celebrities in figure 3 if the article hadn’t mentioned their names. Regardless, the other comments seem to indicate that the image is as iconic as this article makes it out to be. I’m curious as to the edits made when appropriating the poster image for the T-shirt and the reasons behind said edits. To be precise, the figure closest to the observer carries a surfboard that in the movie poster is not fully shown, allowing the sun behind it to show more, but that in the black T-shirt version appears full. A closer look at the shirts worn in figure 3 shows the surfboard to more closely resemble that from the movie poster, not completely shown and with a jagged edge where the back of the board would be. I wonder why this is so.

  5. I like how you included the personal details of your relationship with the poster and the memories it holds. It is interesting that for you, neither the poster nor the shirt hold their intended meaning as advertisements. It’s also interesting that so many people recognize the image and buy the clothing despite not knowing the film. I know I recognized the image yet I haven’t seen the film. It seems the image itself is losing its connection with the film title and its original purpose. I like the example of the appropriation with the loudness shirts, it shows that all of us at Colby embrace this kind of appropriation without even realizing it most of the time.

  6. elirish says

    I have never seen The Endless Summer, but I do recognize this image of the three guys with surfboards and the large sun in the background. This fact further supports your claim that yes, even though many Americans haven’t seen this movie, the image produced from it has endured almost sixty years and can always be associated with summer fun, youthfulness and the beach. One thing that could have strengthened your argument is comparing and contrasting the image of The Endless Summer to other significant images of surf culture. Since I am not a surfer, the only connection I can make to the sport is from the movie, Blue Crush (2002). It’s kind of a chick flick, which is probably why I like it so much, but to me this is also an insight into surf culture besides The Endless Summer. After reading this discourse analysis I really want to see this movie, and therefore connect the image with its origin more appropriately.

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