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  • Andrew Cowell

LARRY “FLAME” MOORE - A LEAGUE OF HIS OWN

When adventuring pioneers of the past went looking for their next undertaking, they scoured through any and all available resources, maps and first person narratives of the known world. These guys would examine a map and wonder what lay beyond the margins. These indefatigable souls rarely, if ever, went looking for second assents. The frontier was immensely more interesting than the known world. When British mountaineer, George Mallory was asked why he wanted to climbed Mt. Everest, he replied, with a snort of derision, “Because it’s there.” Much was the mindset that embodied Larry Moore, known as “Flame” due to his shock of red hair.



Born in 1948, in Whitter, California, Moore’s adventures into surf photography began while living and surfing in the soon to be known “Echo Beach” of Newport Beach. The paying of a debt by a friend, whose moral sensitivities conflicted with inscription and the Vietnam War, Larry was gifted with a 35mm, Pentax K1000 SLR, and a 400mm Takumar lens, and a “here this should cover it, you’ll never see me again,” good bye.


This was 1970. Larry’s compositions were good from the get-go. By ’71 his images were being published in surfing magazines. In 1973, he took the job of darkroom tech at Surfingmagazine. By ’76 he ascended to full-time photo editor, a first for the magazine.


For all the laid back, liberal undertones depicting surfing, as a collective group, surfers then, as they are today, aren’t very trusting of the media; the stuff created by non-surfers. Slick Hollywood movies, sporting magazines and popular music haven’t done the culture justice. Surf magazines fared better. Readers dreamily devoured them like they were Big Mac’s. The shifting hues of blues and greens with water reflected sun light. The spiral decent of the curl, the bounce of the white-water explosion, the kinetic motility of the surfer and board in motion, here is where Moore, with his passion for excellence, innovation and out-of-bounds discovery excelled. He’d spend his days pursuing and pushing the margins of the known world of surf photography; pushing the craft, and pioneering techniques that are common place today, always searching the peripheries for fresh waves and photographic possibilities.


Dana Point’s Salt Creek became his outdoor studio with dawn-breaking, front-lit, “Larry Light.” Nowhere looked as good through the viewfinder. Not only did he pioneer and raise the bar of surf photography, he was developing a symbiotic relationship with the aspiring professional surfers of the day. He coached them into wearing brightly colored wetsuits, riding energetically colored surfboards emblazoned with sponsor logos. Moore demanded that turns be accentuated with a gouging force, and tube rides ridden deeper than ever before. Larry postulated that big, dramatic and colorful was the route to success.


Flame’s passion for discovery and “first accents” encapsulated determined exploration and documentation of previously unknown locations, never with the intent to expose, but to excite the imagination. Larry was hell-bent on getting people off of their collective privilege and out into the world. His crowning glory came in January, 2001. He amassed four surfers, six cameramen, three Jet Skis, two boats, and one plane for a surf safari entitled, Project Neptune. The objective was the Cotes Bank, an open-ocean, underwater sea mount 100 miles off the San Diego, California coast. Perfect conditions prevailed on their January 19tharrival: no wind, glassy ocean, and a big swell – many waves in the fifty-foot range. Mike Parsons caught a wave measuring 66-feet, the biggest wave of the day. Later Parsons told a reporter, “If it wasn’t the biggest, it was one of the biggest I’ve seen.” For Moore, it was the culmination of a dream. All the years of training, hard work and preparation and looking beyond the realm of possibility had paid off.


Moore always gave 100% of himself to whomever, or whatever he deemed worthy. A no bullshit guy, never afraid to tell it like was. Always going straight for the important stuff, good or bad – never a trickster. In 2002, life played the ultimate trick. Larry was diagnosed with grade four, Glioblastoma Multiforme, a tenacious form of brain cancer with no known survival rate. He met his illness with the same unshakeable courage and grace he exhibited in life, never wavering form those things that mattered most, his wife and child, his faith, and his passion for friends, photography and surfing. On October 10, 2005, Larry Moore passed from this world, but his flame has never been extinguished. In the days, weeks, and months following his passing, Larry’s family and friends established the Follow the Light Foundation, in his honor with the aim to continue his photographic legacy by giving an annual grant to one aspiring photographer.

Back for 2019, the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center (SHACC) has taken up, along with Flame’s family the Follow the Light (FTL) grant program. This year’s recipient is Tasmanian photographer, Nick Green. For more on the FTL grant program, Nick Green, and all the finalists and their work go to shacc.org/2019followthelight/.


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