RIP Tommy Lewis

Cardiff-by-the-sea’s Tommy Lewis surfing in Puerto Rico from SURFER magazine center spread mid 70s.

“Tommy was a salty dog. A true old school California surfer. He was a fisherman, a shaper, a crusty lovable old surf dog. His dad was the legendary Stan Lewis, who was cut from the cloth of Hemingway — a real character.

Like many of us, Tommy was not without his issues, perhaps passed along from his father, who was often seen heading out to see with a bottle of Jack in one hand. In the past few years Tommy really got his act together — and it showed in the water!

Tommy was a friggin’ red hot surfer. Super smooth stylings and he drew a clean line, a prerequisite for So. Cal. surfers from the 60’s and 70s. Tommy had a badass, without-a-hitch switchstance roundhouse cutback, and the timing and wave knowledge that only can come from decades of being on the water.

In the 70s, he won the legendary Stone Steps contest, and it took him days to get the heavy toilet bowl with Buddha statues trophy up the steps!

Four months ago I had the honor of judging the final heat at the MSA event in perfect 3-5′ foot First Point. Against Malibu legends such as LJ Richards; Tommy took home the first place trophy.

Many will honor Tommy with a memorial paddle out and I’ll try to keep everyone informed when I find out more.”

–Scott Bass open thread about Tommy, click here.

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  • Anonymous
    January 6, 2009

    RIP Tommy Lewis. Just read the open thread and pieced together that I saw Tommy killing Monuments in Cabo many times in the late 90’s. I’m from Santa Barbara, never heard of the guy. Had property on the East Cape in the 90’s. I vividly remember some older cat shredding the raddest switchstance cutbacks I’ve ever seen at Monuments during that time and now reading he lived down there I figure it had to be him. You ripped bro.

  • JCWC
    January 7, 2009

    It sadens me to here about Tommy. i spent many a happy afternoon surfing Cardiff Reef with Tommy in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I learded a fair amount about shaping and building boards from Tommy too. Tommy cranked out a lot of great boards from his Northshore-ish shaping hut out in Olivenhain, the same place he built his glass-over wood skiffs that he made his living fishing from. I was absolutely jazzed when I got to buy his purple lobster skiff and beach-launch trailer from him in 1986. I think he charged me about twice what it was worth. Tommy was also a wheeler-dealer. But I didn’t care.

    I remember standing on the beach in the late 70’s, watching Tommy standing in the back of his 15′ skiff (also putple)with his hand on the outboard tiller. He was racing north and south, in and out over and through the whitewater, looking for a break in the 10′-12′ mostly closeout surf, just south of Georges. It was absolutely crazy. It took him about 15 minutes…..but he made it. Tommy Lewis was the BOMB! I’ll miss him. John Cherry

  • Bob
    February 10, 2009


  • Anonymous
    February 25, 2009

    Tommy was a special bro. Funny neighbor, fisherman, soul surfer, crazy character, one who was always improving himself; an extraordinary human being.

    A legendary person to me. I’m lookin up to you! RIP Tommy. Randy Wastal

  • Anonymous
    April 27, 2010

    I saw Tommy lewis and a friend shredding Lopey’s left in Mazatlan about 1966 or so..He and his friend were great stylist surfers..Years later I was living in Solana Beach and heard he was from that area..I was told he had a problem with hard drugs and had trouble shakin’ the monkey…But what a stylist surfer of top degree!!!

  • Joel Barrett
    October 23, 2011

    Rest in peace tommy, sad to lose you mate, met you thru brother dave, you taught us how to shape and gave us tips on life that i will never forget,You are A True legend.
    joel from NZ