Glassy: Rod Hepburn

Rod Hepburn is a San Diego based bodysurfer and photographer. He first salted his fins while studying the masters of Panics, Sandys and the North Shore in the late 60’s and early 70’s. He fondly recalls surviving the brutal Backdoor and cruising the Waimea shoulder. When he moved back to San Diego the cold waters kept him out of the water. Rod didn’t find his way back to bodysurfing regularly until his buddy, Emilio, traded him a Desoto Tri-Suit in exchange for photos Rod had taken. These days he enjoys his time with the strong and storied San Diego bodysurfing culture. He and the other “old-school old timers” dig the uncrowded lineups. If there is a swell, Rod is around sometimes in the water, but if not he’s sending out glassy stoke from the rail. The following photographs are Rod’s original work.


Damon at Sandy Beach
Dolphins at Blacks
Exuberant Donny
Jeff Admiring the Green
Mike, Jerry, Larry Watching Over Last Light
Tom’s Clinic
Splash Zone Fun
Hal Heading Left
Mark at Low Tide
OB Sunset
Nick “The Seal” Menas
Big Wednesday, Lotza Lookers
DSC_7919 - Copy
Mikey at the Cove
Big Wednesday with More Onlookers
Larry Going Left
Empty, But Beautiful
Slippery Durdam
Jerry Stylin

Thanks to Rod for providing his unique photos. If you have questions for him or would like to request a purchase email Rod:

Creation Through Movement

Steve Prefontaine“Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, ‘I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.’ It’s more than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative.” Steve Prefontaine



Bodysurfers are a throwback, guys and gals who didn’t get the memo that we should all be fighting for sponsors and pats on the back. I started out swimming with a friend and playing with the energy that unbeknownst to me was just an echo from a storm thousands of miles away. But I really started the first time I saw a guy bellyride a massive wave with ease. Coasting on the face, switching directions, all with complete control. He blew my mind. All at once I could imagine incredible things were possible with a simple pair of fins on my feet.

I became a consumer. I ate every youtube clip of Stewart or Cunningham or Wege or Panic I could find. Come Hell or High Water on repeat. Friendships with guys who loved to stick their heads in barrels spiraled into ritualistic buoy talk. When the horizon stopped bouncing we’d pine about the days when conditions were so good that our triceps throbbed and our hamburger feet needed tending.

Each swim out is another opportunity to learn something new about our craft. Mini-experiments, What happens when I kick this way while driving down the face? Can I get to the bottom and hold enough speed to complete this maneuver?  Other bodysurfers are an easy study, always wondering; Why’d he drop his elbow before starting the spin? And each question punctuated by the joy in everyone’s eyes. Striking the balance between letting go of my conscious mind and engaging deliberate action is endless.

bodysurfing pipeline
Travis Overly at Pipeline Photo: Rachel Newton

From time to time we are reminded that others are watching. Changing in the lot, a surfer lets us know he had fun watching, or a tourist will ask, “How can you do that with no board?” At one time, I was the one who had the shattered expectations of what it meant to ride waves rattling around my mind. I hold that lofty expectation in the trance of each stroke. Not only am I given the chance to traverse this natural border between terrafirma and mare, but I represent a breed of amphibious humans.

The creation of a unique memory in the eye of a passerby, might connect another soul to the aquatic world we love and protect. Granted, it is a lofty expectation, but people are tractor-beamed to the Ocean. It is impossible to tell which little Bambi-eyed rugrat will divine inspiration from a human form gliding on the surface of the big blue sea and so each wave is an act of creation through movement.