30 YEARS WITH BOB MIGNOGNA

posted by / News / November 6, 2003

Whether his title was sales rep or business director, VP group publisher or VP operations manager, Bob Mignogna has always been “The Boss” at SURFING Magazine. The Long Island-dreamer turned Trestles dawn-patroller has seen a lot of editors and owners come and go. He’s called the shots through three different office spaces, four different logo designs and 325 red-hot new editions of the ultimate “high-performance” mag. But now, after more than 29 years at the helm, our esteemed commander is stepping aside for some long-overdue R and R. Before he hits the world-class wave circuit, SURFING got a few words (OK, more than a few) from our Boss behind the glossy-paper curtain. SURFING MAGAZINE: Let’s start with your first surfing experience.
I started surfing in Long Island, New York in 1966. Caught my first wave at 98th Street in Rockaway Beach. Were you an avid reader of the magazines?
Yeah — especially in the early ’70s. I was actually more of an avid reader of International Surfing than I was of Surfer, in part because Drew Kampion wrote for International Surfing and it was Drew’s writing that caught my attention and made me dream. Dream about going to Hawaii. What issue first moved you?
I don’t remember the cover, but there was an article Kampion did about life on the North Shore. And it had pictures of Dick Brewer and Billy Hamilton and Tiger Espere, BK and a bunch of other guys hanging in front of Country Surfboards in Haleiwa with kids and these beautiful all-natural women. I wanted to experience that lifestyle. I wanted to meet those guys and be a part of that. I naively thought anyone could just fly over there and do it.Which you eventually did.
Eventually. I was going to grad school at St. John’s University, trying to get a Masters in education and also teaching the sixth grade in Long Island City. But after a couple of years, in 1973, on a whim I decided to move to Hawaii. I didn’t know anyone, had an address of a friend of a friend and, after a series of mishaps, finally got to the North Shore. I showed up at this guy’s house, which was right between Sunset and V-Land. He wasn’t there, but there was this beautiful 7’3″ Owl Chapman on the lawn and Kammies was 4 feet, so I took his board and went out for a surf. Didn’t even know the guy, and he didn’t know I was coming. But when I came in from that session, I smelled the salt and the sand and said I’m home. This is where I belong.

Did the guy mind you joyriding his Owl Chapman?
Believe it or not: no, not at all. His name was Norbert, and he let me crash at his pad until I got settled. When I did, I was set up in a house on Sunset Point, right next to a few brash young Aussies named Peter Townend, Ian Cairns and Maurice Cole. That’s when I became close friends with PT. So, you basically just surfed.
Well, later that winter, I was down at Backdoor/Off the Wall watching guys like Shaun Tomson and MR surfing perfect 3- to 4-foot waves, and I met Dan Merkel, staff photographer for SURFING. He introduced me to surf photography that day, and I ended up buying a Pentax body and {{{600}}} mm Pentax lens off Surfer lensman Peter French because I wanted to start taking photos. And that’s when my short-lived career as a surf photographer began. Any other fond memories from your North Shore years?
That same year, I was at the house at Sunset Point, playing David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust. A guy walks by and says he loves the album. I say, “Come on in and listen to it with me.” And instantly, we became friends. Hung out together for the rest of that winter. His name was Michael Peterson. At the time, most guys considered him to be the best surfer in the world. My house became the stop-off point before MP’s sessions. My first photos published in SURFING Magazine were of MP at Sunset.

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