Classic Rincon, 1973 by Steve Bissell
The above photo is known as Classic Rincon and was taken back in 1973 by Santa Barbara based photographer Steve Bissell. But I didn’t first catch sight of it until one afternoon several decades later when I strolled into the Patagonia store on Main Street in Santa Monica where a giant print of it hung on the south wall. Now I had surfed a few times during my high school years growing up in Florida but it wasn’t until I moved to California that I came to be fairly obsessed with the sport of kings and that move had taken place less than a year before my first encounter with the photo… all of which I share in hopes of explaining how it could be that I (a gentleman surfer living in Southern California) hadn’t a clue that the wave depicted in the photo was none other than the Queen of the Coast herself.
I might not have known a thing about the wave but I was captivated by the photo nonetheless.
There is something special happening here beyond the simple perfection of those blue waves stacked towards the horizon peeling perfectly off the point and I suspect it has to do with that solitary figure checking the surf from high atop that grassy knoll. There is no doubt in my mind that the dude in that field was grinning from ear to ear at what he saw and I in turn find myself doing the same whenever I see the photo which I made a point of doing every time I passed by the store over the last several years.
But when I dropped into the shop a few weeks back on one such occasion, I was bummed to find that a different photo now hung in its place. It’s an OK shot but it’s certainly no Classic Rincon. Saddened though I was with this turn of events, I quickly realized that there might be an opportunity here. I asked one of the Patagonians milling about the store if they still had the print and, if so, whether they might be willing to part ways with it.
“Yeah… it’s in the office.”
“But I’m afraid there are already a few people battling it out over the right to take it home.”
I asked if she happened to know anything about the photographer as I had done several times over the years with a few of her co-workers. Much like them, she didn’t. I might mention here that several searches on the internet over the years hadn’t turned up any leads for me on the photographer either and thus my chances of finding my own copy of the photo were looking less than good at this point.
It was then that another Patagonian, having overheard my question, chimed in.
“It was taken by Steve Bissell and I think it’s called Classic Rincon. Google it and you should find something.”
Thanks, amigo! I did indeed find something… his email address! I fired off an email in hopes that he might be willing to sell me a print. Steve replied to me in less than 24 hours saying that he would be happy to sell me a print and at what I consider to be a very reasonable price. True to his word, a cardboard tube containing a beautiful color print of Classic Rincon arrived at my door last week a few days after I sent off the check. It’s awesome! I plan to hang it on my bedroom wall where I’ll have a good view of it each and every morning as that would seem to be a surefire way to ensure that I start the day with a smile.
It can be extremely difficult to explain why a particular photograph (or any work of art for that matter) is able to speak so strongly to certain people. But in his initial email to me, Steve shared why he believes this photo might have the effect it does on many people and I think it’s as good of an explanation as any. He said, “One of the reasons why so many people like that Rincon photo, is because they identify with the guy standing in the field, looking at that perfection. It looks like some guy traveled from afar and after climbing the last obstacle, he just stood there in that green field of dreams and knew that this is what he was looking for and finally found…perfection.”