Little John “LJ” Richards
Little John (L.J.) Richards is as much of a California mainstay as Santa Ana winds or summertime fog. Oceanside has been his home since his birth in 1939, and today Richards remains a staple in the town’s deep surfing heritage. He was born and raised a couple blocks from the beach. It was a natural thing for him to have a close relationship with the ocean. Richards got his first surfboard from his mother and began surfing at the ripe age of 13. The board was purchased for 45 dollars from LJ’s schoolmate Phil Edwards.
A nice day at Cardiff photo: Tom Keck
1959 Wiamea Bay Second year Wiamea was surfed. photo: John Elwell
Surfing consumed his younger years. He considered it a soulful thing, almost religious, he livid and breathed it. LJ still has that feeling today when making a good turn or riding the nose. At the age of 18 he became a lifeguard for the State of California, that job lasted for 27 years. LJ also worked for the Encinitas Fire Department for over 35 years. By the 1960’s he was already a considered a surf legend. LJ was a premier member of La Jolla’s famous WindanSea Surf Club, his contest results had earned him international acclaim. In 1963, Richards catapulted to stardom after winning the West Coast Surfing Championship, then backing that up by finishing second in the United States Invitational a year later. In 1964 he was invited to the inaugural World Championships in Sydney, Australia and finished fourth despite a minor injury in the semi-finals.
1964 Surfing World Championships Final Joey Cabell, LJ, Mick Dooley, Midget Farrelly, Mike Doyle, and Bobby Brown Fresh out of the emergency room with stitches in my lip from getting hit by my board in the semi-finals.
1963 Malibu First Annual Malibu Invitational Club Contest
1st: Joey Cabell, 2nd John Peck, 3rd: LJ 4th: Skip Frye, 5th: Mike Hynson, 6th: Bobby Patterson
After appearing in a series of Bruce Brown’s vintage surf movies in the 1950’s and 1960’s, LJ was the first recipient of the Leroy Grannis Waterman’s award followed by induction into the International Surfing Hall of Fame in 1991. Present day LJ is happily retired and traveling the globe with his wife Kim. They have three daughters; Kathy, Patty, and Becca as well as nine grand kids.