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One can write a million words about surfing, about the ocean, about the myriad ways that waves break and the thousand and one ways that surfers wipe out, but in the end, what do you have? A bunch of words about a sport that transcends verbiage.
And yet . . . some of the greatest surfers of all time have occasionally put into words their own thoughts and feelings about the sport. Here, LIFE.com offers a series of surfing photos from back in the day, as well as some quotes from those intrepid, amphibious, lucky souls who spend more time in the ocean, half-naked and living life to the fullest, than on the hard, unyielding ground.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.