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Remembering the legendary Michael Tomson…

Front page image of a charger -in the water and on land. Jeff Divine.

I can share with you first hand what Michael Tomson created was almost larger than life.

My friend and former Hawaii Gotcha Rep, Jim Blewster gave me the opportunity to be his assistant Gotcha Rep around the mid to late 80’s.

We’d go to ASR (‘action sports retail’ shows) in California and I’d watch Jim work his magic with buyers and industry enthusiasts.

The vibe around the brand was electric.

Michael was a focused visionary that was able to put talented teams together (like Jim).

Tomson’s enterprise was huge by this period… worth tens -upon tens- of millions.

To do THIS and help ‘Bust Down the Door’ as a top touring Pro placed him in rarified atmosphere. No other Surfer has done it before or since.

It was an honor to share a short session.

Aloha and R.I.P. Michael Tomson. Gary Kewley/SNN.

Michael Tomson, a former pro surfer turned surf apparel maker who co-founded Gotcha, died on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020 after a bout with throat cancer. He was 66. (Photo: Goin’ Big: Gotcha and the Evolution of Modern Surf Style)


Michael Tomson, part of the Bustin’ Down the Door Crew /7 top 5 World  Tour surfer, Pipeline charger, co-founder of Gotcha…

He was a surf industry icon, who was just 66. He died Wednesday evening, Oct. 7, after his long battle with throat cancer.

Tomson was a South African native who moved to Laguna Beach when he brought Gotcha to the United States in the late ’70s.

It was among the first surf brands to bridge into the mainstream market. But Tomson was much more than a visionary in the garment business…he was part of the legendary group of surfers, including his cousin (’77 World Champ) Shaun Tomson, who pushed surfing toward a legitimate, competitive sport; the vision was to make a career out of surfing.

Peter “PT” Townend, was also among these surfers from Australia and South Africa who came to Hawaii to create what today is known as Pro surfing…

“Even though he never won the championship, he was part of that group that created what we know as pro surfing,” said Townend (Huntington Beach).

Though Tomson’s first love was surfing…it was his “design and marketing genius” that took Gotcha  to lucrative heights.

“Gotcha introduced a level of style that had never been seen before… “I think it pushed the envelope beyond what anyone in the industry thought it could be pushed.

“The industry as a whole still benefits from the sort of creative muse that Gotcha and Michael brought,” ….“I think it changed the industry forever, and I think the industry is still benefiting from that.”

“If the industry was zigging, Tomson was zagging” former Pres of Billabong Paul Naude said in the Surfing Mag book: “Goin’ Big: Gotcha and the Evolution of Modern Surf Style,”

“And nine times out of 10, the zagging was definitely more groundbreaking and exciting,” he added.

Michael Tomson, a former pro surfer turned surf apparel maker who co-founded Gotcha (Photo courtesy of Bob Mignogna)

Tomson’s influence went beyond surf apparel. He was one the founders and the second president of the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association, or SIMA, helping to unite surf brand leaders that were rivals in shops, but friends in the water (Bob Mignogna -former publisher of Surfing Mag- said who co-chair of the nominating committee at the time in 1987).

“His forward thinking was always ahead of the curve,” Pete Townend said. “He was never scared to risk everything to do it better. That was the way he lived his life. He did some incredible stuff that hopefully was not forgotten.”

Tomson had been battling throat cancer the past few years, but his health quickly declined in the past six months. Friends gathered on the lawn of his San Clemente home,  recently to say prayers.

“Michael passed away peacefully after fighting a long battle with cancer. Today I lost my friend and partner for over 50 years,” wrote Joel Cooper in an announcement about Tomson’s passing. “His memory will live on forever, he leave this world surrounded by those who loved him.”


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Michael Tomson 1954-2020 Michael Tomson was one of the most talented Creators & Innovators in the history of the surf industry. His surfing career blossomed in the 70s when not only was he one of the top competitors on the newly formed pro tour [IPS], but more importantly, was one of the small group of regular footers that redefined backside surfing at Pipeline. He founded the surf brand Gotcha in the late 70s, and during the 80s led the renaissance of surf style and culture with product and marketing campaigns that were pure genius and are still influential to this day. Among his peers, competitors, friends and employees, this man was a legend. Thank you Michael — RIP. ~~~ Photo: @danmerkelarchives

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