In 1962, he became head photographer of Surfing Illustrated, and two years later co-founded International Surfing, now known as Surfing magazine.
Tired of increased competition for the perfect angle and annoyed by media coverage of surfing, Grannis walked away from professional surf photography in 1971.
"I didn't like the way the magazines were going. They were making heroes out of druggies and guys with big mouths, so I bailed out," Grannis told the London Daily Telegraph in 2003.
He also blamed the introduction of short boards around 1968 for contributing to the changing surf culture. Lighter, less-wieldy boards made it easier for young, sometimes smart-alecky kids to get involved, he said.
Grannis was born Aug. 12, 1917, at his parents' home less than a block from the Hermosa Beach surf. In second grade, he earned a nickname that stuck: "Granny."
Morning swims with his father at age 5 gave way to surfing by the time Grannis was 14. He carved his first surfboard out of a 6-foot slab of pine.
In 1931, he got on a board for the first time.
"There were probably only 200 or so surfers in California then, and everyone knew each other," Grannis told The Times in 2005. "There was none of this provincialism. There were more than enough waves for everyone."
In 1936, he became a member of the nascent Palos Verdes Surf Club, the first significant group of its type. Weekly meetings were held in a spare room in Ball's dental office.
A courtship with Grannis' future wife, Katie, began with a tandem surf ride in 1938, and they married a year later.
At 23, he was a day laborer for Standard Oil in El Segundo and worked his way up to boilermaker. By pulling night shifts, he found time to surf, and in the 1930s and '40s was one of the state's top wave riders, the surfing encyclopedia said.
World War II scattered his surfing crowd as almost everyone joined the service. He enlisted in the Army Air Forces, trained as a pilot and became a flight instructor.
Within weeks of the war's end in 1945, Grannis was walking along the beach in Malibu when he saw a dozen surfers and pronounced the place "ruined."
"Before the war, you'd call somebody because you didn't want to surf alone," Grannis told Surfer's Journal in 1999. "What we considered to be a crowd, back then, would be a beautiful day today."
He signed on to install switchboards for Pacific Bell Telephone before becoming a manager, staying with the company for three decades as he and his wife raised four children. After retiring from the phone company in the late 1970s, he moved to Carlsbad.
In his 50s, he took up hang-gliding and was briefly a photographer for Hang Gliding magazine. Several broken bones, including a badly fractured leg, caused him to turn to windsurfing in his 60s. He participated in and photographed the sport until the late 1980s.
In "Surfing for Life," a 1999 documentary about elderly surfers, Grannis reminisced about the strong bonds of that early 20th century dawn patrol.
"All the fellas that I surfed with back in the '30s that are still alive, we're still in contact with each other," Grannis said when he was about 82. "And whenever possible, we get together and surf together."
He caught his last wave in 2001.
Katie, his wife of 69 years, died in 2008.
Besides his son John of Hermosa Beach, Grannis is survived by three other children, Nancy of Sonora, Calif.; Kit of Carlsbad; and Frank of Burien, Wash.; six grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and one great-great-granddaughter.
A paddle-out memorial is being planned for Palos Verdes Cove in June.