The irony was not lost on me. I was in a pizza place in Chicago staring at faux-aged pictures of the Beach Boys while struggling out of the Arctic explorer outfit my thin California blood required to prevent hypothermia. The decor, including plastic California license plates and mass-produced surfboards that never saw an ocean in their lives, was making me ridiculously homesick.
I am a surfer to the extent that I put on a wetsuit and swim in the open water. But at that moment, being a part of surf culture itself is what I missed.
Surfing did not originate in Orange County, but in ancient Hawaii, where it was used as a sort of boot camp for future Hawaiian chiefs as well as a method of resolving conflicts. “I challenge you to a surf duel” is not just a precept for a bad ’60s surf movie.
George Freeth, a surfer of Polynesian and Irish descent, brought the sport to California and was hired by the Pacific Electric Railway in the early 1900s to promote business relocation to Redondo Beach.
While lately mass media has landed some unfortunate trends (pole dancing as exercise – really?), we have 1960’s beach movies, music and television shows to thank for mainstream surf culture. Clothing, more hit tunes and mass-produced surfboards followed, and Southern California became the nation’s Cowabunga Epicenter.
The Surfing Museum in Huntington Beach has exhibits going throughout the year, as well as the Walk of Fame, which includes athletes and surfing pioneers such as “Father of Surfing” Duke Kahanamoku.
Nowadays, you don’t have to live in a VW Bus to use the word “dude.” So go celebrate our proud heritage, and be glad we can wear flip-flops and board shorts instead of a parka. surfingmuseum.org