San Clemente isn't known as a surfing mecca, unlike Malibu and Huntington Beach, but if you go to the beach you're almost sure to find surfers in the water. I'm not a strong swimmer and my sense of balance has never been particularly good, so I've never tried to surf, but I imagine it's an exhilarating experience. But I thought it might be interesting to learn a little about how surfing came to California.
Surfing appears to have originated in Hawaii, though it may have been brought to the islands with the first Polynesians. No one knows for certain. We do know that the first European observers were Captain Cook's crew. Captain King (presumable Captain Cook's successor since Cook was killed by the locals) kept a journal in which he wrote about surfing, known as he'e nalu (wave-sliding) to the Hawaiians. Ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs show surfers on their boards. The natives enjoyed the sport so much they made offerings at local temples and chanted prayers to raise the surf. One prayer can be found at http://surfart.com/surf_history/prayer.html.
The first people to surf in California were three Hawaiian princes who attended school in San Mateo in 1885. But the sport didn't catch on until George Freeth arrived from Hawaii and gave a demonstration at Redondo Beach. In 1916, Duke Kahanamoku, famous Hawaiian surfer and Olympic athlete, demonstrated his skill at locations all over California. Surf clubs arose in the 1930's, and after the war, lighterweight boards appeared, made from balsa wood and fiberglass.
But the pastime didn't really become big until the surfing craze of the late 1950's and early 1960's, fueled by movies like Gidget and songs like Surf City, Surfer Girl and Wipeout. Who can forget the old Woodie with the surfboard strapped to the roof?
In researching this blog, I found out that there are three surfing museums in the state:
* Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, 701 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz CA 95060 (831) 420-6289
* International Surfing Museum, 411 Olive Ave, Huntington Beach CA 92648 (714) 960 - 3483
* California Surf Museum, 223 N. Coast Highway, Oceanside CA 92054 (760) 721-6876
The glory days of the 1960's are long past, but surfing remains a popular sport on California beaches. One evening last week, my husband and I went down to the pier where I took this video. (Please excuse the wobbling. I did my best to hold the camera steady, but there was a stiff breeze blowing off the ocean.)
Added 6-18-08, direct link to video.
More links to articles on the history of surfing:
And to check on surfing conditions: http://www.surfing-waves.com/travel/california.htm
My Town Monday comes to us via Travis Erwin, http://traviserwin.blogspot.com/. Thanks, Travis! Click on his site to read his latest post and find links to the other participants.
Update June 24, 2008
Check out Barrie Summi's Surf Diva post for a related article.