Sunday, June 15, 2008

My Town Monday: Surf's Up

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

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:


My Town Monday comes to us via Travis Erwin, 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.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Three surfing museums. Wow. I'd never thought of it as a museum thing.

Travis Erwin said...

Good stuff Linda, as I didn't have a clue about surfing history.

Linda McLaughlin said...

The surfing museums were news to me, too, Patti.

Travis, I didn't know much either, so this was interesting. There's a lot more, but the post is longer than usual as is.


Beth said...

Hang ten, dude! I have never surfed but I did grow up in Huntington Beach and watched Gidget. Thanks for the great info and I loved the video. Cowabunga!

Barbara Martin said...

I would never surf since I can only dog paddle on quiet pool water; but I do like to watch the surfing competitions on TV when I can.

Loved the video of the ocean! The sound of the waves coming in is very soothing. Thanks, Linda.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Beth, growing up in Huntington Beach must have been awesome. A lot better than Azusa where I lived, though we used to head for HB on hot summer to cool off!

Barbara, glad you enjoyed the video. There is something about the sounds of the ocean. So soothing it's mesmerizing.


Anonymous said...

I love the video, Linda, but it looks like a very chilly day, was it? You really sparked my interest when you mentioned the surfers depicted on ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs. So cool. I'm going to do an internet search now to see if I can find examples of those. Thanks!

Rhonda said...

This is a neat post. Not much surfing here on the East Coast. Plus, I am truly the Chicken of the Sea. But I kinda saw the magic in, believe it or not, "John From Cincinnati." My husband and I mighta been two of the ten people who watched it.

debra said...

Hey Linda, I can't get the video to play (just a black screen). Here on the North Coast, folks do a wee bit of surfing, I'm told, but nothing like out there. Thanks for another interesting post!

Linda McLaughlin said...

>deboradale said... I love the video, Linda, but it looks like a very chilly day, was it? <

Yes, it was a big cool, probably in the 60's, but that never stops the surfers. They just put on their wet suits. (Water temp here is never very warm.) The DH and I were wearing jackets and it was very windy. It'll heat up soon though so I'm enjoying the June gloom while we have it.


Linda McLaughlin said...

Rhonda, you're not the only "Chicken of the Sea" lol. I didn't see John from Cincinnati, but maybe it'll be repeated one of these days.


Linda McLaughlin said...

Debra, sorry you couldn't watch the video. I checked and it worked for me just now, so maybe PhotoBucket's site was temporarily not working. I've added a direct link, so maybe that will work.


Barrie said...

Linda, thank you for the history of surfing. How interesting! I was planning to do a little post on surfing in San Diego for my June 22 My Home Town. I might still might. :) I'll let you know if I do.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Cool, Barrie. I' look forward to reading your blog.