Endless Summer Page
West Country Home Surfing Page - Devon Cornwall UK
Bruce Brown Classic Surf FilmsSlippery When Wet. (1958/73 minutes/color) Five surfers on their dream trip to Hawaii, spending a winter living and surfing on the North Shoreof Oahu--on $100 month. Features an original musical score by jazz legend Bud Shank.
Barefoot Adventure. (1960/75 minutes/color) Explores the trials and tribulations of the barefoot adventurers from the Wedge to Waimea;Honolulu to Huntington; Santa Cruz to Kaui. Features some of the biggest surf ever ridden including legendary Point surf at Makaha.
Surf Crazy. (1959/71 minutes/color) Takes a group of surfers exploring deep into unsurfed Mexico, shows some vintage California surfing andthen goes on to the mammoth waves of Hawaii. Features one of the biggest waves ever ridden at Waimea Bay.
Surfing Hollow Days. (1961/84 minutes/color) Travels to Mexico, California and Florida along with a trip to Australia and Hawaii with PhilEdwards. Features a 15-foot shark checking the lineup at Rincon and the first wave ever ridden at Pipeline.
Waterlogged. (1962/83 minutes/color) Made of highlights from his previous films: "Slippery When Wet," "Surf Crazy," "Barefoot Adventure"and "Surfing Hollow Days." Features the best 90 minutes from four years of surf photography.
Surfin' Shorts. (Early 60s/57 minutes/color) Three of Brown's short films: "The Wet Set," featuring the Hobie-MacGregor Surf Team; "America'sNewest Sport," presenting the Hobie Super Surfer Skateboard Team; and an early television special which includes the first surfing trip toJapan with 12 year-old Peter Johnson and Del Cannon.
The Endless Summer. (1964/90 minutes/color) Robert August and Mike Hynson follow the summer season to Senegal, Ghana,Nigeria, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii and California in search of the perfect wave.
The Endless Summer II. (100 minutes/color) Pat O'Connell and Wingnut circle the globe in search of theperfect wave.
Innaccuracies in The Endless SummerIn Endless Summer, Bruce Brown says that surfing was first practised in West Africa by Robert August and Mike Kinson. This may not be the case:...
Extract from "Off the Coast of Africa & South America"
Various surf historians -- like early 1900s surf pioneer Tom Blake, scholar Ben Finney and James Houston, as well as Leonard Lueras -- have all noted that there were otherspots on the planet where forms of surfing were practiced. One was the mid-western coast of Africa and the other was Peru.
Off the coast of western Africa, "in areas of Senegal, the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Near Dakar, Senegal," wrote Finney and Houston, "... African youths and young fishermenregularly body-surf, ride body-boards and catch waves while standing erect on boards about six feet long. These Atlantic skills seem in no way connected with the Pacific,either historically or prehistorically. Evidently, it's an old pastime in west Africa; young Africans were seen riding waves while lying prone on light wooden planks as long agoas 1838, long before surfing began to spread from Hawaii."
This was a reference to the British explorer Sir James Edward Alexander observing surfing by natives in Equatorial West Africa in 1835. Volumes one and two of Alexander'sNarrative of a Voyage of Observation Among the Colonies of Western Africa, published in 1837, are remarkable in their scope and detail. The often poetic accounts of everydetail of West African life in the early 1800s -- sex, murder, slavery, war, passion, drunkenness, death, revolt and a note on surfing -- are impressive.
James Edward Alexander was anchored off the island of Accra, off the Cape Coast not too far from the "yellow sands" of what used to be called Guinea. On November 16,1835, while describing native island life, Alexander noted that, "from the beach, meanwhile, might be seen boys swimming into the sea, with light boards under theirstomachs. They waited for a surf; and then came rolling in like a cloud on the top of it. But I was told that sharks occasionally dart in behind the rocks, and 'yam' them."
Check WWW Page History of Surfing for more details. It makes an interesting read anyway.
Endless Summer, 1964This film by Bruce Brown shows the journey of two surfers travelling around the world seaching for perfect surfing conditions.
Below: Article nicked from http://www.eciti.com/~majr/californio.html
You can check out more on California Longboarding with La Jolla Shores Longboarding Association
Waves of Transformation
Written by Carin Crawford
The relationship between Southern California's geography and itspost-World War II development generated cultural expressions not found inthe rest of the country. Among the most interesting is the rise of auniquely Californian "surf culture." California's geographical situationfacing the Pacific--has given it an orientation that has made it, in manyways, uniquely responsive to the cultural impulses of the Pacific rim.During the post-World War II period, surfers carved out a new culturalterrain on the warm beaches of Southern California; influenced by nativeHawaiian culture, Southern California surfers developed a distinctly"Californian" language, etiquette, and music. The development ofCalifornia surf culture fostered a "spiritual community" linked to thepresence of the ocean as a system of signifiers that privileges anidentity based on surfing over an identity based on working. Put in theterms of bumper sticker vernacular: "Work is for people who don't know howto surf." This new cultural terrain was defined through a complex set ofnegotiations between mainstre native's love ofsurfing that when the surf was up "the thatch houses of a whole villagestood empty," and "daily tasks as farming, fishing and tapa-making wereleft undone while the entire community--men, women and children--enjoyedthemselves in the rising surf and rushing white water."
From the point of European contact, Hawaiian culture suffered rapiddecline. The people of Hawaii, long isolated in the islands, had virtuallyno immunity to the diseases carried by Euro peans. This period ofpopulation decline was also accompanied by social, economic, and politicalupheaval in the islands. Outside traders seeking sandalwood, whalersseeking supplies and women, and European plantation owners seekingfinancial gain came to dominate commerce in the is lands and disruptedancient Hawaiian land ownership patterns.
The arrival of Christian missionaries in 1820 marked the initiation of a"cultural revolu tion" in which surfing was denounced as an idle, carefreeactivity which stood at odds with Cal vinist notions of piety, industry,and modesty. The missionaries encouraged the native Hawaiians to give upsurfing and other recreations. Because of the social upheaval wrought bytraders and missionaries, the efforts to destroy surfing were successful.In 1826, for example, a missionary influenced the chiefs of Oahu to sendan edict through the streets of Honolulu exhorting the people to give uptheir games and turn to the Christian teaching.
Other, non-missionary Europeans were critical of these coercive measuresto strip the na tive's of their culture. In 1838 one non-missionaryvisitor commented upon the disappearance of surfing among the nativepeople. A "variety of athletic exercises such as swimming, with or without a surfboard. . .being in opposition to the strict tenets of Calvinism,have been suppressed. . . ." However, the charges of cultural suppressionwere sharply rebuffed in defense of the missionaries "successful" work.Hiram Bingham replied:
"The decline and discontinuance of the use of the surfboard, ascivilization advances, may be ac counted for by the increase in modesty,industry and religion, without supposing, as some have af fected tobelieve, that missionaries caused oppressive enactments against it."
This "advance" of civilization meant the decline of the spiritualdimensions of the sport of surfing, as well as an almost completedisappearance of the material culture and generational passing down ofsurfboard making techniques. In Kauai, surfboards were turned into desksand chairs for new Christian schools. By 1892 Nathaniel Emerson, an experton Hawaiian lore, reported that it was difficult to find a surfboardoutside of museums and private collections. What the missionariesconsidered the "advance" of civilization was the almost completedestruction of the indigenous Ha waiian culture. Between Cook's visit in1778, and 1900 the native population dropped from an estimated 300,000 toless than 40,000. Surf culture retrogressed and the few practitioners whoremained engaged in the sport for quiet recreation.
United States annexation of Hawaii by 1898 brought a new type of "haole,"or white person to the islands. These new visitors were tourists and partof an emerging cultural ethos that cele brated nature, health, physicalactivity, and outdoor adventure. According to John Higham, the newAmerican spirit of masculine, rugged adventure was an antidote to theperceived effeteness of late nineteenth century culture. Two prominentAmerican writers of this period, Mark Twain and Jack London, visitedWaikiki beach and were captivated by the sport of surfing which embodiedthe new masculine exuberance and fascination with nature. London, whopublished an article in an American magazine about surfing titled "A RoyalSport" is credited with leading a movement to revive the sport of surfingin the islands. In what Higham describes as the masculine oriented,increasingly secularized cultural context of the 1890s, surfingundoubtedly possessed all the ingre dients to remedy the stiff,claustrophobic boredom of bourgeois society.
Duke Kahanomoku, a native Hawaiian born in 1890, was a teenager duringthis early re vival of the sport of surfing. Duke and a group of friendswho gathered to discuss technique, board designs, and wave dynamicsprofited from haole interest in surfing. Known as the "beach boys," Dukeand his gang found a new source of income teaching mainland tourists andmembers of the Outrigger Canoe Club how to surf. With Jack London's help,haole enthusiasts founded the Out rigger Canoe Club in 1908. Its expresspurpose was "preserving surfing on boards and outrigger canoes."
The California Context
It was an Irish-Hawaiian named George Freeth who brought surfing to theSouthern Cali fornia coast in 1907. Freeth was hired by Henry Huntington'sPacific Electric Railroad to promote the opening of the Redondo-LosAngeles line by performing surfing exhibitions as a promotional stunt toencourage Angelenos to ride the new line and visit the coast. While GeorgeFreeth was introducing surfing on the West Coast, Duke Kahanomoku wascarrying on a similar enterprise on the Atlantic seaboard. Kahanomoku, whohad won a gold medal in swimming and set a world record in the 1912Olympic Games, was known as the "father of modern surfing." Surfing gradually continued to develop in its popularity. By the late twenties therewere approximately thirty surfers who traveled between Hermosa Beach andManhattan beach on a regular basis. During the 1930s, a surfer andinnovator named Tom Blake developed the hollow paddle board which weighedin at a light sixty pounds. Blake's new design was patented in 1932 as the"Hawaiian Hollow Surfboard" and became standard rescue equipment inCalifornia's early lifeguard corp. By 1934, the number of regular surfersalong the California coast increased to approximately 80. Because thenumber of surfers was still relatively small in the 1930s and early 1940s,the arrival of each new participant was duly noted--it was a period inwhich surfers would stop to greet each other when passing on the road.
In 1968, the year of his death, Kahanomoku published Duke Kahanomoku'sWorld of Surfing, a book that helps capture the spirit of these earlyyears of surfing in California. Over the years, he himself came torepresent the link between Hawaiian surfing traditions and the more modernsurf culture that existed in the pre-war period--his status as a folk heroamong surfers embodied a nostalgia for this earlier, less complicated eraof surfing. The massive explosion of surfing activity that was to arrivein the 1950s was still waiting in the wings for the development of newmaterials and better designs.
Surf Culture: Revolutionary Material
During the 1950s American culture was characterized by the culmination ofthe forces gen erated by war related industrialism, technology, and thefear of nuclear annihilation. In the eco nomic boom of post-World War IIsociety, California's gains were especially significant. Between 1940 and1944 more than $800,000,000 was invested in new industrial plants. Thesledge hammer effect on the economy led to new levels of domesticconsumption and expectation. The development of suburbia, the building offreeways, the purchase of new cars, appliances, and large houses all ledto an ethos of consumption. The television set transmitted a steady streamof images designed to immobilize the viewer in a domestic space ofconsumer contentment. The universe of the G.E. Gold Medallion Home wasemerging.
The massive expansion of the military-industrial complex during the ColdWar era also encompassed American universities. In Californiaparticularly, institutions such as the University of California and theCalifornia Institute of Technology trained engineers, physicists, chemistsand nuclear scientists to insure America's technological supremacy.California universities, in part re sponsible for creating the H-bomb,were deeply involved in the Cold War. As institutions, they tacitlypromoted the interests and ideals of the established powers in society.
The rapid rise of surf culture in post-World War II California was broughtabout by the introduction of materials developed during the war. Althoughwar time conscription actually de layed the growth of surfing, due to thefact that military service requirements drastically thinned the malesurfing population, and reduced the availability of some of the materialsused to make surfboards, surf culture permeated American society throughmusic and film. In the post-World War II period, Styrofoam, resin, andfiberglass, produced during the war were utilized to make lighter,cheaper, and faster surfboards. The man responsible for experimenting withthese new ma terials was Bob Simmons, an aerospace engineer who workedintermittently for Douglass Aircraft, a man who, in some ways, embodiedthe tensions between the Cold War world of technocrats, experts andscientists and the world of the "laid-back" surfer who rejected the whitecollar world.
Simmons was ineligible for military service because of a motorcycleaccident in 1935 that nearly severed his right arm. A fellow hospitalpatient recommended that he take up surfing as rehabilitation exercise.Because his withered arm made it difficult for him to carry the heavy redwood boards, then in use, he was particularly interested in developing alighter design. (In fact, the old redwood boards were so heavy thatsurfers generally did not bother to carry them home; it was commonpractice to leave the 150 pound boards on the beach!) Simmons was one ofthe few active surfers during the war, and he applied his engineering andphysics training to build a better, lighter surfboard. In 1949 Simmonsbecame the first person to make a light surfboard using fiber glass and aStyrofoam core.
Utilizing Navy technology, Simmons applied the principles of hydrofoilphysics to devel op better riding surfboards. Simmons understood that asurfboard would function more efficiently if it were designed to travel onthe surface of the water. He also used an electric stress gauge re centlydeveloped to test bridges and earthquake proof structures to test thestructural integrity of his surfboards.
Simmons was considered one of the most influential surfboard makers duringthe early 1950s, and with the help of war-related materials did much toadvance the technological innova tions in surfboard design. A recentinterview with Simmons' friend and fellow surfer, Peter Cole, reveals howinstrumental Simmons was in developing significant material improvementsin the craft of surfboard construction. Regarding the impact of Simmons'new board designs, Cole states that they "revolutionized surfing.""Simmons was way ahead of his time on thinking about things like droppingrails, elliptical rails, putting the widest part of the board up to thenose, scooping the board, kicking the nose and using concave bottoms."Simmons' new, light innovative surf boards were in high demand. At first,he made a few boards in his garage for friends. When the requestsoverwhelmed him he got help from friends and opened a shop in SantaMonica. Never theless, as Peter Cole remembered, "when the surf was up allwork would stop." "[A]fter you or dered the board you had to go over thereand pester him every week or nothing got done on it. Sometimes it took ayear to get a board."
Simmons was an anomaly in a society generally characterized by"organization men" who were motivated by the promises of affluence andprofessional advancement. Simmon's love for surfing always made him anunreliable participant in the cold war's notion of responsibility toprofessionalism and domestic security. Simmons would quit work when thesurf came up and live in his car, travelling to various breaks betweenMalibu and Baja California. Bob Simmons' passion can be seen as an avenueof escape from the stifling "conformity" of the 1950s.
On September 24, 1954 Simmons met his death surfing the waves at LaJolla's Windansea beach; because of his refusal to live the conventionallife-style of the 1950s, and because of his love of surfing, Simmon's ownlife has become part of the folk history of surfers in Southern California.
The Culture of the 1950s: Affluence, Anxiety, and Conformity.
During the 1950s the economic forces unleashed by post-World War IIdevelopment pro duced an affluent, disenchanted youth population whichincluded beatniks, surfers, and rebels without a cause. This matrix ofsocial and economic forces is described in works such as Elaine TylerMay's Homeward Bound , Barbara Ehrenreich's The Hearts of Men, and ToddGitlin's The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, and James Gilbert's ACycle of Outrage: America's Reac tion to the Juvenile Delinquent in the1950s.
In The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage Todd Gitlin notes thatnational cultural ex pressions of the 1950s hinted that discontent bubbledbeneath a facade of affluence and content ment. This facade wasaccompanied by subtle apparitions of paranoia and insecurity: The specterof communism was everywhere. The red scare of the McCarthy era, and thefact that the bomb had "entered our lives" created an environment of fearand existential confusion. Prescription pills and alcohol were theanaesthetic of choice to numb the mind from this fearsome undercurrent ofparanoia and insecurity. The frequent occurrence of air raid drills, thepreoccupation with bomb shelters, and a proliferation of sales of lifeinsurance premiums were indicators of the angst expe rienced by theaffluent generation of the post-war baby boom.
Historian James Gilbert discusses the motif of the "existential outlaw"that emerged in the 1950s. Gilbert's A Cycle of Outrage: America'sReaction to the Juvenile Delinquent in the 1950s examines mass mediatedimages of outlaws in film and television, in addition to the various waysin which intellectuals, film censors, and sociologists interpreted thisubiquitous social problem. The best example of this new type of Americanoutlaw was James Dean who personified this image in "Rebel Without ACause" (1955). Another film which presented this popular motif, and wasnominated for an Academy Award, was "Blackboard Jungle," (1955)."Blackboard Jungle" was the first popular film to feature a Rock n' Rollsoundtrack, and presented successfully defiant stu dents who rejectedauthority and terrorized their high school. "The Wild One" (1953),starring Marlon Brando depicted youthful rebellion in the image of outlawpacks of motorcycle hoods, modeled after the Hell's Angels. All of thesefilms present evidence of the emerging divisions of American society intoconflicting cultures of youth and adulthood. All these films presentedambiguous positions on the pervasive problem of juvenile delinquency inthe 1950s.
The emergence of the figure of the "existential outlaw" in Hollywood filmstakes place against a background of popular writing and argument about thenature and degree of "conformity" within the dominant social structure ofthat period. Barbara Ehrenreich's The Hearts of Men de scribes theAmerican male's obsession with the problem of "conformity" in the 1950s.According to Ehrenreich, this "code word" which articulated malediscontent, unfortunately "described ev erything and explained nothing."Ehrenreich suggests that the critique of the conformity in the 1950squickly became a national concern: Best selling books such as C. WrightMills' The Power Elite (1956) and Robert Lindner's Must You Conform?(1956) were indications that there were some readers who were criticallyuncomfortable with the grey flannel, middle-class character of the 1950s.Lindner's Must You Conform? articulated the anxieties about conformity andconsen sus, while others, like David Reisman's The Lonely Crowd (1950)lamented about the pervasive ness of the "other-directed" character ofAmerican society: centralized, bureaucratized, materially abundant, andthoroughly conformist. Reisman hinted that resentment or rebellion couldensue from "inner-directed" types who did not share the conformist valuesof mainstream society.
"Rebels Without Causes"
1950s Surf Culture
Two of the most best known surfing places in the Cold War era were thebeaches at Malibu and San Onofre. Interviews with representative membersof these surfing enclaves provide a pic ture of how Southern California'ssurf culture came to be located within the discourse about con formity,work and leisure that was taking place during the 1950s. Tom Wert andTerry Tracey, better known locally by their nomes de surf, "Opai" and"Tubesteak," describe themselves as a type of outlaw, or "rebels without acause" who built shacks on the beach, avoided military con scription, andspent more time surfing than pursuing career goals. In society's view theywere "surf bums."
Opai, born in 1924, became a founding member of the San Onofre Surf Club,the oldest existing surfing club in the continental U.S. Theexperimentation with new materials and technol ogy during World War IIyielded an innovative product: the swim fin. With the aid of this newinnovation, Opai started body surfing at San Onofre, once a quiet railroadstop on the route from Del Mar to Los Angeles. There he saw "older" guysriding surf boards. He borrowed a board and was soon hooked on surfing.Opai's surfing pursuits were temporarily interrupted when he was called upfor military service in World War II. During his service years (between`42 and `45), he recalls that all he could think about was surfing. Uponhis return from military service, Opai moved to San Clemente and tookadvantage of the GI bill by enrolling in Orange Coast College in 1948.Opai chose the profession of a school teacher so that he would be assuredenough time to surf. (Today, Opai is an instructor of American Governmentcourses at Orange Coast College.)
Opai recalled that in the 1930s, before the Cold War, surfers were notconsidered counter cultural icons. Early surfers were known as "watermen,"or people who had a multi-dimensional relationship with the ocean:swimming, diving, fishing, boating, and beachcombing. "Watermen" lived bythe ocean and had an intimate knowledge of tides, currents, and weatherpatterns because their livelihoods usually depended upon it. Before theera of wetsuits and the surfboard industry, Opai's generation surfed incutoff Levi's and handcrafted their own surfboards. It was during the postWorld War II period that surfers came to symbolize a "laid-back" style oflife that contrasted with the affluence, anxiety, and consumer contentmentof the early Cold War era. Opai states: "Surfers evolved into acountercultural, James Dean sort of thing, a sign that you weredifferent." According to Opai, this identity lasted till the late 1950s,when, he felt, commercialization started to obscure surfing's subversivemeaning.
For many people, San Onofre is symbolized by the twin domes of the SanOnofre Nuclear Generating Station, a product of the "promise" of thenuclear age. Opai remembered his concern about the plans for the nuclearpower plant, not for the dangers of radiation, but for what would happento the San Onofre Surf Club. During 1963 Opai attended Atomic EnergyCommission hearings and tried to get other members of the club toparticipate in political activism in protest of the plant. He said thatgenerally surf club members already felt they were under siege because oftheir ongoing skirmishes with Camp Pendleton Marines over beach access,and were concerned that their limited beach access privileges would becompletely revoked if they spoke out against the plant. In Opai's words,surf club members felt it was "dumb to try to do anything, you can't beatthose damn politicians anyway." The plant was built by 1965, and Opairecalled that when the knowledge of the danger of radiation became morewidespread, many surfer's were alarmed that they faced real disaster. Opairecalled that surf club members were horrified that the radiation dangerwas so close to their "hangout."
Tubesteak, whose hero and mentor Opai represented the "older" generationof surfers at San Onofre, rode his first waves there in 1950 when he was15 years old. Tubesteak recalled "seeing these old Sourdoughs out of thearmy on the beach surfing and playing ukulele." The romance of SanOnofre's scene captured Tubesteak's imagination. Later, he went to Malibu,along with surfing partners Mickey "Da Cat" Dora, Mickey Munoz, and KempAaberg and attempted to recreate at Malibu the atmosphere they admired onthe beach at San Onofre.
Malibu was--and remains--perhaps the most glamorous of California'ssurfing enclaves (possibly because of its proximity to Hollywood). Infact, it was the Malibu scene which captured the imagination ofscreenwriters who were employed to bring surf culture to a national movieau dience. During Malibu's heyday in the 1950s, Tubesteak and Mickey "DaCat" Dora were its most famous surfers.
Before Tubesteak became dedicated to a surfing life-style on the beach atMalibu, he attempted to follow the more conventional path of working as anunderwriter for Home Insurance Co. Tubesteak (19 at the time), describedhow he and Mickey Dora clashed with "all these Spring Street executives,the Wilshire Blvd., Pacific Stock Exchange types." After a couple ofmiserable days on the job, both young men were fired from Home InsuranceCo. It was after this adventure in social conformity that Tubesteak becamea full time surfer. Broke and unemployed, the night after he was firedfrom his job, Tubesteak decided to sleep on the beach at Malibu. The nextday he hiked up Malibu creek with his surfboard, collected palm fronds,and floated them down stream using the surfboard as a barge. With helpfrom friends, he built a beach shack, and fashioned a way of life atMalibu that was radically different from the image of life centered in theGold Medallion home. Tubesteak, commenting generally about surfers'attempts at social confor- mity, suggests that "surfers tried to do whatpeople wanted them to do, but they didn't fit in." "We didn't care aboutmoney; it didn't cost money to live on beach." Tubesteak and others spentsum mers living on the beach, but during the winter months when theweather was too cold, they got jobs like the "jerks with expensive suits."
Tubesteak recalled that during the 1940s and 1950s, surfers did everythingpossible to stay out of the draft. However, their resistance was not forideological reasons, "they just wanted to go surfing." In the summer of1956, Tubesteak recalled "the Feds were after me," so he had to fly toArizona for a military physical exam. Because of the calcium depositswhich formed on his feet and kneecaps from prolonged kneeling on asurfboard, Tubesteak was unable to wear shoes. He was declared ineligiblefor the draft, and went back to the beach in Malibu. Tubesteak's storysparked Opai's recollection that "a lot of surfers actively cultivatedsurf bumps" and many success fully evaded the draft "with all kinds ofsubterfuges." However, Opai remembers there was no political coherence totheir resistance to the draft, the surfers just wanted to stay on thebeach.
During the summer of 1956, Tubesteak met a young girl on the beach namedKathy Kohner, who said she wanted to learn how to surf. Tubesteak traded aride on his surfboard for the sack lunch Kathy was carrying with her. Heand his friends chided the small teenager, and called her a "gidget," ahybrid word that combined "girl" and "midget." The nickname stuck. Thesurf ers were impressed with Gidget's tenacity in learning how to surf,and they incorporated her into their social clique at Malibu beach. Gidgetrelayed her surfing adventures to her father, who wrote a book titled"Gidget" which became an instant best seller. Frederick Kohner sold thefilm rights to Columbia Pictures for $50,000.
The movie "Gidget" dramatically changed surfing's image, as screenwritersfashioned a highly romanticized beach atmosphere replete with tribalovertones: bonfires, ukulele sounds, flames from tiki lamps danced on thebeach, all backed by the rolling beat of bongo drums. Theserepresentations all helped to create sensual images of the surfinglife-style that stood at odds with the prevailing Cold War culture ofsexual "containment" and social conformity. Kahuna, the "surf bum"character who lived in a beach shack in the movie "Gidget" was a compositecharacter based on the real Tubesteak. During the summer of 1958, acasting call from Columbia Studios gave Tubesteak the opportunity to workas a technical consultant and perform stunt work as a surf "dou ble." Healso had a minor role in the film, which was released in 1959.
Shaping Domestic Tranquility in the Cold War Era
Surfing is also located in the cultural matrix of the cold war's reshapingof domestic tran quility. In the work of historians such as Elaine TylerMay, there is a discussion of the ideological connections between Cold Warculture and the American family. May's book Homeward Bound suggests thatthe presence of "the bomb" prompted a reconstituting of older notions offamily life and domesticity. Her study suggests that during the 1950s"experts" warned that the bomb and its awesome destructive capabilitycould unleash dangerous sexual energy. Cultural images suggested thatwomen were particularly vulnerable to the socially disruptive forces ofthe unleashed power of the atom. Yet, at the same time, women's fashioninfused popular culture with "explosive" images of female sexuality thatseemed to undermine the tame, demure, idealization of wom en necessary fordomestic "containment."
The "revealing" two-piece bathing suit--the bikini--named after thelocation where the hy drogen bomb was tested, in May's words, "suggeststhe swim wear's explosive potential." The bikini presented women insexually enticing beach or pool side attire. May emphasizes the ways inwhich bikinis, "bombshells," and other provocative images, styles, andcharacterizations of fe male sexuality had to be tamed, or "harnessed forpeace" for the domestic version of the Cold War diplomatic strategy ofSoviet "containment."
The Cold War and the new realities of the atomic era demanded that womenfulfill a mod ern version of the early19th century ideal of "RepublicanMotherhood." Successful "nuclear" fam ilies were necessary to rear thenext generation of cold warriors, who would garner university training andbecome future scientists, engineers and pundits. May suggests that muchpopular and social science literature connected with the function of thefamily suggested that if women fulfilled their domestic roles they wouldraise children who would avoid juvenile delinquency, truancy, and otherrebellious behavior. Curiously enough, the movie "Gidget" presents itsfemale protagonist in the role of a "domesticator" who tames the restlessenergies of the great Kahuna and steers Moondoggie back on the path ofconformity.
May's study is relevant to a discussion of surf culture in California. Bysuggesting links between dangerous feminine sexuality and new, revealingswim wear fashions, May presumes that the threatening female sexuality,symbolized by the emergence of the bikini, was expressed in pub lic socialspaces: domestic containment was the antidote to such licentious,suggestive, public be havior. In California, "the beach" represents thepublic space in which the bikini is appropriate attire. For these reasons,the symbolic associations May draws between women's domestic role, thedangers of unleashed sexuality, "explosive" swim wear fashions, andwomen's responsibility for stemming the rise of juvenile delinquencysuggest implications for the ways in which "the beach" became a site ofcontested cultural terrain in the Cold War period.
Celluloid Beaches: "Gidget" (1959)
When Hollywood began scouring Southern California's subcultural enclavesfor new mov ie ideas, the world that surfers inhabited was attractive tomovie producers for several reasons. Many film makers who were reelingfrom the shock of HUAC investigations, were looking for a safe topic."Beach party" movies were considered a "safe" topic, with no possibilityof a politically subversive interpretation. The "beach party" filmsattempt to present surfers as juvenile delin quents making the transitionto the world of adult responsibility and conformity.
In Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary HollywoodFilm Michael Ryan and Douglass Kellner argue that film is an importantarena of cultural representation for car rying out political struggles.The control over the production of cultural representations is crucial tomaintaining power. Not only can films give shape to psychologicaldispositions, but they also play an important role in determining the wayin which social reality is constructed. For example, they can "determinewether capitalism will be conceived (felt, experienced, lived) as apredatory jungle or as a utopia of freedom." With respect to surf culture,Hollywood films such as "Gidget" served to suggest that the surfer'srenunciation of middle class conformity was just a youthful sum merexcursion.
In "Gidget" a film the New York Times called "a surf portrait ofadolescent America," Kahuna, the self proclaimed surf bum lives a life ofirresponsible hedonistic indulgence. Admired by all the college men whoare on the beach for summer vacation, Kahuna proclaims that surfing is hispassion, "not a summer romance." When Gidget realizes Kahuna does not havea goal in life, she confronts him with the question: "doesn't everyoneneed a goal?" Kahuna answers Gidget's question with a question: . . . whosaid . . . ?" Nevertheless, Kahuna appears disturbed by Gidget's question.He retreats to his shack and starts drinking.
The other major surf character in the film, Moondoggie, has a "bombshell"girlfriend, Joanne who embodies the type of feminine ideal described byElaine Tyler May. When Moon doggie introduces Joanne to Gidget, he remarksto Joanne that Gidget is "the girl who surfs." Joanne (defensive becauseshe herself does not surf) retorts: "That's great if you're into that sortof thing. Moondoggie can tell you I'm not the outdoor type." Gidget'sinitial strategy of making herself more attractive to Moondoggie bylearning to surf has failed--Moondoggie is clearly not interested intomboyish surfer girls. In the next scene Gidget is shown doing breastenhancement exercises.
Within the loving confines of her nuclear home, Gidget is handed a bit ofadvice from her mother. Mrs. Lawrence points to a tapestry crafted byGidget's grandmother, which says: "To be a real woman is to bring out thebest in a man." Upon discovering that the Kahuna has taken a job and thatMoondoggie wants to go steady, Gidget subtly acknowledges her grandmothersad vice, triumphant that she was the silent force behind encouraging themen to make the "right" choices. Kahuna renounces his life as a surf bumand gets a job utilizing his training as an Air Force pilot. In deferenceto his parents authority, Moondoggie goes back to Law school after givingGidget his promise pin. Gidget triumphantly wears Moondoggie's pin whilesilently acknowledg ing to herself that her grandmother's motto turned outto be right.
This presentation of surfers as juvenile delinquents who "come around" isproblematic; in the "Gidget" version of surf culture, surfers are troubledadolescents who need to grow up and come to their senses, i.e. they needto grow up and accept adult responsibility. In "Gidget" ques tions aboutsexuality, careers and leisure are raised and answered so as to infuse thesymbolic world of surf culture in post-World War II California with animportant moral lesson: Surfing may be good clean fun, but the life of a"surf bum" is shallow and empty; that is to say, an adult must have goalsand responsibilities that point to a career. Ironically, the attempt totransform surfing into a profession would result in the first signs ofdissent within the surf community itself.
The Backlash against Professionalism
"Professionalism will be completely destructive of any control anindividual has over the sport at present. These few Wall Street fleshmerchants desire to unify surfing only to extract the wealth. Under this`professional' regime, the wave rider will be forced into being totallysubservient to the few in control in order to survive. The organizers willcall the shots, collect the profits while the wave rider does all thelabor and receives little. . . .A surfer should think carefully beforeselling his being to these "people" since he's signing his own deathwarrant as a personal entity.
After "Gidget" in 1959, hordes of new enthusiasts were attracted tosurfing and the "beach scene" that surrounded it. In addition to thepopularization of surf culture through Hollywood films and musicalrecordings, surfing competitions began to evolve into commercialopportunities. In 1966 CBS sponsored the "Duke Kahanamoku Surf Classic" byproviding a $1,000 cash prize for the winner. CBS broadcast this contestas a "CBS Sports Spectacular," a television event that was viewed by 40 to50 million people. The success of this event generated interest from othernet works and businesses who sought to act as corporate sponsors forsurfing contests. These devel opments offered new opportunities forsurfers to earn money and win valuable prizes. With the advent ofcorporate sponsorship and a television audience, surf "heroes" werecreated, and surfing was transformed into something that could be marketedand consumed. Market driven forces were attempting to relocate the meaningof surfing within the notion of careers and professions.
The commercialization of surfing, and the implications of the marketpotential of this sub culture generated much discussion and debate withinthe surfing community. Was surfing suitable for the world of competition?Were "outsiders" financially exploiting the soul of surfing? Shouldsurfers seize the opportunity to cash in on these new opportunities orreject the crass commodifi cation of their sport? While many surfers weretaking advantage of the opportunity for financial gain, there was asignificant backlash within the surfing community during this time. Manytop surfers dropped out of the professional ranks in favor of what becameknown as "soul-surfing," or surfing that celebrated the pure,non-competitive, aspect of the sport: the simple joy of riding oceanwaves.
Another concern of "soul" surfer faction was the fact that mediaspectacles surrounding surf contests generated mediocre performances. Inan article titled "Bad Karma at Huntington Beach" Drew Kampion reportedthat the United States Surfing Championships indicated that thecommercialization of surfing was making it impossible for the surfer's toperform to the best of their ability:
"As the finalists waited for the waves, a T.V. helicopter swooped low,flattening the water around Corky Carroll and David Nuuhiwa. . . . Thehelicopter swooped low for the best angle: a prime shot for prime time.Corky was blown off the wave, protesting silently beneath the chopper'sswarming droning blades."
"ABC had to hire a herd of bikini beach beauties at a dollar a head so thenationwide TV audience could revel in its plastic ideal of what surfingwas."
Many soul surfer's believed that the system of judging encouragedconformity and restrict ed a surfer's creativity on the wave. Indeed, anarticle in Surfing by Duke Boyd posed questions intended to address theseproblems: "Why should surfing share its mood with whistles, rules andumpires?"
The Endless Summer (1964)
"The Endless Summer," which appeared in 1964 was the first film to elevatesurfing into the search for "the perfect wave." In this film, whichpurports to be a documentary, surfing takes on transcendental meaningsthat work against the notion of surfing as a professional career or asummer lark. As the title implies, surfing is more than summer fun formisguided adolescents-- it is a spiritual pilgrimage to find the ultimate"experience." "The Endless Summer" was also the first film produced by asurfer to reach a national audience. It chronicles the 35,000 mile aroundthe-world travels of two surfers, Mike Hynson and Robert August. Thesesurfers, on a quest for the perfect wave become the first modern daypeople to surf such locations as Ghana, Senegal, and South Africa. MikeHynson and Robert August become international surfing apostles moving fromcountry to country, beach to beach, using surfing as a language to teach anew awareness of how the ocean connects people throughout the world to acommon experience.
Operating on a shoestring budget, Brown who was 28 years old at the time,spent more on producing "The Endless Summer" than all of his first fivefilms together had grossed. In the sum mer of 1964 the film debuted at the2,000 seat Santa Monica Civic and the film sold out 7 nights in a row. By1966, Brown sought to distribute the film in regular movie theaters acrossthe county; however, according to Brown, the film distributors hecontacted replied, "Look, there's no Frankie, no bikinis, no bongos on thebeach. Let's face it, it's a documentary." After this rejection Brown gota friend to take "The Endless Summer" to Wichita Kansas because, accordingto Brown, "it was as far inland as you could get." The film showed for twoweeks and broke the theater's at tendance record, making more money thanthe two other premiere films, "The Great Race" and "My Fair Lady."
Brown, working independently, spent all the money he had made so farblowing up the film to 35 mm and renting Kip's Bay Theater in Manhattan."The Endless Summer" ran at Kips for a year and generated significantattention from movie critics who published favorable reviews. Thesereviews indicate the ways in which non-surfing audiences perceivedsurfing, and also show how "The Endless Summer" served to help redefinesurfing outside the cultural constraints of Hol lywood. Vincent Canbywrote: "`surfing' is a sport which in California has become a way of life,if not actually a religion." In addition Time pointed out "Brown . . .demonstrates quite spiritedly that some of the brave souls mistaken forBeachniks are, in fact converts to a difficult, dangerous and dazzlingsport." "The Endless Summer" was the surfing community's first filmicattempt to represent itself during negotiations over the cultural meaningof surfing. The film also proved to be a big financial success.
Mickey "Da Cat" Dora
During the course of the 1960s, Mickey Dora emerged as one of the moststylish, "hotdog" surfers of the period; he also became the most outspokencritic of organized competition and cor porate sponsorship in surfing.When Surfer Magazine asked Dora to comment on his surfing ca reer, Dorareplied: "What Career? My personal involvement died in the late fiftieswhen the introverts were pushed out and the phony organized masses tookover. . . . " Before he initiated a ritual destruction of his collectionof surfing trophies, Dora commented on the implications of corporateintervention in a sport that, to him, was a private, personal experience.
"Getting ready to bury this junk with the rest of the trashy rot thatkeeps bugging me! Scrap metal tokenism as a grubby little payoff to keepme in line and my mouth shut. Such outside pressures will never succeed inmaking me a lap dog for the entrenched controlling interests who haveturned our once great individualistic sport into a mushy, soggy cartoon."
Keenly aware of the implications of surfing's co-optation by mainstreamforces, Dora spoke out against what he perceived to be exploitativemanipulation of surfing. To Mickey Dora, the rise of professionalism insurfing was equated with selling one's soul to the corporate Moloch.
In a report on the 1968 Malibu contest in Surfer Dora suggested thatsurfing is about the search for the perfect wave. The tides, winddirection, and swell conditions, which can change within minutes, must allbe just right for an optimum performance. A surfer watches and waits forthese conditions to coalesce. The ocean doesn't honor broadcastingschedules.
For Dora, the problems associated with professional surfing competitionswere not limited to the small world that surfer's inhabited on the beachesof Southern California. Dora linked the issue of the corporateexploitation in surfing to the larger and more radical critiques ofAmerican society articulated by the counter-culture during the 1960s. Dorasaw the degradation of surfing in terms of apocalyptic calamities thatappeared across the entire political/social environment. For Dora, thedeath of the president and the death of surfing were one and the samething.
Since November 22, 1963, a curse has fallen upon this country. . . . Sincethis tragic date, the mainland breaks have gradually worsened, and theground swell has been relegated to the ranks of the unlikely. Cities burn,schools are sieged and overseas commitments increase. It's only a matterof time before this upheaval shall reach endeavors such as surfing.
. . . I hope you want the same thing I want, freedom to live and ridenature's waves, without the op pressive hang-up of the mad insane complexthat runs the world and this sick, sick war. These are incredible times.Thank God for a few free waves.
When Mickey Dora was interviewed by Surfer in September of 1969, his tonewas apoc alyptic and tinged with paranoia, like much of the rhetoric ofthe 1960s. While Bruce Brown and Mickey Dora had joined the debate overwhat constituted an "authentic" experience of surfing, surfers near CampPendleton were drifting closer and closer to actual armed conflict withthe se curity forces of the United States: the battle for "Trestles" wasescalating.
The Battle for "Trestles"
"Persons surfing in the "Trestles" area do so in violation of the lawfulregulations of the Commanding General, Marine Crops Base, Camp Pendleton.As such, they are guilty of committing an offense under Section 1382 ofthe United States Code and they may be apprehended by Military Police."
J. J. Kelly Colonel, U. S. Marine Corps Base Provost Marshal CampPendleton, California November, 1968 ()
The battle for "Trestles" in the 1960s was part of a protracted warbetween surfers and the military over access to restricted coastal areas.In 1951, when Marine commanders at Camp Pendleton insisted upon erecting agate to ensure controlled access to the beach, members of the San OnofreSurf Club rebelled. They tore down parking and other regulatory signs andused them for firewood, threw burning wood at commuter trains, and nearlyburned down the railroad trestle which gave "Trestles" its name. BarryBerg recalled surfer's confrontations with Marines in a recent interview:"Its like we lived our life during wartime. It got pretty intense. Just tosurf at Trestles, we had to come down a river on our boards and go throughthis jungle where the Marines would be hiding in ambush." In 1969, anarticle in Surfer magazine by Drew Kampion suggest ed that the battlerepresented "a hassle that goes deeper than merely the surfer versus thejarhead. . . ." The problem was rooted in profound differences in surfingphilosophy and military philos ophy.
The self-proclaimed philosophy of surfing, if there is such a thing, isfreedom for all people in an en vironment of peace and brotherhood. Thephilosophy apparent of the Marine Corps. . . is restriction for all peoplein an environment of conflict and self-assertion. No matter how adamantlya military force might attempt to shroud its reality, its existence is toa sole end: killing."
Kampion's articulation of the philosophical differences between surfersand Marines suggests the ways in which surfing had become enmeshed in awidespread critique of society that took shape during the 1960s. AlthoughKampion did not clearly endorse an anti-war stance, the ideas of what itmeant to be a surfer and the struggle to gain access to the waves atTrestles, clearly pointed surf ers toward an oppositional position inprotest of Military activity. Kampion called upon surfers to "get behindthis Trestles thing and make [your] voice heard to someone. Someonebesides a fellow surfer."
In 1969, there appeared to be a solution to the ongoing confrontationsbetween surfers and the military at Trestles. Trestles was designated tobecome a new California state park; however, surfers soon discovered thatbecause Richard Nixon was elected president of the United States, forsecurity reasons, the creation of the park and access to the waves hadbeen delayed indefinitely. The location of the "Western White House" atCotton's point was just above the main break at Trestles. The mother of asurfer, Mrs. George Lindsey, wrote a letter to Nixon in January of 1969and asked the president to open the park. Her plea included an explanationof surfer's peculiar philosophical dispositions, and the importance ofhaving public access to the beach.
"Let me assure you, my son is a surfer, and I believe I know at least someof their feelings." ". . . They have a very deep philosophical attitudetoward life which comes from experiencing the exhilaration of surfing inpowers they cannot control, but they bend and work with those powers toaccomplish a feat no one else can do for them.
" . . . You need never be concerned about your safety from these people.Since your daughter gave you a surfboard it would surely be a wonderfulthing if you could find the time to try it. It would be an ex perience foryou that I am sure you would not forget."
Lindsey expressed concern that the delay of the Trestles State Park couldextend through the dura tion of Nixon's current term, and another if hewere re-elected. She reminded Nixon that surfers were, or would soon be,of voting age, and they might prove to be important allies in the future.Moreover, Lindsey suggested Nixon "get to know the surfing society" andshe encouraged the President to have a conference with the Trestlessurfers to discuss the park.
Nixon was unmoved. Trestles remained gated and guarded during his tenurein the White House. John Severson, editor of Surfer during this period,lived next door to Nixon at Cotton's point. According to a recent article,Severson was under constant surveillance by secret service agents whenNixon was in town. His phones were tapped, the house was bugged, andaccording to Kampion, "the projected vibe level was enough to cause severeinterference on the Severson's television."
Through the circumstance of historical accident, the "political" values ofRichard Nixon, surfers, and the United States Marine Corp, were throwninto symbolic juxtaposition. The conflict was eventually resolved in 1973by the establishment of the State park which guaranteed access to thegeneral public. In 1972, the question of coastal access would become thedominant issue of concern for both surfers and non-surfers who lived nearthe ocean.
Surfing and the Environment
The Campaign For Proposition 20.
During the late 1960s, when the attempt was being made to transformsurfing into a com petition-driven media spectacle sport, the uncontrolledpace of urban development along the coast was destroying surf breaks asfast as the waves could reach the beach. Upset by the rapid pace ofcoastal development, surfers began to express an interest in issues suchas access to the beach, ocean pollution, and the destruction of popularsurf breaks.
Urbanization was controlled more by each coastal area's real estate marketand corporate interests than by state or local governments. Coastal citiesand counties, interested in increasing their tax base more than preservingsurf breaks, or maintaining public access to the beach, gener allywelcomed land, harbor, and port developments. These developments, in manyinstances, dis rupted the natural contours of the ocean floor, anddestroyed the natural formation of ocean waves. These assaults on thenatural shoreline environment fostered the first stirrings of anenvironmental consciousness among surfers.
In 1970, Steve Pezman wrote a letter to Surfer touching on this fact:surfers were romantic individualists by nature, but the preservation oftheir sport demanded a more conventional form of political organization.
"Doheney State Park meant many things to many people. The surf fisherman,the camper, the skin diver, and the weekend wanderers all shared thispicturesque cove with the surfers. Its gone now. Suddenly and withoutwarning, the bulldozers came and in one short forty-eight hour periodstripped the earth of all those lovely trees, carved away the greenmeadows through which the winding foot paths led to the beach, andrendered this oasis of breeze-rustled trees and natural sound andbeautiful little curls. . . sterile! The wondrous wind-carved bluffs thatsurrounded the park are now terraced and molded to be used. By whom? Isour fate cast? Will everything be taken from us while we sit deaf andmute, unable to organize? By the very character of our sport, we areindividuals."
The war for coastal access on a large political scale eventually revolvedaround the fight for Prop osition 20. As Steve Pezman points out, surferswere not the only citizens in California concerned with the environmentalissues surrounding the beach. By 1972, the alarming rate of urban development combined with a 40 year history of legislative inactionregarding the enactment of a coastal development policy led the citizensof California to take the issue of coastal conservation directly to thepeople. The successful campaign for Proposition 20 hinged onrepresentation of "the coast" as a sacred region whose "value" could notbe assessed by real estate developers. By presenting the campaign in thisway, California's citizens combined inventiveness and effective politicalstrategy to implement one of the most stringent systems of coastaldevelopment control and land use regulation in the United States.
Our Coast has been plundered by haphazard development and land speculators[who] bank their profits, post their "no trespassing" signs and leave. . .. The public has been denied access to hundreds of miles of beaches andpublicly owned tidelands. . . . Ocean vistas are walled off behindunsightly high-rise apartments and billboards. Increase pub lic access tothe coast. . . VOTE YES.
The campaign for Proposition 20 was a grassroots movement that argued itscase in terms of a spiritual rhetoric, with those who appreciated thebeauty and magnificence of the coast pitted against the powerful eliteswho had mismanaged the public trust. Indeed, this characterization was notaltogether untrue: The "Yes on 20" campaign was made up of more than 700organizations who represented an uncommon union of diverse interests: "TheCoastal Alliance," as the coalition was called during the campaign,included "lifeguards and airline pilots, sportsmen and auto work ers,surfers and university women, the Associated Students of the University ofCalifornia and the National Council of Senior Citizens."
Groups opposed to Proposition 20 included the oil, utility, andland-development compa nies, all of which had important political andbusiness ties with both local and state governments. These companies hadprofited through the unregulated use of coastal areas. Not surprisingly,these companies also invested heavily in the "No on 20" campaign. Theopposition outspent "Yes on 20" by more than 4 to 1 ($1,169,691 to$269,453), and some of the more notable contributors included: SouthernCalifornia Edison, (who interests include the San Onofre nuclear power station), General Electric Company, Irvine Company, Standard Oil, BechtelCorporation, Gulf Oil, Southern Pacific Land Company, Mobile Oil, TexacoInc., Occidental Petroleum Company, La Costa Land Company, and theCalifornia Real Estate Association, to name just a few.
The strategy by which the "Yes on 20" campaign defeated these powerfulcorporate inter ests was based on presentation of "The Coast" as an entitytrying to survive relentless "plunder" at the hands of big moniedinterests. This strategy emphasized the cultural and social importance ofthe beach to represent "Yes on 20" as a populist cause.
The "Yes" campaign was able to communicate its message through popularculture. Hank Ketcham, producer of the comic strip "Dennis the Menace,"created strips addressing Proposition 20 issues, without actuallymentioning the campaign. One of these featured Dennis' mother ex claimingto her neighbor, "We went to the beach . . . but it was gone!"
A television advertisement for the "Yes on 20" campaign which wasconsidered particularly effec tive, reinforced the idea of the beach as asacred realm. The spot was donated by actor Charlton Heston, who appealedto voters to "Save the Coast." As one campaign worker remembered, "it waslike Moses handing down the word." Heston, (whose movie credits included"The Ten Com mandments"), called upon the people of California to considera higher authority regarding the question of coastal development. Suchstrategies seemed to permeate voter's consciousness in ways that "serious"politics may not have been able to.
Such populist tactics proved successful. When 55 percent of Californianscasting ballots voted "Yes on 20," their votes constituted a majorcampaign victory by ordinary citizens of the state against a powerful andinfluential opposition.
Since the 1972 campaign for Proposition 20, surfers have been activeorganizing them selves politically. The Surfrider Foundation, which wasfounded in 1984, is an environmental group which seeks to protect andenhance the world's waves and beaches through conservation, education andlocal activism. Surfrider Foundation publishes a quarterly magazine,"Making Waves," that has an active subscription of about 15,000 members.The Surfrider Foundation has experienced a number of successes in theirlegal battles to date. Most notable was a case in Humboldt County in 1991in which the Surfrider Foundation participated in a lawsuit broughtagainst two ocean polluting paper mills that were dumping toxiccontaminants into the ocean. The lawsuit yielded a 5.6 million dollarjudgement in favor of Surfrider Foundation.
"Most American political attitudes are not neatly laid out on a simpleleft-right continuum; they are hybrid varieties, self-contradictory attheir core. The have not yet found their language. The most prevalent useof `radical' meanwhile, is as a Southern California surfer's term for aparticularly good wave." Todd Gitlin
It is a sad commentary on the state of recent cultural history that anauthor as prominent as Todd Gitlin can write an entire book on the historyof the 1960s, making the only mention of surfing a derogatory one. ToddGitlin implies that surf culture constitutes itself, (which may be anunwitting concession on his part), as a type of semiotic black hole thatswallows up the signs of the "real" culture that he writes about for 438pages.
This paper has attempted to show that surfing has a cultural history. Inparticular, during the post-World War II period in Southern California,the surfing subculture has transformed what was once a Polynesian/Hawaiiancultural practice into an "American" cultural practice. This transformation has revolved largely around the definitions of work and leisure.California surfers have adopted a way of life that has its own language,etiquette, films and music all of which point toward a symbolic identitybased on the pacific ocean as a source of personal freedom.
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