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Cruisin’ California’s Surf Culture


In California, we celebrate our surf culture year round — and especially this month with special events from San Diego to Santa Cruz. Chasing Dora, a documentary about three surfers who travel to South Africa to test a radical theory “thrown down” by surf rebel Miki Dora, will be shown at the Mingei Museum in Balboa Park on August 21. This event is in conjunction with the museum’s exhibition Surf Craft – Design and the Culture of Board Riding.

Also part of the Mingei’s Summer Surf Series: “The Green Wave,” a dialogue on August 7 with presenters from Sustainable Surf, the Surfrider Foundation, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “Surf and Skate,” a discussion of surf and skateboard design, will take place on August 14. (www.mingei.org/exhibition/surf-craft)

In Oceanside, the California Surf Museum will present surf films on August 6 and 20, as well as September 10, as part of the California Surf Festival. The museum has an excellent permanent exhibition on the history of surfboards. Current exhibits include San Onofre: Birthplace of California Beach Culture and Courageous Inspiration: Bethany Hamilton, about the young surfer who lost her left arm in a shark attack on the island of Kauai in 2003. The exhibit includes the shark-bitten board, swimsuit she was wearing on the fateful day, and the documentary Heart of a Soul Surfer, based on her life. (www.surfmuseum.org)

Further north on Highway 1, the International Surfing Museum in Huntington Beach is celebrating 100 years of HB surfing. Henry Huntington, the railroad magnate, invited Hawaiian George Freeth to the opening celebration of the municipal pier in 1914 and asked him to demonstrate his “surf riding” skills — on a wooden board, of course. The rest is history.

At one point, both Huntington Beach and Santa Cruz called themselves “Surf City USA,” but a careful listening to the Jan and Dean song of the same name finally bestowed that privilege on HB. Century of Stoke at the International Surfing Museum covers the milestones of Huntington Beach surf history and how they helped shape modern surf culture. Surfin’ Sunday concerts will take place in Pier Plaza on August 10; September 14, 28; and October 5. (www.surfingmuseum.org)

The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, located in Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse, includes photographs, surfboards, and videos tracing 100 years of local surfing history. However, the best insight into SC’s surf culture is provided by the 2012 movie Chasing Mavericks. The biographical drama provides an authentic view of the Santa Cruz surf scene and honors two the best-known heroes of the sport. (www.santacruzsurfingmuseum.org)

Honoring the heroes, singing the songs, and hitting the waves — it’s all part of celebrating California’s surf culture. “Let’s go surfing now, everybody’s learning how…”     ELIZABETH HANSEN




Galapagos Islands: Photo by Scott Sullivan     Richard Kenvin: Photo courtesy of Surf Craft     Santa Cruz and Huntington Beach: Photography by Adams /Hansen Stock Photos


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