California makes waves as it declares surfing its official sport

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California makes waves as it declares surfing its official sport

The US state formalised the status although it acknowledged the sport has its roots in Hawaii.


Travis Payne rides a giant wave during the finals of the Mavericks surfing contest in California’s Half Moon Bay (Ben Margot/AP)
Travis Payne rides a giant wave during the finals of the Mavericks surfing contest in California’s Half Moon Bay (Ben Margot/AP)

California, the home of the Beach Boys, has made surfing its official sport.

Many of the surf sound band’s early hits gave the sport a worldwide profile and Californians are now celebrating the sport’s coronation.

I am stoked that surfing is now California’s official sport
Al Muratsuchi, assemblyman and surfer dude

“I am stoked that surfing is now California’s official sport,” declared Al Muratsuchi, a state assemblyman and a dedicated surfer dude himself.

He was speaking after Governor Jerry Brown put his signature to the new law Mr Muratsuchi wrote and shepherded through the Legislature.

“No other sport represents the California Dream better than surfing, riding the waves of opportunity and living in harmony with nature,” added Mr Muratsuchi.

The assemblyman has been a surfer since high school who represents the city of Torrance, a place not far from the heralded California surf venue called Haggerty’s, which is mentioned in Beach Boys’ song Surfin’ USA.

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A surfer walks out of the surf as the sun sets behind Ocean Beach pier in San Diego (Gregory Bull/AP)

While the law acknowledges that surfing actually came from somewhere else, Hawaii, it also makes the case that California revolutionised the art.

California is the heart of the surfboard building industry and the place where the wetsuit was invented, state officials say, and with 1,100 miles of coastline, it provides a surfer’s paradise that Mr Muratsuchi estimates generates more than six billion US dollars in annual retail sales.

Michael Scott Moore, author of the acclaimed 2010 surfing history Sweetness And Blood, agrees that although Hawaii is the cradle of surfing, California did play a key role in revolutionising the sport.

“Modern surfing was born in Huntington Beach, Malibu, the South Bay, Manhattan, Redondo,” Mr Moore said, referencing many of the beachfront cities the Beach Boys call out in Surfin’ USA.

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Members of the North Bay surfing club in Malibu in 1961 (AP)

“That’s where new technologies in surf design got developed,” continued Mr Moore, an avid surfer himself.

“We had a lot of aerospace technicians who were into surfing, and they developed new shapes for surfboards that turned the sport into something of a pop cultural phenomenon.”

Popular Beach Party movies of the 1960s that starred teen heartthrobs Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon made it look like one big surf party was going on nonstop in California.

The Beach Boys, Dick Dale, Jan and Dean and other popular musicians of the time provided the soundtrack.

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The Beach Boys had many surfing-themed hits (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

“It’s part of the California mythology,” University of Southern California pop culture historian Leo Braudy said.

Huntington Beach now calls itself Surf City and is home to the Surfers’ Hall of Fame and the International Surfing Museum.

Oceanside has the California Surf Museum.

In Redondo Beach, there is a bust of George Freeth, hailed as California’s first surfer after he began dazzling local crowds with his wave-riding skills in 1907.

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