The Surfing Culture: From Malibu to Ohio

If you live near the beach – almost any beach, anywhere in the world – you’re probably no stranger to surf culture. Even if you’re not a surfer, it’s hard not to see where the culture has seeped into daily life near the sand and the waves.

If you make a simple stop into a convenience store in a surf town, you’ll find StickyBumps and Mr. Zogs near the checkout stands. You’ll probably also see board shorts hanging from the rafters. And there’s sunblock to be found everywhere. Out on the boardwalk, T-shirts are plastered with designs by Oakley, Hurley, Rip Curl, and Volcom. Listen close, and you’ll hear people speak in a vernacular steeped in surf terms. Honestly, where else are you likely to hear the term “broceanography” uttered by anyone? Surf culture is at its thickest around surf towns. But, even though this comes as no surprise to someone who lives near the water, there are many among us who might be astonished to know that the surfing culture is common to many other regions around the country where there’s almost zero access to water and waves. Surf culture is thriving and strong – especially here in the United States.

Surf culture began to permeate American culture right after WWII, when GIs came home from being stationed in Hawaii and brought with them a love of surfing. In the 40s, Marilyn Monroe was photographed learning to surf with British actor Peter Lawford. Given the immense status of the two film icons back in the day, you can bet that star-struck film fans across the country started thinking seriously about learning to surf.

In 1959, the movie Gidget, starring Sandra Dee, hit the silver screens. It was a wildly-popular film in its time and was shot on location at Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu. This was about the time that surfing culture exploded across America. Blue Hawaii, starring Elvis Presley came out in 1961, Beach Party hit the big screen in 1963, and Beach Blanket Bingo was released in 1965. It was also during this period when the Beach Boys released their songs Surfin’ Safari, Surfin’ USA, and Surfer Girl. Each was a massive hit on the airwaves and could be heard blaring on nearly every radio from Swami’s in Encinitas, California to Good Harbor in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Surfing culture had taken hold in America.

Surf culture owes a lot to the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Dick Dale, The Ventures, and The Surfaris – all of whom had huge success with surf rock and pop on the radio. Hollywood took surf culture from the beach to theaters across the globe with a string of box office hits like The Endless Summer (1966) to Blue Crush (2002). On the small screen, there was a number of TV shows that featured surf culture and locations. Baywatch is one of the more famous. Blue Water High, from Australia, is one of the lesser-known but good nonetheless. And, of course, Dylan McKay, played by actor Luke Perry, was often seen surfing on Beverly Hills, 90210.

Modern day surf culture is as varied as it is vast. People of all walks have embraced surf culture. You can find surf shops in states across the nation – even those that are far away from the nearest actual beach. But, strange as it may seem to bump into somebody wearing a Maui Rippers rashguard in Ohio, it’s still pretty cool to meet somebody who’s part of the culture we all share.

We’ll see you out on the water!

– WaveHuggers

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