Orange Coast Magazine - Surf


Water & Power

The people, events, and innovations that make Orange County the red-hot center of beach-culture cool, as well as the $6 billion surf industry

The Case for the Claim

A condensed history of the bold thinkers, innovations, and athletes that make Orange County the center of the surf universe 

George Freeth, a Hawaiian lifeguard, demonstrated the sport in Corona del Mar in 1908 while on a trip that also took him to L.A. and San Diego counties. O.C. latched on tighter than its neighbors, and soon the first wave of surf culture broke on the mainland. Hawaii’s Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern surfing, came to visit in the 1920s and ’30s, which helped build momentum for the sport and surfing lifestyle.

From the 1920s through the ’80s, Orange County established itself as the epicenter of surf with a number of firsts: American surfing contest, surfing club, national surfing organization, mass-manufactured foam-and-fiberglass surfboard, and large championship surfing event. By the 1950s, the Huntington Beach Pier had become an internationally famous surf break, and other local spots were becoming known as home surf for West Coast contests. 

“Velcro Valley” developed here in the 1980s. Quiksilver, Billabong, Rip Curl, Hurley, O’Neill, Volcom, Oakley, Hobie, and other local surf clothing and lifestyle brands formed the nucleus of an international industry that in 2010 generated $6.24 billion in the U.S. alone.

Today, nowhere else on Earth has such a critical mass of surf culture as Orange County. And while the waves may be bigger in Hawaii, the industry and the culture flourish here. Case closed.

A Surf-Culture Sampler

Here is a sampling of three surf-culture legends from our feature. You'll find 21 more local surf-culture legends in this issue, plus photos, other bright surf gear ideas, surfboard history and a map of surf spots in Orange County!

The Filmmakers
There would be no surf movie genre without Bud Browne of Costa Mesa, who was able to tread water in swim fins for hours—even in big surf—while holding a camera in a waterproof housing he created. Dana Point native Bruce Brown (no relation) elevated it to an art form with “The Endless Summer” (1966), conceived, partly shot, and edited here. Laguna Beach’s Greg MacGillivray took surf films to the next level with the poignant “Five Summer Stories” (1972) before graduating to his current status as master of the IMAX film. 

The Fabric King
After a stint with the U.S. Navy allowed him to be among the first to ride the big waves on Hawaii’s North Shore and Makaha, Walter Hoffman of Laguna Beach took over Hoffman California Fabrics from his father, Rube, in 1959. Within the next decade, Hoffman became the main supplier of textiles to the surfwear industry. Only in recent years, with the rise of Chinese suppliers, has Hoffman faced stiff competition.  

The Kick-Ass Lady Surfer
Lisa Andersen arrived in Orange County in 1985 as a 16-year-old runaway from Florida. It was here that she put her young life back together and took a quantum leap, partly under the tutelage of Cairns and National Scholastic Surfing Association contests. She won four world titles in the ’90s, and eventually settled in Huntington Beach a few years ago to become the global brand ambassador for Roxy. The Quiksilver women’s brand was built largely on her image. She remains an inspiration to female surfers—recreational and professional—around the world.


On the Cover
The Surfing Heritage Foundation wants to learn the story behind the cover photo from the Jim Gilloon collection.
Click here to view the August 2012 cover and let us know if you have any information.

To read the full story, or order a print or digital copy of the August 2012 issue, click here.

This article originally appeared in the August 2012 issue of Orange Coast magazine. 


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