Surfing is Everyones new passion
by Corky Carroll
The first time I surfed was in 1955. During the period of time from then to now I have seen three big growth spurts in the amount of people surfing. The first one would have been the biggest. It came in 1959 with the release of the Hollywood hit movie “Gidget.” It seemed like almost overnight surfing just totally boomed.
This came about right at the time when surfboards were going from heavier balsawood cores to the lighter weight polyurethane foam. All of a sudden boards where light enough that just about anybody could carry one to and from the water. Kids, girls and your general weaklings could all surf now. Gidget was the match that lit the fire. In the few years following that movie hitting theaters all over the country the amount of people surfing exploded probably a hundred to one, or more. Before that surfing was a pretty bohemian kinda deal. People thought that it was only done by Hawaiians and a small clan of water beat-niks here in California. This was close to true.
In the early sixties we saw surfing become a national fad. There was now “surf music,” featuring bands such as the Ventures, Challengers, Chanteys and the legendary “King of the Surf Guitar,” Dick Dale. The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean followed with vocal surf songs. Hollywood flooded us with “Beach” movies, mostly featuring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Surfboard builders were flooded with orders and there was a huge run on “Woodys” and panel trucks for surf mobiles. Before long there was a full-on surf industry developing and a kid like me was actually able to turn riding waves into a decent living. By the mid-sixties “Pro” surfing was becoming a reality.
The next spike in the surf population came with girl surfers. Again, it was a movie that spawned the spurt. “Blue Crush” came out in 2002. It was almost a total copy of the previous “North Shore,” which came out in the eighties, except it featured girl surfers. This opened the eyes of all kinds of females who might not have really thought about surfing. All of a sudden the lineups were full of beginning girl surfers. Girl surfing companies, such as the hugely successful brand “Roxie,” came on the scene. As a direct result of this the talent level of female surfers made a huge increase over the time between then and now as the sheer numbers made for stiffer competition. Hence better talent. In short, girls got a lot better and there are not a lot more of them in the water.
And now, thanks to this whole Covid 19 thing, surfing is in the middle of another good-sized population growth. You wonder how this can be don’t ya? Simple, people can’t do many to the things they were used to doing for exercise and recreation. Gyms are closed or very limited and most other similar activities are the same. As a result, people have taken up surfing. Especially girls. We are seeing a very similar kind of increase in girls in the lineup as we did in the period after Blue Crush.
At the spot that I surf most of the time it is now very common for there to be more girls surfing that guys, in fact it is becoming the norm. Hey, if you are a mature gentleman who appreciates the symmetry of the female form, such as myself, it makes for a much sweeter view. But, that aside, the numbers of surfers in the water has increased substantially over this past year since the virus changed the world. It is not as dramatic as the big boom of the early 60’s, but bigger than the increase in the early 2000’s.
I can almost hear the Beach Boys doing, “Let’s go surfin’ now, everybodies learnin’ how, come on safari with meeeeeeee.”
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? That would be all in the perspective of how you see it. Yes, it’s getting even more crowded that it already was. And there are many who couldn’t take the packed lineups even before, to them any growth is a bad thing. If you are in the industry, such as a board builder or surf shop owner, any increase in business is a great thing because business was bad and getting worse when this thing hit last year. New surfers mean a more buyers of surf stuff, so this a very good thing for the surf business. I guess you can say it’s a two-sided coin.
I paddled out this morning and at first was kinda frowning at the number of surfers already out waiting for a wave. But then I started talking to a couple of people who I had never met before and was able to pick off some good waves without much trouble. When I came in, I was smiling and happy. I had some new friends and got a couple of good rides. Felt great and totally positive. So, as I said, this stuff is all in the eye of the beholder. If you are ready to have a great time you probably will. If not, well, best to not even bother.