The Evolution of Surf Culture
American society is a society based on laws and high expectations. Americans are expected to obey the law laid down by the government and follow the same basic path, which is to go to school and then get a job in order to achieve success. For years Americans have strived to relieve themselves from the pressures of society by partaking in various hobbies and recreational activities. During the 1960's, the sport of surfing became widely popular for those living along the West Coast. Families would flock to the beaches and countless surfers could be seen littering the coast in hopes of catching that "perfect" wave. However, the surf culture of the 60's has since disappeared. The ten foot wooden boards have been replaced by six foot epoxy boards and just riding the wave is not enough with aerial maneuvers being the new standard. The extreme sports generation is now upon us. The popularity of other sports such as skateboarding and snowboarding has soared in the past decade. Huge half pipes and ramps are built to launch athletes high into the air, and it is no longer the Beach Boys, but heavy metal that can be heard through the speakers. But while today's extreme sports culture that feeds off of adrenaline and defies gravity itself may not appear similar at all to the popular surf culture of the 1960's, a closer look will show that both strive to escape the boundaries of modern society. The surfers in the 60's used the vastness and freedom of the ocean to obtain the social liberation that they craved. The feeling that comes with paddling out away from the mainland and then sitting on your board staring into the endless sea while you wait for a wave makes it easy to forget about all life's complications and problems, and then the rush of adrenaline that flows through the body as you glide down the crest of a wave is one of the most liberating feelings on earth. Bruce Brown's 1963 surf documentary Endless Summer played a large role in allowing Americans to feel this sensation. The film stars the two young American surfers Robert August and Mike Hynson, who travel around the world searching for beaches with warm waters and perfect waves. The two good looking, short-haired young men represent the typical Americans of the time and had a mass appeal to viewers. More importantly than the portrayal of the surfers, was the portrayal of the surfing environment, especially as seen in the footage of in Africa. The primitive native tribes, strange animals, and miles of uninhabited land connected the sport of surfing with a new "frontier" that had long disappeared within the United States.(Endless, 1963) This connection allowed Americans to experience a similar freedom while still remaining close to home, especially if they lived near the coast. As a result of the film, Americans began heading to the beach with surfboards strapped on the roof of their cars. Bands such as the Beach Boys, the Surfaris, and Dick Dale began making the charts with surfing songs. The Beach Boys song "Surfin' Safari" associates the sport with the adventure of a safari. This very "American" period of surfing would later lead to the rebellious extreme sports culture we see today.
The popularity of surfing in the 60's was short-lived. The division among Americans that took place due to the Vietnam War caused a division within surfing as well. Surfing was no longer an American pastime and was for the most part abandoned by all but only the most dedicated. The rise of recreational drug use and long hair for men which was practiced by many surfers gave surfing a rebel image. (Popular, 1999) Surfing was no longer for anyone to do, and a "locals only" mentality was adopted on many beaches. Many of the beaches in southern California were practically unsurfable during the summer for most of the day due to small waves and coastal winds. Thus, surfers in the late 60's and early 70's began looking for ways to bring the...
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Popular Culture-Surfing. Ed. John Flint. 26 October 1999. Studies of Asian Society &
Culture in the Secondary School, Macquari University. 2 May 2007
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