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Surfing Named Official Sport of California

It was a hot summer day in Santa Cruz when David Kawananakoa, Edward Keliiahonui and Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana'ole paddled out at the San Lorenzo river mouth. The year was 1885 and the three Hawaiian princes would unwittingly alter the course of surfing and California forever.

Considered the first surfers to ride waves in California, 133 years later the State of California has named surfing as its official sport. On Aug. 20, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that honors the long, storied history of wave-riding in the Golden State.

"Nothing represents the California Dream better than surfing," said co-author of the bill Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) to the Associated Press. "I'm stoked that we're celebrating an iconic sport," added the lifelong surfer.

Greg Long at Mavericks Big Wave World Champ Greg Long, steep and deep at Maverick's, the defacto big-wave capital of California. WSL / Briano

Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-Whittier) co-authored the bill, "I'm proud to join Assembly member Muratsuchi in designating surfing as our state sport," said Calderon on his website when the bill was first introduced in January 2018. "Growing up surfing not only had a significant impact on who I am as a person, but also taught me at a young age to appreciate and cherish our beautiful coastline that we are so fortunate to have here in California."

From Maverick's to Malibu, Rincon to Redondo, Santa Cruz to San Diego, for well over a century now the state has served as an epicenter for the culture, lifestyle and sport of surfing. In 1912, the great Duke Kahanamoku made his first foray to California, spreading the spirit of aloha up and down the coast.

Fun conditions for competitors at the O'neill Coldwater Classic at Steamer Lane. p: Marc Prefontaine / O'neill Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, not far from the San Lorenzo river mouth, where a trio of Hawaiian princes first rode waves in California back in 1885. WSL

Early pioneers began paddling out at spots like Palos Verdes and San Onofre. The sport continued to pick up momentum throughout the β€˜30s and β€˜40s, and by the β€˜50s little surf crews had established themselves up and down the coast.

In 1957, Los Angeles beach girl named Kathy Kohner changed everything. With the publication of the now-famous novel, Gidget: The Little Girl with Big Ideas, all of a sudden mainstream American got a first-hand glimpse into the bohemian life of early Malibu surfers. The book, and subsequent Hollywood production, ushered in a new wave of popularity for the sport.

A few years later, in 1964, Dana Point-based filmmaker Bruce Brown released his magnum opus, The Endless Summer. Both Gidget and The Endless Summer would propel the sport of surfing to new heights and expand its reach and influence well beyond the shores of California and Hawaii.

3X World Champion Tom Curren (USA) surfing at the WSL Surf Ranch before the start of the final day of the 2018 Founders Cup of Surfing in Lemoore, CA, USA. California's last world champ, Tom Curren, in deep on the state's newest wave, the Surf Ranch in Lemoore. WSL / Kelly Cestari

Around the same time Brown was at work in the edit bay, a number of entrepreneurial California surfers launched what would come to affectionately be known as the surf industry.

Gordon "Grubby" Clark figured out the perfect formula for blowing polystyrene surfboard blanks. Dale Velzy, Hobie Alter and numerous others shaped and sold the new, lighter foam and fiberglass boards.

In Santa Cruz, Jack O'Neill developed the first wetsuits, allowing surfers to stay out in the biting cold California water for a longer period of time.

From big waves to big innovation, the last 133 years of California history has been richly intertwined with the evolution and growth surfing, and now, thanks to this new legislation, that relationship is officially more official.

For your chance to see California's newest wave, join us in Lemoore Sept. 6--9 at the Surf Ranch Pro presented by Hurley.

World Surf League
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