California Surfing Day is about more than riding a few waves, it’s a day to celebrate the state’s surfing lifestyle – its rich history, culture, the surf shops and board makers – and to show appreciation for all facets of this ocean-loving community.
The quasi-holiday on Sept. 20 became official when five years ago a group of local dignitaries and surfers went up to Sacramento to talk lawmakers into proclaiming day, with the official resolution passed in 2018.
Want to celebrate? Here’s a few ideas of how to embrace the region’s rich surf culture:
1. Go surf
This is your first task for the day – paddle out and get wet. There’s not much swell expected, just fun 2- to 3-footers lingering, and be warned, water temps dipped so bring a wetsuit. Instead of getting edgy at crowds, hoot someone into a wave or compliment another surfer on a nice ride. Perhaps take a little surf staycation and get out of your local surf break routine and explore a new spot to ride waves. Whatever you do, stay stoked.
2. Visit a surf museum
Orange County is home to two world-class surf museums definitely worth a visit.
You can’t miss the International Huntington Beach Surf Museum, just look for the world’s largest surfboard propped up in the lot.
The board has a fun history: Back in 2015, a record-breaking 66 surfers rode that 1,300-pound, 42-foot beast to shore, a moment that earned Surf City a nod in the Guinness World Records. It’s also a great selfie spot.
While the museum is closed Wednesday, you can plan a trip for any day Thursday through Sunday. Inside, you’ll find tons of surf history, including the current exhibit on the 40th anniversary of the OP Pro, which paved the way for the modern US Open of Surfing.
The Surfing Heritage and Culture Center is a bit harder to find, but worth the trek inland in San Clemente.
The museum has the largest collection of historic surfboards as part of its permanent “Timeline of Surfing” display. Boards lining the wall span from Duke Kahanamoku’s relics to high-performance modern boards ridden by today’s world champions, with every major era and advancement in surfing represented in between.
The current rotating exhibit is “Rick Griffin: Aquatic Ascendance” and showcases the psychedelic creations of the famed surf artist. Hours are 11 to 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays.
3. Check out surfing greats
At the corner of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach you’ll find the Surfers’ Hall of Fame, featuring innovators, athletes and barrier breakers who have contributed to the sport and culture. More than 90 surfers have put their mark in cement for the Hall of Fame, which last year celebrated its 25th anniversary in front of Huntington Surf and Sport.
Across the street, you’ll find granite markers on the sidewalk outside of Jack’s Surfboards making up the Surfing Walk of Fame. Each year, more names are added in honors that include: Surf Pioneer, Surf Champion, Woman of the Year, Surfing Culture, Local Hero and Honor Roll. In the past three decades, 174 surfers have been added to the sidewalk.
New in San Clemente is the Boardbuilders Hall of Fame honoring surfboard makers from south Orange County who helped shape the surf town. The first crop were inducted just a few weeks ago, with stones with surfboard fins set outside of Los Molinos Brewery on the north end of the coastal city.
4. Visit all the surf statues
There’s of course the infamous Kahanamoku bronze statue on the corner of Main and Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach, which since the ’90s has greeted passersby headed to the busy beach.
And along Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point, the Waterman’s Plaza is a must-visit site to pay homage to the area’s early era surf influencers.
The collection of life-size bronze statues there gives a nod to the city’s surf innovators, champions, artists and industry leaders who had an impact not just locally, but globally.
The first statue to go up was in 2018 of surfboard shaper and inventor Hobie Alter, who revolutionized both surfing and sailing with his designs. He was followed by surf champion Phil Edwards, Surfer Magazine founder John Severson, filmmaker Bruce Brown, and Joyce Hoffman, a women’s surf champion in the ’60s and ’70s.
The plaza is growing, with plans to add Walter and Flippy Hoffman, as well as Infinity Surfboards founders and tandem champions Steve and Barrie Boehne.
5. Support your local surf shop, shaper
Buy some surf wax or a new wetsuit from an up-and-coming surf brand. Purchase a surf book or a piece of art by a local painter. New to surfing and riding a soft top? Go talk to a local surfboard shaper to get yourself a legit hardboard. Pop by a small shop such as Rockin’ Fig’s Surf Headquarters in Huntington Beach or Harbour Surfboards in Seal Beach, both started by local icons who passed in recent years, but whose legacies live on.
However you decide to support, help fuel the surf economy, which contributes to many jobs and lifestyles for fellow surfers.
6. Recycle your old wetsuit
Rip Curl recently launched a great way to recycle old wetsuits so they don’t end up in landfills. The brand partnered with TerraCycle and so far has recycled 20,000 wetsuits across the globe, with 5,000 in the United States, since 2020.
The old wetsuits are being turned into raw material for uses such as soft fall matting or swing sets at playgrounds. The wetsuits can be any brand, just pop by a participating Rip Curl store and drop your’s off in the recycle box.
7. Tour surf murals
Surf art has made its mark along the coast, and it would make a fun afternoon touring some of the inspired works of art. A series of surf murals went up in downtown San Clemente as Team USA was gearing up for its Olympic debut in 2020, and there’s also a surf-themed mural in North Beach on the restroom building. Huntington Beach has a few notables, including the Jack’s Surfboards mural series by artist Jason Maloney that has a playful style, or the more traditional surf mural on Surf City Liquor by Melissa Murphy in 2021.
8. Share the stoke
One of the biggest gifts you can give is the stoke of surfing. Take a curious friend or family member to feel the thrill of the ride. Some easy spots for learning are north of the Newport Pier, Bolsa Chica State Beach and Doheny State Beach.