With its origins in Hawaï, surfing developed in California nearly a century ago due to the efforts of a man named Duke. Ever since this sport has been an integral part of West Coast American culture associated with sun, girls in bikinis and nice cars. In 2011 this legendary beach culture is still truly alive and kicking.

From San Francisco to San Diego, every wave has its surfer! This sport hasn’t aged since it appeared on the California coast nearly a century ago. In 1912 Duke, whose real name was Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Hulikohola Kahinu Moko, performed a demonstration on the beach and a craze was immediately born. This sportsman helped to create a popularity for this activity, which until then had been practiced in the Pacific Islands of Hawaii since 15th century.

Duke spent his childhood riding on the waves of Waikiki Beach. This grandson of an important leader made his own surfboards out of wood which were always bigger than those of his friends! However it was due to his talents as a swimmer that his name was recorded in the annals in the 1912 Olympics when he won the gold medal for the 100 metre freestyle. Later during the Californian stage of his victory tour around the United States he finally became immortalised. After seeing him perform his feats in the rollers, the Hollywood stars couldn’t wait to get hold of him for a few surfing lessons. With only a few miles from the movie studios to the ocean a new craze was born. Legend has it that in July 1917, Duke, the Big Wave Rider rode along a ten-metre high breaking wave for a distance of a whole kilometre!

A Culture of Fun and Freedom

In the 1920s and 30s the advent of mass-produced cars allowed the sport to grow. Enthusiasts headed out on Surf Safaris, looking for new spots. Malibu became their favourite one.

Surf music hit the airwaves in the 1960s with sounds evocative of a board sliding on the waves. It acquired increasing popularity due to a Californian group known as the Beach Boys. Beach Culture, an ode to fun and freedom then moved on to take possession of the streets. Then, on a waveless day in 1958, two Malibu surfers decided to attach wheels beneath their boards. A hybrid craze was born. Enthusiasts glided up and down the sidewalks on this device that was originally called the roll'surf. The legendary skate and surf store, the Zephyr Shop, then opened in Venice, Los Angeles. Its employees, the Z-Boys went on to create what became the modern skateboard. During the drought of 1976, skateboarders practised in the empty swimming pools where they performed all kinds of new moves.

On Venice Beach…

Nowadays, Venice Beach, near Los Angeles, is a great place to find all the elements of Beach Culture. Surfers glide through the rollers in their black combination suits (the Pacific Ocean is relatively cold even in summer!). Grey lifeguard cabins on stilts line the beach. On the trails that run adjacent to the sea, cyclists pedal on bikes with amazing aerodynamic silhouettes between the skaters and skateboarders. On the sand, Californians with tanned skin and blonde sun-kissed hair practice their beach volleyball. They all look like they’ve been through Muscle Beach, the open-air gym created by "Schwarzy" the former "Governator" of the richest state in the States. All part of the American dream in the sun!

The tourist attractions mentioned

Waikiki Beach Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach
Los Angeles
Venice Venice