Surfing is now the official sport in California

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on August 23, 2018.
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“Let’s go surfing now, everybody’s learning how,” the Beach Boys have been telling us in song since 1962. If you haven’t started listening by now — and you live in California — perhaps it is time you did. On Monday, surfing became the official sport of California. “I am stoked that surfing is now California’s official sport,” declared Al Muratsuchi, state assemblyman and a dedicated surfer himself, after governor Jerry Brown put his signature to the new law that Muratsuchi wrote and shepherded through the legislature.

“No other sport represents the California Dream better than surfing — riding the waves of opportunity and living in harmony with nature,” added Muratsuchi, a surfer since high school who represents the city of Torrance, not far from the heralded California surf break called Haggerty’s. (Yes, the one mentioned in the Beach Boys’ song Surfin’ USA.)

While the law acknowledges that surfing, like so much other California stuff, actually came from somewhere else — in this case Hawaii — it also makes the case that California revolutionised the art of shooting the curl and hanging 10. The Golden State is the heart of the surfboard building industry and where the wetsuit was invented, state officials said, and with 1,770km of coastline, it provides a surfer’s paradise that Muratsuchi estimates generates more than US$6 billion (RM24.6 billion) in annual retail sales.

Michael Scott Moore, author of the acclaimed 2010 surfing history Sweetness and Blood, agrees that although Hawaii is the cradle of surfing, California did play a key role in revolutionising the sport. “Modern surfing was born in Huntington Beach, Malibu, the South Bay, Manhattan, Redondo,” Moore said, referencing many of the beachfront cities that the Beach Boys call out in Surfin USA.

“That is where new technologies in surf design got developed,” continued Moore, an avid surfer himself. Basically, California builders began making boards safer, lighter, easier to stand on and manoeuvre through the waters than the ones the Hawaiians had used for centuries, Moore said. — Bloomberg