The History of Surfing in Long Beach, California
The First National Surfing Championship
It is November 13, 1938. A mass of surfers and onlookers are hit by a cool breeze as they take to the coast. Excitement is in the air and the stage is set for the first National Surfing Championship. Where are we? Are we in Hawaii? Almost. We are in what was referred to as the “Waikiki of Southern California.” It was stated in 1910 that, “the surf rolls here exactly as it does at that beach.” With waves like this, Long Beach played host to the First National Surfing and Paddleboard Championship from November to December of 1938.
We know what you’re thinking. Long Beach, California? Are you sure? It is said the pioneers of Long Beach surfers returned from Hawaii in 1911. However, the popularity peak of surfing and the previously mentioned surfing contest wouldn’t emerge until over two decades later. The rising momentum of Long Beach surfing wouldn’t last, unfortunately. It took a major hit in 1941 and would not see the opportunity for revival for another 50 years.
What Happened To The Waves?
In 1940, the U.S. Navy moved into the port of Long Beach. 1941 saw the beginning of the 2.2-mile long construction that would become the Long Beach Breakwater. The breakwater was used by the U.S. Navy as protection for the U.S. Pacific Fleet during World War II. In 1997, the Navy base was closed, but the breakwater still remains to this day.
Sink The Breakwater!
Surf advocates, students of Cal State Long Beach and residents of Long Beach agree that the breakwater no longer serves its original purpose and should be removed. Reconfiguration or deconstruction projects are currently being considered by the Long Beach Breakwater Reconnaissance study and the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
What Does This Mean For The Future Of Long Beach?
Proponents for tearing down or reconfiguring the breakwater believe the return of the waves will spark a social and economic revitalization of Long Beach. Removal or changes to the Long Beach breakwater would help revitalize the Long Beach surf culture, make Long Beach waters cleaner and boost the local economy.
The people of Long Beach have spoken and are ready to welcome the waves of the Pacific back to the Long Beach shore. The Long Beach Chapter of Surfrider Foundation is one of many determined organizations on the forefront of this battle. The “Sink the Breakwater” campaign is the main focus of their 1,000 plus members. Long Beach residents and beachgoers have expressed support with their signing of the Breakwater Petition.
Long Beach Legends Of Surf:
Bruce Brown was born in San Francisco in 1939 and moved to Long Beach with his family at the age of 9. Here, he began surfing and could be found watching surf films at the local Elks Club auditorium. He has made many surf films since his first in 1955, but none more famous than his 1966 film: The Endless Summer. The Endless Summer is often referred to as “the sport’s best and best-known movie.” Newsweek featured the film on its list of the best 10 films of 1966. The genius and feel to The Endless Summer is often imitated but never duplicated by other surf movies. Even Brown’s sequel to the film was overshadowed by the original. In 1999, Surfer magazine recognized Bruce Brown as the 5th most influential surfer of all time.
Sean Collins : RIP
Sean Collins grew up in Long Beach and was a surf enthusiast since the mid-60s. His passion for surf led him to study the patterns of wave producing storms. This would eventually take him on the path that would change the quest for waves. He is best known as being the owner and cofounder of the Surfline wave-information service which use to be a call-in service before it went online in 1995. In 1998, he owned both Surfline and Wavetrak and sold the merged company to Swell.com two years later. His service was criticized by diehard surfers for making beaches crowded with inlanders and “every wannabe this side of Bakersfield.” Nonetheless, he defended the wave tracking service stating that “surfers were no longer wasting time on fruitless wave hunts.” Surfer magazine agrees and listed him in their “25 Most Influential Surfers of the 20th Century” article in 1999.
“The amazing Mr. Phil Edwards” (as he was named in The Endless Summer) was born and raised in Long Beach in 1938. He is often called the original power surfer for his amazing turns on waves, but his claim to fame came be that he is recognized as the first person to ride Hawaii’s Pipeline. Edwards was inducted into the International Surfing Hall of Fame (1966), Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame (1995) and was recognized in the 1999 Surfer magazine article: “25 Most Influential Surfers of the Century.”
Born and raised in Long Beach, Nancy Katin and her husband founded Kanvas By Katin (one of the oldest surf shops in California) in 1959. Nancy “First Lady of Surfing” Katin created one of the original surfwear lines and always put the best interest of the sport before capital gain. In the mid-‘60s, she sponsored amateur surfing contests that were “only open to surfers who had never won an event.” She later created the annual Katin Team Challenge in 1976 and was awarded the Surfer Cup Award for lifetime contribution to the sport in 1982 by Surfer magazine. Katin was inducted to the Huntington Beach Walk of Fame in 2000.
Chuck “Surf King” Linnen was born in Long Beach in 1936 and rode his first wave in 1954. Before there were surf contests, he helped form the HB Pier Surf Club. Four years after his first wave, he would compete as a finalist at the Oceanside Invitational and the first US Open in Huntington Beach. He then again became a World Champion finalist at Makaha in 1961 and would go on competing through the 70s. In 2011, Chuck was inducted into the Huntington Beach Walk of Fame.
Long Beach native, Mark Martinson, was born in 1947 and discovered surfing at 10 years old. Fast forward six years and he would take second place in the 1962 West Coast Championships. Just three years after that, he won the US Championships. His success would lead him to travel the globe surfing his way through films Free and Easy and Waves of Change. Martinson is recognized as one of the first California surfers to convert to the new, shorter boards.
The ballet and jazz inspired, Jerricho Poppler, was raised in Long Beach, California and began surfing at the age of 9. Some say her passion for dance contributed to her “graceful surfing style.” Poppler won championship titles from all over the world. Her notable wins include a US Championship (1970), IPS World Championship (1976), and a Women’s Pro Longboarding Championship (1992). Robert August would later create a “Jericho Poppler” model surfboard. In 1974, she co-founded the Women's International Surfing Association. She also developed the Women's Professional Surfing Coalition and was a founding member of the Surfrider Foundation. Poppler was World-ranked #2 in 1979. In 1999, she was ISM’s “Woman of the Year” and was inducted into the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame.
Hal Haig "Harry" Prieste
“Haig Prieste, Long Beach boy and former Poly High student, was third place medalist in the Olympic Games' diving contests. He is one of Long Beach’s most famous surfers of the ‘20s. He met good friend and surf enthusiast Duke Kahanamoku in the 1920 Olympics and later accepted an invitation to visit in Hawaii. There he took up surfing and became a member of the Hui Nalu surf club. In 1921, the Daily Telegram reported,“Prieste" and Duke Kahanamoku cruised around together in Hilo for a time. Prieste astonished the natives when he learned to ride the gigantic surfboards standing on his hands. ‘It's the greatest sport in the world,’ he said.
John Severson is most notably known as the founder of Surfer Magazine. This was a product of his combined passion for art and surf. Before he created the internationally known Surfer Magazine in 1961, Severson was an avid painter who sold his work as he finished his Master’s Degree in art at Long Beach State College. His passion has helped him create beautiful works relating to the Pacific surf culture since the ‘50s. He also created popular surf movies that are still collector favorites today. Don’t be fooled by his works of art. He didn’t sit idly by and observe the surfing culture. He also got his feet wet and enjoyed competing in surfing competitions. He competed and won the Peru International Surfing Championships in 1961. That very year, he was also in the finals for the US and Hawaiian Championships. Severson has been inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame (1993) and Huntington Beach Walk of Fame (1995).
John Taylor grew up in Long Beach and quickly took a liking to surfing and sailing. He made his first balsa wood surfboard in the 8th grade under Ole of Ole Surfboards. He graduated Poly High Long Beach and started making fiber glass molds. He also started surfing for the Hole in the Wall surf team in 1967. In 1973, John opened the The Little Shop of Repairs and John Taylor Surfboards. He later started tandem surfing. He would win and defend the first place title in WSA and the United States Championships for 15 straight years.
Brett was born in Long Beach, CA and currently lives in Huntington Beach, CA. He rips and is a local favorite!!!! Often he can be seen shredding HB Pier on Tim Stamps' boards, which happen to be some of the best boards in the industry.