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Surfing's Decline
Modern Surfing
The Duke
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Modern Surfing Greats
Surfing in Popular Culture
Tom Blake
Bibliography - Surfing

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Surfing in Popular Culture

Surfing reached the mainland United States in the early 1900s, with the sport itself introduced by surfers like George Freeth, Duke Kahanamoku and others. But images of surfing also returned with tourists who had visited the Islands. They brought home souvenirs - everything from `ukulele to aloha shirts - many of which were decorated with surfing scenes. By the 1940s, surfing was still a fringe sport limited to Hawai`i and Southern California. In the `50s, surfers like Bud Browne and Greg Noll began shooting surfing footage and these low budget surf movies attracted a new audience.

It wasn't until 1959, though, that surfing really hit it big with the movie Gidget. Based on the real life summer diary of 16-year-old Kathy Kohner, the movie (and book) inspired a flood of surf and beach movies, including Beach Blanket Bingo, Beach Party and Blue Hawaii. A more "authentic" surfing film was Bruce Brown's The Endless Summer which came out in 1966. Music by groups like the Beach Boys also popularized surfing and the beach lifestyle.

Hollywood continues to produce surfing movies - most recently Lilo and Stitch and Blue Crush - that feed off popular perceptions of surfing and its freewheeling lifestyle. Surf wear and accessories continue to be hot selling items around the world, not just for surfers but for anyone who wants to claim a piece of the attitude.

Despite the money that's entered the equation, surfing in the end is about an intimate and ever-changing relationship with the ocean. As Gordon McClelland says, "Surfing is this pure thing . . . you can't bottle it, you can't package it, and it's not about the money, because you can't sell what it really is. What it really is is all the beautiful things that happen to you when you're riding a wave."

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