California makes waves as it legally declares surfing its official sport

Travis Payne rides a giant wave during the finals of the Mavericks surfing contest in California’s Half Moon Bay (Ben Margot/AP) Credit: AP/Press Association Images

California, the home of the Beach Boys, has legally made surfing its official sport.

While the law acknowledges that surfing actually came from somewhere else, Hawaii, it also makes the case that California revolutionised the art.

Governor Jerry Brown put his signature to the new law Al Muratsuchi wrote and shepherded through the Legislature.

"I am stoked that surfing is now California’s official sport," declared Al Muratsuchi, a state assemblyman and a dedicated surfer dude himself.

"No other sport represents the California Dream better than surfing, riding the waves of opportunity and living in harmony with nature," he added.

Youthful actors in a Hollywood movie amuse themselves between shooting of scenes at California's Malibu Beach in 1965. Credit: AP

The assemblyman has been a surfer since high school who represents the city of Torrance, a place not far from the heralded California surf venue called Haggerty’s, which is mentioned in Beach Boys’ song Surfin’ USA.

California is the heart of the surfboard building industry and the place where the wet-suit was invented, state officials say, and with 1,100 miles of coastline, it provides a surfer’s paradise that Muratsuchi estimates generates more than six billion US dollars in annual retail sales.

A surfer walks out of the surf as the sun sets behind Ocean Beach pier in San Diego Credit: AP

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," said Moore.

Members of the North Bay surfing club in Malibu in 1961 Credit: AP

Moore, an avid surfer himself continued: "That’s where new technologies in surf design got developed,

"We had a lot of aerospace technicians who were into surfing, and they developed new shapes for surfboards that turned the sport into something of a pop cultural phenomenon."

Popular Beach Party movies of the 1960s that starred teen heartthrobs Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon made it look like one big surf party was going on nonstop in California.

The Beach Boys, Dick Dale, Jan and Dean and other popular musicians of the time provided the soundtrack.

The Beach Boys had many surfing-themed hits. Credit: AP

"It’s part of the California mythology," University of Southern California pop culture historian Leo Braudy said.

Huntington Beach now calls itself Surf City and is home to the Surfers’ Hall of Fame and the International Surfing Museum.

In Redondo Beach, there is a bust of George Freeth, hailed as California’s first surfer after he began dazzling local crowds with his wave-riding skills in 1907.