Surfing Santa Cruz

What single thing best symbolizes California's beach lifestyle? Is the laid-back, casual approach of the natives? Or how about the Baywatch-esque lifeguards that keep our residents and visitors safe from harm? For many people, the one iconic image that sums up the California coast has to be the sight of a lone, tanned figure, riding the crest of a wave. Surfing's not only big business in The Golden State, it's also a way of life for thousands of people who live and vacation here.

But just what is it that makes this seemingly solo pursuit so hugely popular? Whole communities are built around surfing, and surfers. Theirs is a distinctive culture, with its own lingo, fashion and music. The sport, having evolved in Hawaii arrived in California in the early 20th century, grew in popularity in the ensuing years and by the 1960s a whole counter-culture had evolved. California's surf craze was exported throughout the globe via the music of the Beach Boys, The Surfaris and Jan and Dean, while movies and TV shows portrayed the glamour and excitement of the west coast surf scene.

In Santa Cruz, the sport has been firmly established since the 1930s, and the city itself has become synonymous with California surfing. In June 1986 Santa Cruz became the location for the world's first surfing museum, documenting over 100 years of surfing activity in the region. The small museum, which celebrates its silver anniversary in 2011, is home to an impressive collection of photographs illustrating the evolution of Santa Cruz's surfing community from the 1930s to the present day. Surf fans will be amazed by the display of boards housed in the museum, clearly chronicling development from the early paddle boards and redwood planks, through to the modern surfboards used by contemporary surfers.

Visitors to the non-profit museum will find a cornucopia of surf memorabilia on display, and for those wishing for a keepsake will discover the gift store where a range of exclusive t-shirts, books and all manner of surf-related products and paraphernalia can be purchased.

Santa Cruz residents and visitors alike enjoy a wide selection of top sites to surf, each catering for surfers of different levels of expertise. Among the most popular, and revered locations, are The Hook and Steamer Lane. Serious surfing is the name of the game in these lively spots, and beginners are best advised to stay out of the water and simply observe the great, high quality surfing on display here. Newcomers to the sport may wish to try out Cowell's or Capitola Beach. Here, you can practice alongside other novices and be assured of a more gentle and pleasant experience. Santa Cruz is home to a number of surf schools offering beginners the chance to try out this enduringly popular pastime. Newcomers learn essential surfing skills, etiquette and safety.

So, whether you're an old hand at tackling big waves, or you have never been within a mile of surfboard, now is the time to plan your trip to beautiful sun-drenched Santa Cruz, California and discover the ever-growing appeal of the surf for yourself.


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