Surfing and California. For the past fifty years, the two words seem almost synonymous. The Golden State’s beaches are routinely packed with hundreds of thousands of people catching waves by any means necessary — longboard, shortboard, soft top, skimboard, bodyboard and of course — SUP.
So after decades of surf culture defining the California experience, it appears as though the state politicians have finally caught on. On Monday, Governor Jerry Brown officially signed AB 1782 — officially designating surfing as the state sport of California.
"I am stoked that surfing is now California's official sport. No other sport represents the California Dream better than surfing -- riding the waves of opportunity and living in harmony with nature," avid surfer and Democratic state Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi of Torrance said in a statement.
While battling for waves of opportunity at a popular break may not exactly put you in harmony with nature, we appreciate the notion. But all kidding aside, the largely symbolic measure recognizes the important role that surfing has played in not only California’s culture, but also in its economy. Muratsuchi estimates that surfing generates some $6 billion for the state's economy — certainly not just a drop in the bucket.
The bill does pay homage to the roots of surfing in Hawaii, but goes on to clarify that since its import to California, “…surfing has been embraced by the state and many Californians have made important contributions to the sport as we know it today.” Contributions such as surf forecasting, wetsuits and the countless innovative board shapers — legendary names like Bob Simmons, Hobie Alter and Al Merrick — whose classic designs have shaped the progression of the sport.
Of course, let’s not forget that standup paddling has also taken a stronghold in the state. And while surfing may be designated as the “official state sport,” surfing is just one option for standup paddlers. And if the criteria for being crowned the “state sport” was based on best utilizing California’s incredibly vast natural resources, then wouldn’t SUP have been a stronger candidate?
Just remember that SUP allows us to not only surf, but also to race, tour, downwind, run whitewater, fish, camp and explore every single body of water in the entire state.
So while we can also surf and enjoy the glory of AB 1782, standup paddlers will continue to find new ways to enjoy California and all of its incredible waterways.