Orange County’s surfing tradition dates back more than 100 years, when pioneering Hawaiian surfer George Freeth performed wave-riding demonstrations during the dedication of the new Huntington Beach Pier in 1914. In the 1920s, surfer and Olympic swimming medalist Duke Kahanamoku also surfed at the pier. But the sport really took off in the 1950s and the 1960s when Huntington Beach began hosting major events and emerged as the most important surfing city on the American mainland. As local surf legend Corky Carroll has said, “Orange County is the cultural center of the surf world, and Huntington Beach is like the heartbeat.”
Huntington Beach’s stores echo the theme. In front of Jack’s Surfboards, the Surfing Walk of Fame honors top surfers with engraved granite stones in the walkway, while nearby Huntington Surf and Sport immortalizes local surf legends with hand- and footprints in a Surfing Hall of Fame. See one of Duke Kahanamoku’s longboards at the International Surfing Museum.
Of course, there’s plenty of surfing in Orange County beyond Huntington Beach. Down at The O.C.’s far southern reaches are San Clemente and San Onofre State Beach (where top surfers ride the legendary breaks at Trestles). Back up the coast, see board-free daredevils bodysurfing at Newport Beach’s experts-only the Wedge.
Want to give surfing a try? Consider Corky Carroll’s Surf School in Huntington Beach or Bolsa Chica State Beach, head south to San Clemente Surf School, or book an early-morning “dawn patrol” session at the Endless Sun Surf School in Newport Beach.