ENCINITAS — California caught a swell of legislative support this summer to turn surfing into the state’s official sport.
The designation became part of California’s legal code on Aug. 20 when Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 1782 into law after it passed overwhelmingly in the Assembly and Senate.
“I am stoked that surfing is now California’s official sport,” the bill’s co-author, Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, said in a statement. “No other sport represents the California dream better than surfing — riding the waves of opportunity and living in harmony with nature.”
The California Surf Museum, which launched in 1986 and is located in Oceanside, was identified in the bill as one of the reasons, among many, why surfing should be the state sport. But Jane Schmauss, a historian and founding member of the museum, said the museum had no idea that the bill existed until it became law. She explained that the news came out “of left field,” but the museum staff was “thrilled.”
Schmauss said, “We have worked so hard here to get surfing recognized as the incredible sport lifestyle that it is. … No other sport permeates culture through music, language, clothes and art the way that surfing does.”
On the other hand, Schmauss laughed about surfers being “a bunch of mavericks who don’t need validity” from legislation to “cut class or skip work because the waves are just so good.”
Not everyone agrees with giving surfing eminence over other sports. Assemblyman Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, who voted against AB 1782, said during legislative debate, “It’s always a great time to go hang 10. I’ve got to stand in opposition as a proud inland skateboarder. The true heritage of our state is skateboarding.”
Josh Bernard — co-owner of Surf Ride, which has surf shops in Solana Beach, Oceanside and Carlsbad — emailed, “I think it’s super appropriate to have surfing as the official sport of California because it is literally enjoyed by millions border to border.”
Bernard also pointed out that surfing is “slowly spreading inland with the development of wave pools,” such as surf icon Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in Lemoore, which will be hosting its inaugural Championship Tour event Sept. 6–9. Bernard wrote of Lemoore, “That is a city so far removed from surfing, and it’s growing a surf culture.”
Twitter had some fun with the law. As the bill was making its way through the legislature, VITAMINDEVO weighed in, “how can this possibly be a thing… ‘official sport’? Im pretty sure the official sport of California is ‘Sitting in Traffic’. [unedited]”
The bill recognizes surfing as “an iconic California sport” that joins the ranks of other official designations, such as denim as the state fabric, the desert tortoise as the state reptile and the redwood as the state tree.
The passing of AB 1782 carries no fiscal impact or implications beyond decreeing surfing the official state sport.
Its text gives the Polynesian people and Hawaii props for creating surfing, which California then “imported” for its own sporting pleasure. It states that the neoprene wetsuit was invented in the Bay Area, while the University of California’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography “pioneered the science of surf forecasting.”
The first section of the bill reads like a love letter to surfing that concludes on a lofty environmental note, “California’s surfing culture is taking a national and global leadership role in promoting sustainability as a core value, while also placing a high value on environmental protection and stewardship, in order to preserve the ocean, waves, coastline, and wildlife that make the state such a unique place to surf, live, and visit.”
Likewise, Schmauss believes that there’s “a new awareness” among surfers “to protect the surf sites they just visited and give back.” The “increased consideration for sustainability” allows surfing to “move with the future,” she said.