Inside the Campaign to Make Surfing California's Official Sport

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Jack London was mesmerized the first time he saw surfers riding the waves of the ocean. It was 1907, and he’d docked at Waikiki Beach in Honolulu during a sailing trip from San Francisco when he spotted them: “One after another they come, a mile long, with smoking crests, the white battalions of the infinite army of the sea,” he wrote in a magazine essay published later that year.

Word of the “royal sport for the natural kings of the earth,” as London called it, spread quickly to Southern California, where the railroad tycoon and real estate developer Henry Huntington saw an opportunity. He invited the Hawaiian surfer George Freeth, whom London had described as “a young god bronzed with a sunburn,” to help bring in crowds at his recently acquired Redondo Beach pier, just south of LAX.