Why don’t San Clemente and Dana Point do a better job of celebrating surfing?
As we celebrate the Fourth of July this week and red, white and blue flags blow in the breeze, indulge me on a brief, patriotic rant—albeit with a local twist.
Every week before I sit down to write this column, I type the word “surfing” into the Google machine and spend a few minutes combing through news headlines to make sure I’m not missing anything worth reporting.
This week, when I performed that exercise, a headline reading, “Global Surfing Boards Market to Reach $4 Billion by 2030,” showed up on Yahoo Finance. The report notes that in seven years, the U.S. surf market is expected to reach $1.1 billion per year.
In 2012, the Surfrider Foundation released a “surfonomics” report that found the Trestles area of San Clemente was responsible for generating $26 million per year for the city. Published more than a decade ago, it would be fascinating to see what that number is today after the COVID-19 boom that saw record number of people flock to the sea.
Point is, both in terms of participation and business, surfing continues to grow in new and exciting ways, and nowhere in the United States is better situated to take advantage of this growth than the San Clemente and Dana Point areas.
Now, I’m not saying we want this area to turn into Huntington Beach and sell its soul to a slogan like “Surf City USA,” but given how important wave-riding is to our local communities and economy, we could do a lot more to capitalize on it than we do.
This September will mark the third consecutive year the Rip Curl WSL Finals crowns the surfing world champions on our shores. Basically, the Super Bowl of surfing comes to San Clemente, and it’s largely ignored by city officials.
Shouldn’t it be a massive celebration in town that attracts surf fans from around the world? So far that hasn’t happened; we’ll see what goes down in a few months.
The two top-rated men in the world, Filipe Toledo and Griffin Colapinto, are both San Clemente residents. Five-time world champ Carissa Moore calls Lowers one of her favorite waves in the world.
We have more surfers on the Championship Tour and Qualifying Series than any other city in the country. We also have world champion-caliber longboarders at Doheny and San Onofre. And a dive into the high school and junior high ranks shows just how deep the area’s talent flows.
From Hobie, to Infinity, Timmy Patterson, to Bill Stewart, to Matt Biolos and beyond, the amount of shaping talent in South Orange County is unparalleled. Some of the best surfboards on the planet are made right here in our backyard.
Internationally respected brands including Lost, The Surfer’s Journal, and Electric Sunglasses were born and grew up here.
The Surfrider Foundation, the nation’s most powerful surfing-inspired environmental organization, is headquartered here, as is USA Surfing, the governing body of America’s Olympic surfing program.
The Surfing Heritage and Culture Center houses the most comprehensive collection of historic surfboards on Earth.
Everywhere you look, there are amazing people doing amazing things and running amazing organizations.
To be sure, Dana Point has done an amazing job with the statues at Waterman’s Plaza. They are unquestionably stunning works of art that speak to the area’s rich surfing heritage. But that’s about all either town has going for it in terms of celebrating the long-standing tradition of surfing.
Where are the Walks of Fame? Where are the Chambers of Commerce creating events to support the local surf businesses? What are the City Councils doing?
Off the top of my head, let’s throw a street fair in San Clemente’s “Surf Ghetto,” where all the surfboard makers can showcase what they do. Bring in some food trucks, skate ramps and bands, and you’ve got something special. Just a thought.