Though Polynesians and especially Hawaiians have been surfing for hundreds of years (legendary surfer Duke Kahanamoku popularizing the sport in California in the 1920s), modern surf culture really went mainstream on LA beaches and especially Malibu in the late 1950s. Movies such as Gidget (1959), filmed on Malibu’s Surfrider Beach and Leo Carrillo State Park (see above), sparked a flood of interest and instigated the genre known as beach party films (1963’s Beach Party was also filmed in Malibu), as well as the surf music of Dick Dale, the Beach Boys (formed in nearby Hawthorne, LA, in 1961) and others. It wasn’t all fun though; environmentalism has always been a key aspect of surf culture, and the Surfrider Foundation was formed in Malibu in 1984 by surfers to protest threats to their local breaks – it’s now a global activist movement.

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