Declaring surfing its state sport is the next step in California’s identity secession from the US

Surfers at Mavericks, near Half Moon Bay, CA.
Surfers at Mavericks, near Half Moon Bay, CA.
Image: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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California is continuing to distance itself culturally and philosophically from much of the geographical US.  The state greeted 2018 by enshrining new protections for undocumented immigrants, tougher gun laws, and recreational marijuana. These positions are all out of step with this moment in US politics. Now, the state is set to declare surfing its official sport.

State assembly members Al Muratsuchi and Ian Calderon introduced a bill on Jan. 15 that would make surfing California’s official pastime. “Nothing represents the California Dream better than surfing—riding the waves and living in harmony with the beautiful beaches and ocean of our Golden State,” Muratsuchi wrote in a statement.

Not that long ago, surfing was derided as a dead-end sport for losers (Jeff Spicoli, anyone?). Not anymore. Now, it’s a $6 billion industry, supporting a pastime enjoyed by millions in the US, from professionals to drop outs. Calderon, the assemblyman co-sponsoring the bill, says he’s a life long surfer. The sport (or way of life, as some have it) has churned out cultural icons from the Beach Boys to Gidget, and prominent professional surfers from Kelly Slater to Layne Beachley. William Finnegan’s 2015 book  about surfing, Barbarian Days, won a Pulitzer Prize.

If California votes to pass the bill, it would be another step in the state’s long-standing march away from a mainstream culture that defines most other parts of the country. California’s more restless residents are even launching campaigns to secede from the US on the basis that, according to advocates such as Yes California, the state is culturally distinct from the rest of the country.

And, of course, some US states just like adopting sports as their standard bearers. North Carolina has NASCAR, Alaska has dog mushing, Minnesota has ice hockey, and South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming all list rodeo as their official sports.