[This photo feature, where we break down our ever-shifting definition of the perfect wave through the last six decades, originally appeared in our April 2017 Issue, “Evolution,” on newsstands and available for download now.]
You could say that the long, tapering pointbreak at Malibu served as our introduction to the very idea of a perfect wave. From the 1940s into the mid-'60s, Malibu's groomed, machine-like right-hander gave surfers a flawless canvas on which to hone a budding art form, while the scene on the beach acted as a powder keg for a cultural explosion. The break was ground zero for innovations in board design, with craftsmen like Bob Simmons, Dale Velzy, and Joe Quigg (among others) replacing redwood planks with the balsa-borne Malibu chip—a lighter craft with an affixed fin that enabled surfers to actually turn. Armed with more-maneuverable surfboards, early stars like Mickey Dora, Dewey Weber, and Lance Carson set a new bar for surfing performance, linking turns and noserides with panache. Malibu became a mainstream cultural phenomenon, for better or worse, after Gidget hit bookshelves in 1957 and theaters in 1959. But if you took out the glitzy Hollywood hangers-on, the rubbernecking tourists, and the droves of novice surfers flooding Malibu in the 1960s, you'd still be left with one of the most gorgeous waves in California.
[Check back tomorrow to see our selection for the perfect wave of the 1970s]