On Monday, Jerry Brown, with the simple stroke of a pen, forever enshrined surfing as California’s state sport, joining the state tree (redwood), state bird (quail), state fish (golden trout), even the official state folk dance (the square dance).
“No other sport represents the California Dream better than surfing — riding the waves of opportunity and living in harmony with nature,” said Al Muratsuchi, member of the state assembly and author of the law declaring surfing is the highest sport in the land.
The bill gives a hat tip to Hawaii as the birthplace of surfing, but points out that California really took that ball and ran with it, becoming the pulsing center of the surf industry in the USA, and that we here in the Golden State revolutionized pretty much every aspect of the modern surf world. (Hawaii, by the way, also recognizes surfing as a state sport.) This includes everything from surf forecasting to the invention of the wetsuit. The bill also brags a bit about the staggering $1.15 trillion California’s coast and beaches are worth to the state.
The left coast is the best coast, in other words.
Language in the bill, AB 1782, also acknowledges the role sustainability is playing in the surf industry now, and, hopefully, in the future.
Michael Stewart, of Sustainable Surf, who helped craft some of the bill’s language, had this to say about what the bill actually accomplishes for the surf community:
“AB1782 is clearly a symbolic measure, but symbols matter to people. They tell us who we are, and what we really value. So if surfing is now the official state sport of CA, the next time a surf break is threatened by issues related to development, public access, water pollution, erosion, sea level rise, etc., it’s going to be harder to discount the value and importance of the state’s official sport. That’s a new legal tool in the ocean activist toolkit and a clear win in our book for California. And cultural shifts in California, usually have a way of making their way around the globe.”
There may actually be some teeth to that. Ever hear of surfonomics? The attempt to figure out the economic value of a surf break? This designation is something like that. If it sounds like a symbolic, but largely empty gesture, designating surfing as the state sport may make it easier to protect coastline from over-development, or the destruction of surf breaks. Muratsuchi estimates that surfing generates some $6 billion for the state’s economy, by the way.