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A Touch of Glamour

Publicity still, late '40s
Santa Cruz, 1940s
Pete Peterson, Venice, 1940s
Peter Lawford, Santa Monica, mid-'40s

Before World War II, surfing lived in the reflected light of the tropics, with Duke Kahanamoku’s noble dark-eyed visage shining godlike from on high. Surfers and lifeguards were one and the same (in Australia), or close associates (in America), and the sport in general was lightly spritzed in heroism. After the war, surfing began its long march to the near and far corners of industry and media, and it became the cool new activity of choice for droves of revved-up bushy-blond suburban Southern...

The postwar style of surfing—the Southern California style, with trunks worn low on the hips, and a fervor not just to ride waves but to be known as a wave-rider, and do so in a way that might piss off non-surfers—this was new.