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What Depression?

LA surfers with lobsters, 1936
Whitey Harrison, 1935. Photo: Doc Ball
Mary Ann Hawkins. Photo: Doc Ball
California, 1936
Surf-themed Vargas Girl, 1944

The Depression did good things for surfing in America. Being poor on the beach in Southern California was a lot better than being poor in the Nebraska plains or on a New York street corner—or anywhere else in the country, for that matter. Surfers were already familiar with living on the cheap: they made their own trunks and surfboards, pulled lobsters and abalone from the sea, gathered wood for their own fires, and could build an evening’s entertainment around a ukulele, a guitar, and a passe...

Surfers in the 1930s already knew how to live on the cheap: they made their own boards, pulled lobsters from the sea, and could build an evening’s entertainment around a ukulele, a guitar, and a passed-around bottle of jug wine.