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Surfing's Beat Generation

Pat Curren (left) and Al Nelson, North Shore, 1957
Dana Point, 1950. Photo: Phil Vedder.
Surf car, late '50s. Photo: John Severson

By late 1953, during his second year in Hawaii, Buzzy Trent was the ringleader among a dozen or so California surfers living in a pair of Makaha Valley shack houses. It was the mainlanders’ third season on this side of the island, and news of their odd little commune had reached Honolulu. A 25-year-old Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter named Sarah Park drove out to investigate. Trent told her that the surfers grew vegetables and speared fish, and that one of their group had just landed a 65-pou...

Freedom and a gnawing lust for experience didn't necessarily put the surfer on the road to knowledge or insight. Plenty of Middle America’s most retrograde habits, ideas, and beliefs were carried over to the beaches and lineups.