Formal Project Proposal with Bibliography

The final project for this course will be to digitize an oral history interview with a retired surfer from California named Bill Kent.  In conjunction with Dr. Igmen’s Oral History class requiring a one-hour interview with a prevalent figure, I will tie the two projects together to further develop the California Surf Archive website by constructing an Omeka exhibit to display the collected materials.  The thesis will be, “The project will intend to produce an accurate historical digital exposition of California surf culture by affirming the importance of the average surfer.”  The chronology will begin with the introduction of surfing to California by George Freeth in 1907 and continue into the present day.  

The approach will resemble an E.P. Thompson method of doing ‘history from the bottom up,’ meaning the focus will not be on the highly publicized surfers getting paid to appear in magazines, rather the surfers who supplement the actual surfing lifestyle but receives no attention.  To accomplish this I will first use the campus online library databases to search for journals, magazines, advertisements, commercials, photographs, interviews, and maps, to gather primary sources.  Google Scholar is a good tool for gathering secondary sources along with JSTOR.  Youtube can be used to watch no longer running commercials, film clips, and music samples.  Currently there are several advertisements that reveal surfing’s influence on popular culture such as use of surfing images to advertise products for non-surf companies and the inverse, surfing company’s advertisements to sell their own products.  Therefore, the saying, “sex sells” can easily be replaced with “surfing sells.”  The analysis will uncover why surfing has become so marketable and how it relates back to the average surfer.

A few of the general questions to assist in the construction of context are:

What is surf culture?  How/Why is California surf culture unique and important?  How has surfing been influenced/changed over the decades? What do surfers get out of surfing?  In what ways does it benefit their lives?  What role do surfers see themselves in as being characterized as a surfer?  What does it mean to be a surfer?  How has surfing influenced music in Southern California? How has surfing influenced the merchandise industry? How has surfing influenced television and film?

A few of the digital tools I intend to use are Google Maps of California with surf locations, competitions, companies, etc.  In conjunction with the map could follow a TimelineJS visual that tracks each location and juxtaposes it to other events in surf history like music, film, clothing.  In addition, media players will be needed to play any videos, music samples (Beach Boys), and the interview with Bill.

This project will be significant because it will chronicle the importance of the ordinary surfer, an estimated 20 million people worldwide, who supplement the lifestyle but get no disclosure in return.  Subsequent digital history classes will be able to use this exhibit to create newer and better exhibits, building off of mine by interviewing additional famous surfers. The aspiration is to achieve a complete archive with many exhibits of different surfers from different backgrounds supported by their personal items that help chronicle the culture of surfing in California.  Furthermore, a female surf archive/exhibit would be beneficial for academic and social purposes as there are few in existence.



Dale, Dick. Misirlou. Audio. 1962. (Balboa: Delton Media). Vinyl.

The popular music by Dick Dale was popularized by the surf culture in the 1960s when surfing became trendy.  This song and the intro guitar riff have become the epitome of Southern California surf music. First notarized transition from surf into other popular cultures, music.

Guinness Surfer Ad. Directed by Jonathon Glazer. 1999. Commercial.

One of the most famous commercials in the world, winning many awards for the shot of surfers surfing huge waves in Hawaii.  The friends gather on the beach after and enjoy a cool beer. Importance of surfing to marketing.

“I Surf Because…” BillaBong sponsored blog on surfing.

This site was created by the company Billabong during their 2010-2011 marketing campaign.  They inspired surfers to visit the site and post a video/pic of them surfing and why they love surfing.

Isolated. Directed by Justin Lepera. 2013. (Los Angeles: Something Kreative Studios, 2014). Documentary.

Innovative documentary by Ryan Philippe on four surfers surfing in isolated parts of the world.  Discovering lost civilizations, cannibals, and other humanitarian causes they surf some of the largest waves on the globe.

Powerade Commercial.

Formerly aired commercial exhibiting a surfer disobeying warnings not to surf during the storm.  Does so and is captured on video riding a huge wave then disappears under the wave. Commercial was pulled off the air. Shows how extreme surfers can be, disobeys rules, search for thrills.

Rip Curl Advertisement. “Live the Search.” Bali, Indonesia. Photograph by Trent Mitchell.

Beautiful picture of surfers walking through a green rice field on a hill in Bali.  The ad was part of their marketing campaign and entices surfers to explore the world in search of the best waves.

Quiksilver- Investor Relations-

This site displays the earnings reports of one of the largest surf companies in the world.  It reveals how profitable surfing has been over the company’s existence and reveals the goals of surf merchandise corporations.

SIMA-Surf Industry Manufacturing Association.

SIMA, founded in 1989, tracks the large surf merchandise companies and discusses plans in accordance with each other to further develop the industry of surfing. This will reveal how the business side of surfing views the sport in an inverse way that surfers do.

The Endless Summer. Directed by Bruce Brown. 1966. (Monterey Media, 1966). Documentary.

One of the most, if not the most, popular documentaries on surfing ever made.  Documents every enthused surfers dream of riding the best waves. Inspired surfers to travel the world for amazing surf locations, enhancing globalization. 

Secondary Sources

Comer, Krista. “Wanting to be Lisa: Generational Rifts, Girl Power and the Globalization of Surf Culture.” American Youth Cultures. (New York: Routledge, 2004).

Cooley, Timothy J. Surfing About Music. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014).

DeAlessi, Michael. “The Customs and Culture of Surfing and an Opportunity for a New Territorialism.” Reef Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1. 2009.

Hull, Stephen Wayne. “A Sociological Study of the Surfing Subculture in the Santa Cruz Area.” Master’s thesis, San Jose State University, 1976.

Walker, Isaiah Helekunihi. Waves of Resistance: Surfing and History in Twentieth-Century Hawai‘i. (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2011).

Wagner, Scott.  “A Socioeconomic and Recreational Profile of Surfers in the United States.” Surf-First and Surfrider Foundation Report. July 2011.  Accessed 3/4/16.

Westwick, Peter and Neushul, Peter. The World in the Curl: An Unconventional History of Surfing. (New York: Crown Books, 2013). Print.

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