The History of Surfing in Santa Cruz

Now Available at Logos is the first installment of Chris Thompson’s documentary film series on the history of Santa Cruz Surfing! Out of the Blue is available on DVD for $25. You can read about Chris Thompson, his current film, and his upcoming Riding the Rails below, as well as view a slide show of images from the documentaries.

Chris Thompson is a Bay Area filmmaker who is currently producing a four-part documentary film series on the history of Santa Cruz surfing, which dates back 125 years when three princes of the Hawaiian king were the first people to ride surfboards anywhere outside of Polynesia when they happened to visit a relative in Santa Cruz back in 1885. His first film in the series, Out of the Blue, traces the Sport of Kings back to its origins in Hawaii and follows it over to the Mainland where surfboard riding finally took hold to stay in Northern California during the 1930’s when the Santa Cruz Surfing Club was formed. Riding the Rails, the second film in the series (scheduled to premiere at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz on October 8, 2010), focuses on the postwar generation of Santa Cruz surfers who enjoyed the dozen years of surfing’s Golden Age.
In the late 1930’s the sport of surfing finally arrived to stay in Northern California when a small group of surfers from Los Angeles at college in San Jose began to venture over to the coast and surf the frigid waters along the small beach town of Santa Cruz. The local kids soon became inspired to take up the sport for themselves with no formal instruction, making their own equipment and banding together to help each other along and overcome the elements. Eventually, more of the town’s youth would join in and the Santa Cruz Surfing Club was formed, complete with a boardhouse and clubhouse that became the center of the social scene on the beach until World War II changed their lives and brought a sudden end to a memorable era in California’s history.
By the early 1950’s a new generation of California’s youth had begun to embrace the sport of surfing and its back-to-the-land lifestyle. Many of them would choose to abandon the big-city “rat race” and migrate to the quiet beach town of Santa Cruz, joining together with a handful of locals to partake in what is now regarded as the Golden Age of Surfing, before Hollywood and its creations revealed the secret and brought the trampling masses to the coast and an end to a remarkable era in California’s history.


Janina Larenas is the book buyer for the New Book Department. She is a printmaker and book artist who works with a variety of mediums to create narrative imagery. Her pieces range from stickers and posters to science illustration, embroidery to zines, often merging technical crafts with fine art presentation.