The Ocean Beach 1966 World Surfing Championship on Exhibit in Oceanside

by on May 11, 2017 · 11 comments

in Ocean Beach

Photos of the 1966 World Surfing Championship held in Ocean Beach. All photos from Calif Surf Museum. For larger image, click on image.

1966 surfing exhibit in Oceanside going on until the 27th of May

The 1966 World Championships – A Defining Moment in Competitive Surfing

By California Surf Museum

The 1966 World Surfing Championships in San Diego was a watershed moment in surfing. Organized by an international cadre of visionary contest directors, the event was attended by more than ten thousand spectators, showcasing the budding sport to the nation in real time.

Held in the city’s beachfront neighborhood of Ocean Beach, it was the first world contest ever hosted by the United States and helped put San Diego on the map as an attractive tourist city in America.

Although the competitive field was full of excellent surfers from seven nations, the matchup between California’s David Nuuhiwa and Australia’s Nat Young was considered as the ultimate test of both skill and style. Nuuhiwa was generally acknowledged as the best nose-rider in the world, and a supreme stylist of the smooth, elegant approach to wave-riding. Nat Young was at the opposite end of the spectrum, explosive and intense.

It was a study in contrasts: horizontal flow versus vertical slash, the apex of conventional performance dueling with the avant-guard power approach. Young had brought a new surfboard with him, christened Magic Sam, a shorter, more maneuverable shape which he boldly claimed to be a secret weapon.

Although the two never faced off against one another man on man, the result was just as significant: despite an astonishing ten-second nose ride early in the event by Nuuhiwa, Young’s new techniques throughout the contest convincingly persuaded the judges to crown him the undisputed champion.

The event became the defining moment when stylized, poised precision was replaced by pivoting, punchy maneuvers — relying on the tail of the board instead of the nose to accent the performance.

This dominating exhibition ushered in the first revolution of performance and surfboard design since the 1950s advent of the fiberglass and foam board. It brought Australia onto the world stage as a top surf nation and San Diego as a new tourist destination. After the 1966 Championships nothing in the world of surf would ever be quite the same.

California Surf Museum in Oceanside, California

The California Surf Museum is a museum located  in Oceanside, California, dedicated to archiving and displaying surfboards, surf art, memorabilia, surfing equipment, photographs, magazines, videos, and more.

Address: 312 Pier View Way, Oceanside, CA 92054
Hours: Open today · 10AM–8PM
Phone: (760) 721-6876

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

John O. May 11, 2017 at 2:38 pm

Why OSide? Why not OB?


Peter B from South O May 12, 2017 at 5:54 am

Because we have the museum, booballa ;-)

Come on up! Take the Coaster to Oceanside (surf museum is only a short walk from the train), enjoy downtown Oceanside, then train back. No driving and cheap family day.


Paul Lynch May 28, 2022 at 8:36 pm

Was Rex Funches surfing then or Rusty Lynch or Virgie or Sandy Calanelle. Her dad was post master gen in San Diego. I was born at the cottage next to the pier. June 1966


mike schaefer November 17, 2017 at 5:33 pm

Astounds me that none of the writings here or on line about historic 1966 World Surfing Championships in Ocean Beach mention the presence of the legendary Duke Kahanamoku attended, adding greatly to the event’s significance, he passed a few years later. As the boy City Councilman of San Diego, then 27, I was there to present him with the Key to the City and provide an official welcome to San Diego.


Frank Gormlie November 17, 2017 at 8:23 pm

Mike – thanks for the history.


Kelly Duff December 16, 2017 at 10:18 pm

I was 11 at the time, got asked if I wanted sell posters at the contest. I think I got paid? But walking thru the crowd and getting all my surf heroes male and female went up to the podium where Duke Kahanamoku was sitting to meet him and get him to sign a couple of posters. Got to sit with him for a while talk, l was in awe. There are a few crowd shots in the old surfer and the 50 anniversary of me walk thru the crowd poster in hand headed up to get Nat to sign them. I’m the little brown blonde haired kid. Still have both of those poster. Priceless


Eric DuVall August 4, 2022 at 1:10 pm

Kelly, are you still around? Let me know. Cheers, Eric


Jim Richardson April 3, 2020 at 9:50 pm

I was there at the age of 15 waves ere good and the worlds best were there, it was the greatest thing I had ever seen. David. Nat Midget at the others were supreme. The waves that day were nice, a bit thick but a strong 5-6 and the day was sunny. I went to Hoover high school a bit inland but surfed the point with Skip Frye and others. This certainly one of the greatest days of my your life as well as a day I can see right now over 53 years ago. Jim Richardson I was a member of White Sands Surf Club
Great Day to see this event!!!!!!!!!


Kevin Forrester May 23, 2020 at 9:27 pm

Hey. I was invited to attend as a bystander by Thor Svenson! I remember there was hardly a breeze that day and wished I was surfing instead of watching lol. Cheers!


kurt schlick May 5, 2020 at 7:36 pm

I met the Duke in 1966 we owned the Ocean Villa Motel we had all the west coast surfers there. We had banners World Surfing Championship 1966 I collected every signature and covered that banner, the Duke was one of them. Wish I knew what happened to that.


Paul Lynch May 28, 2022 at 8:37 pm

Johnny Isabella..


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