The Ocean Beach 1966 World Surfing Championship on Exhibit in Oceanside

by on May 11, 2017 · 5 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

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

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

Why OSide? Why not OB?


Avatar 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.


Avatar 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 Frank Gormlie November 17, 2017 at 8:23 pm

Mike – thanks for the history.


Avatar 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


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