Long Beach’s Site of 1938 National Surfing Championship Nominated as California Historic Point

by on January 4, 2023 · 0 comments

in California, History, Sports

Surfing in Long Beach’s West End, in view of The Pike amusement zone, c. 1930s. Photo courtesy Lind Family Collection

From Save Our Heritage Now – Jan-Feb 2023 Newsletter

The nonprofit Sea of Clouds (a San Diego preservation group) together with Surfrider Foundation, Long Beach Chapter, have nominated Long Beach’s former site of the 1938 National Surfing and Paddleboard Championships as a California Point of Historical Interest to commemorate the area’s pre-World War II surfing history.

Held adjacent to Long Beach’s famed (and since demolished) Rainbow Pier, the contest was Los Angeles County’s first surfing and paddleboard competition billed as a national event. It was both a successful visitor attraction for the city and a notable competition for Southern California pre-War surfers and paddleboarders. The championships brought 50,000 visitors to Long Beach to watch more than 100 competitors in 1938. Newspapers and newsreels covered the contests. (See this 1938 video).

Long Beach’s West End shoreline, 1928. The Ocean Center Building (110 W. Ocean Blvd.) is labeled with a blue pin for reference. Photo courtesy UCSB Library Geospatial Collection

Long Beach’s West End shoreline, 2001. See blue pin marking the Ocean Center Building. Photo courtesy UCSB Library Geospatial Collection

Two members of the Del Mar Surfing Club took top honors at the National Paddleboard Championships. Mary Ann Hawkins, champion swimmer, diver, and paddleboarder—as well as a Hollywood stunt double—won the Women’s Division. Preston “Pete” Peterson, a Santa Monica lifeguard and four-time winner of the Pacific Coast Surf Riding Championships, won the Men’s Division.

The event was endorsed by the city; co-produced by the Junior Chamber of Commerce and the Long Beach Amusement League; and hosted by the Long Beach Surfing Club.

A postcard (c. 1930-1940) of Long Beach’s West End shoreline. The area between the Rainbow Pier (top) and The Pike amusement zone (bottom) represents the contest site for the 1938 National Surfing and Paddleboard Championships. Photo courtesy John H. Osborne Photo Collection, Cal State Dominguez Hills

The nominated area comprises 28.5 acres on city-owned properties. It incorporates reclaimed lands representing the historical shoreline and nearshore and is bordered by two attractions since demolished as part of waterfront redevelopment: the Rainbow Pier and the Pike amusement zone. This visitor-friendly orientation distinguishes the Long Beach contest site from other early contests, such as the Pacific Coast Surf Riding Championships, held nine times between 1928-1941 at San Onofre or Orange County’s Corona del Mar.

Map of the area nominated for a California Point of Historical Interest: Long Beach’s former contest site of the 1938 National Surfing and Paddleboard Championships

A California Point of Historical Interest designation maintains elements such as existing visitor access, public amenities and safety services, public property ownership, and the area’s current uses. The City of Long Beach has reviewed and endorsed the nomination.

SOHO also supports the nomination, just as they joined thousands of people and other groups to save the historic Trestles at San Onofre State Beach from a new state highway in 2008. Other current endorsements include Surfrider Foundation, Heal the Bay, Preserve OC, and Santa Monica Conservancy.

Surf breaks are, of course, vitally important places of local public recreation. They are also place-based, social tapestries, linking multiple generations of surfing histories, cultures, and traditions.

Malibu, with waves breaking across its First Point, Second Point, and Third Point surf breaks, August 2014. The Malibu Historic District recognizes the area’s contributions to the growth of surfing. Photo courtesy Jon Steele Photography

The California State Historic Resources Commission is expected to vote on the nomination by Summer 2023.

San Diego preservation group Sea of Clouds listed the iconic Malibu surfing area on the National Register of Historic Places and expects to complete three new National Register nominations of California surfing resources by December 2023. They are evaluating and researching a number of regionally important surf breaks, including several in San Diego County.

We invite you to sign the online letter of support. For more history and images, visit the project website at seaofclouds.org


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