Tokyo to Tel Aviv

The military did its part to export surfing around the world. Wave-riding US servicemen in Vietnam bargained with cargo pilots to have boards shipped from home—six cases of Chivas got a Weber Performer and two Jacobs noseriders flown from California to a beachfront depot in southeast Asia.

The Beach Boys sang “Everybody’s gone surfin',” midway through the boom, and it sure looked that way driving up Pacific Coast Highway on a summer morning with a new groundswell pumping in. But how many surfers were there, really? In the pre-Gidget 1950s, a common estimate was that there were about 10,000 surfers in America—although the actual figure may have been half that. By 1965, foam-maker Gor...

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