Tokyo to Tel Aviv

Ernie Tanaka, Katsuura, Japan
China Beach Surf Club, Vietnam
Dorian Paskowitz
Peter Troy (far right), Ecuador, 1965
Newquay, England, 1963

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 Gordon Clark guessed that the nation's surfing population had jumped to 200,000, and the estimates o...

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.