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Surf and Destroy

Scene from the 1979 film Apocalpyse Now
The Surf Punks, 1981
Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli (center) in Fast Times at Ridgemont High
John Milius (center) on Big Wednesday set

With surfing's popularity once again on the upswing, Hollywood and the American mainstream press returned their attention to the sport. Between them, however, journalists and filmmakers in the late '70s and throughout the '80s couldn’t seem to decide if surfers were crazy and violent or crazy and dumb. Either way, the salty-haired people they described had little to do with actual waveriders, and much more to do with the state of American pop culture.

A 1981 Newsweek article described “surf g...

According to a 1982 Esquire magazine article, a lot of surfers had fallen into end-times religious hysteria. “If your member causes you to sin, cut if off!” one Jesus-loving surfer reportedly shouts while running down the beach at a surf contest.