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If you want to see surf culture in a picture-perfect setting, try a sunset along West Cliff Drive during a big swell, when Mitchell's Cove is going off, and the Lane and Indicators are happening and Cowell's, with its long rides and longboarders, is framed by the wharf and the hills.

News Story:  April 9, 2005 By DON MILLER, SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL

Don Miller: Two surf cities for every boy
Ah, let 'em have it.
In a column Corky Carroll wrote about the real "Surf City" for the Orange County Register, he claims Huntington Beach is ground zero for surf culture.

Which, I guess, is somewhat of a big deal for Huntington Beach.

If you've been to Huntington Beach in the past decade or so, you'd understand why.

Corky Carroll wrote this for the newspaper in Orange County. Corky, as surf people of my ancient generation remember, was a big surf star in the 1960s.

And, he's had an interesting life since then. Corky has been a musician, tennis pro, published author, bartender, car salesman, ad director for Surfer magazine, operator of a surf school and real estate agent.

Plus, his column is usually pretty funny and captures the old-time surf vibe pretty well.

I was struck by Corky's comment (sounds like a new kind of tea, doesn't it') that there is a real Surf City out there, riding on a '60s-era signature model board (Corky had one) and a prayer, so to speak.

Now the battle between HB and SC for the Surf City title has been ongoing for a few years now, but, in reality, there's two (to one) Surf Cities that I'm aware of, and neither are what Jan and Dean had in mind.

Surf City, North Carolina, has a swing bridge that opens every hour ' and you can apply for a dog license at the town hall. There's a turtle hospital right behind the water tower at Topsail Beach, too.

The town's motto is this: "Big enough to be competitive but small enough to be happy!"

This Surf City is located in the center of 26-mile-long Topsail Island. Pirates used to cruise the waters off the island.

Much later, the U.S. military used to island to launch rockets.

Surf City, New Jersey, also is on an island, Long Beach Island. If it's offshore, I guess that means it's related to, but not the same as, "the Jersey Shore."

The ocean in New Jersey is ... well, different. Looks different. Feels different. Might be because New York harbor is relatively close. Might be the lingering effects of pollution ' NYC used to dump its sewage offshore of the Garden State.

Might be that large sections of the shore are off limits to public riff-raff, often reserved for private beach clubs.

But again, not what Jan and Dean had in mind, I'm sure.

But, at the heart of Corky's argument is the heart of the song, the message that even landlubbed teenage boys blubbered over, with wheat grass shimmering in Midwestern winds.

Two girls for every boy.

Don't know how it is in Huntington Beach these days, but man, at my age, well, it's three girls for every dad ...

As far as history goes, well, surfing in California, as distinct from its birthplace, Hawaii, may have started as early as 1885, when lore has it that three Hawaiian princes visiting Santa Cruz were reported to have ridden waves at the San Lorenzo Rivermouth on boards shaped from local redwood.

Plus, the legendary Duke Kahanamoku surfed here a long time ago, on his world tour.

Plus the old Santa Cruz Surf Club, which started around 1936, produced the kind of hardy watermen that another Santa Cruz surfer, the late and legendary Jay Moriarity, later evoked.

Plus, we have the surfing museum at Lighthouse Point, which traces the history of the sport here.

And if you want to see surf culture in a picture-perfect setting, try a sunset along West Cliff Drive during a big swell, when Mitchell's Cove is going off, and the Lane and Indicators are happening and Cowell's, with its long rides and longboarders, is framed by the wharf and the hills. It just doesn't get much better than that.

OK, Huntington has its own surfing museum, and Corky Carroll is part of that, and his image is prominent on its Web page.

But, ah, Southern California. Huntington has a lot of waves, a beach break with some shape, and it has the pier and, yeah, surfers still "shoot" it, and the beach has a great skating, walking path and there's a lot of surf shops in town and oil rigs and a zillion people and the city stretches east, north, south with millions of malls and endless housing tracts.

But, I don't know.

In a world of extreme makeovers and wave-hungry hordes, does it really matter what town is the mythical, or real, Surf City'

Santa Cruz surfing has emulated Southern California in its extreme localism and crowded conditions, but the history is different and so are the waves. Cold water and big waves. Plus, nobody much likes tourists around here.

Santa Cruz, while it is a surf town, is a whole lot more. A university town. A coffee town. A searching town. A lefties' town. A Mystery Spot. The forest. The North Coast. The university. The people. A spiritual dance.

And y'know what' The name above most other names, Holy Cross, Santa Cruz, to me sounds a whole lot better than ... Surf City.

Have a thought or opinion about Surf City' I'd love to hear from you. Please, however, keep your e-mails and letters to 150 words or less, and include your name, address and phone number. Only your name and city or area of residence will be published. E-mail should be directed to and mail to Don Miller, 207 Church St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060.