Surfing And Hippies: The Connection

Surfing has had a VW bus, long hair, music, and bong aesthetic that has tied it with hippie culture since the 60s. But is that cultural intertwine real, or more just a part of fabled folklore?

Surfing and hippie culture come from different roots. However, an overlap was deeply established in the late 60s and early 70s. Over the years, hippie culture has faded, and the perception of surfing has changed in modern times. Thus, the relationship between the two is no longer as close.

Surfing has gone mainstream, and the revival of hippie culture went hipster, which is a whole different vibe. But there are still some true hippies to be found across the globe, just like there are surfers who still embodied that laidback, carefree, and footloose vibe. Thus, you can still find, on occasion, a surfer that is a true hippie.

Are Surfers Considered Hippies?

Surfers and hippies have been intertwined since the 1960s counterculture movement. However, a surfer is not necessarily a hippie (especially these days), and hippies do not necessarily surf. But the roots of surfing are not found within white culture, but Polynesian, which colonists viewed as low brow as opposed to “respectable” pastimes, such as cricket and, later, baseball.

Surfing Reintroduced To Sell Land

As Hawaii became increasingly colonized, surfing faded. But in 1907, land developers brought George Freeth, a Hawaiian who was a quarter Indigenous Polynesian, into California to give surfing demonstrations. The move was not to be “counterculture” but to make coastal land “cool” and sellable. Thus, surfing was introduced to mainland America for capitalism, not counterculture

Surfing Didn’t Fit With Colonist And Puritanical Values

Despite surfing’s reintroduction being for reasons at odds with counterculture, the sport did not gel with “proper” sports. Rather than just pitching up to the field to play ball, surfing depended on the waves. You had to be patient and work with what the sea gave you, an attitude completely at odds with the colonialism of attitude of making everything bend to the “master’s will.”

In addition, the need for surfers to wait for the right wave looked lazy (yes, we know surfing is anything but). Sports were about go-go-go, and surfers were an affront, bobbing up and down, seemingly doing nothing. It grated the puritanical idea of work and discipline.

Surfing Lifestyle Gelled With The Hippies

Fast forward to the late 60s and early 70s, the countercultural movement was rising, anti-war feelings were high, and broken boys were returning from war needing support that society did not know how to provide. Self-medication (weed) became popular, and the need to feel unconstrained was common.

Meanwhile, Hollywood picked up the vibe and used surfing to symbolize the easygoing outsider in movies such as Endless Summer. The reframing appealed to those with hippie ideals. Pot, relaxation, and surrendering to nature is the type of sport the peace and love movement could get behind.

Thus, the hippie and suffering cultures blended into a Venn diagram. Not all surfers were hippies, and not all hippies had any desire to surf. But the two cultures had enough in common where there was plenty of overlap.

 Surfing Starts Becoming Commercialized

Modern surfers are no longer as easily identified as hippies or laid back. Instead, the sport has become mainstream, attracting those who do not necessarily have any connections with a counterculture movement. There are positives and negatives to its widening appeal.

In addition, modern tech has made the weather patterns and tides far more predictable, so training has less of a laid-back, easygoing vibe. Sponsorships and funding have also made the professional side more ligament and respectable in the greater sporting sphere. This brings with it a commercialized and more capitalistic attitude.

But on the positive, surfing is much more inclusive and diverse in gender, class, and race. Also, those who might otherwise not previously be aware are finding a connection to the sea and beaches and caring about preservation and cleaning it up. Thus, like the enduring hippies, surfing persists in holding on to an intangible spirit that the changes have yet to erase.

Hippie Surf Towns

Jeffrey’s Bay in South Africa used to be a surfer-hippie paradise. But while the surfing remains excellent and the town picturesque, the hippie vibe has decidedly veered yuppie. But we’ve found a few surf towns still embracing that relaxed hippie groove.

Byron Bay, Australia

If you haven’t heard of Byron Bay, you might have to return your surfboard (sorry, but we didn’t make the rules). Also, haven’t you seen Netflix’s Byron Baes? (Actually, maybe give it a miss.) Nonetheless, this Australian town is known for three types of people:

  • Surfers
  • Hippies (who are sometimes also surfers)
  • Backpackers (who also sometimes surf and might be hippies)

The best time to hit the waves is June-August (that’s winter for you Northern Hemisphere folks). But honestly, like the hippies, there are waves all year long. Even the sharks agree that the surfing is epic. (Don’t worry, some of the sharks are hippies too. Maybe.)

Encinitas, California

Encinitas, California, is often blown past as people head to San Diego. But there are gorgeous beaches with excellent surfing conditions for anyone willing to slow down and stop by. The area still has that laid-back, chilled, Southern California vibe that has faded since the heyday of The Beach Boys.

Alas, the gem of a place has been discovered, and the cost of living has sky rocked. Nonetheless, artists’ havens and the hippie vibe persist. Tucked away are homes that would make HOAs faint, and everyone else grins at the creativity and ingenuity of the quirky and colorful decors.

Florianópolis, Brazil

Florianópolis, Brazil, is on the west coast of Santa Catarina Island, which sits on the country’s southern end. Being surrounded by water means there are beaches galore, and while it remains popular, it doesn’t have the crush of crowds found in Rio. The suffering is great, especially in the winter, with spots perfect for each skill level.

Floripa, as nicknamed by locals, is eclectic, from visitors that want 5-star hotels, surfers, fishermen, and locals with tales of witches who borrow (steal?) fishing vessels and nets, werewolves, and wizards. But the further away you get from the 5-star splendor is a rustic, free-spirit hippie vibe that is also comfortable for the surfer and backpacker crowd to hang out.

Montañita, Ecuador

Montañita, Ecuador, is described by Lonely Planet as a “party place with a surfing problem.” Nevertheless, there is excellent surfing throughout the year, although the northern swells between December and April are especially brilliant.

But there’s no denying the surf-hard and party-harder town is rooted in hippie culture. In the 1960s, the then-tiny fishing village caught the attention of the hippie movement, and many of the visitors chose to stay and continue to attract more. Hippies drift through, selling jewelry and braiding hair. This makes it the perfect place for people who like to stroll barefoot into restaurants and bars.

Santa Cruz, California

You don’t win originality points for heading to Santa Cruz, California, to surf. It’s long been a top surf destination, especially for folks in San Francisco needing some real waves. It has spots that suit any skill level, making it an excellent destination spot for mixed groups.

Given its proximity to San Francisco, it’s no surprise that it has long had a liberal vibe. But these hippies have outlasted yuppification longer than most. Perhaps it is because Santa Cruz’s counterculture history began before the hippies, with the bohemians and beats. Thus, the roots run deep, and while times are changing, their influence remains.


Surfing and hippie cultures continue to intertwine to this day. But they are not the same, and modernity brings a bigger gulf between the two. Nonetheless, there remains a connection between the two and thus still co-exist in certain communities worldwide.



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