La Jolla’s surf culture has a long and celebrated history. Some of the most talented and influential surfers and board shapers to ever ride a wave or design a board called La Jolla home or visited its sandy beaches at some point during their careers. Many of them gravitated to Windansea Beach, which is known for its popular surf breaks.
Windansea Beach's early surf history
According to an article on the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center’s site, some of the earliest surf moments at Windansea Beach occurred in 1937. Sporting a homemade, hollow surfboard, glider pilot Woody Brown and some of his friends took to the salty waves, and the rest is history.
Over the years, Windansea Beach became an integral part of surf culture in La Jolla and beyond. Wave by wave, a group of dedicated and skilled surfers honed their craft at Windansea. They also built a shack and a statue that have become iconic in their own rights.
Windansea Beach Surf Shack
The Surfing Heritage and Culture Center’s article stated that the original surf shack stood atop a cliff at Windansea Beach. It was built in 1938 as a place for surfers to store their boards, but it was destroyed in 1940. In 1946, surfers Don Okey, Woody Ekstrom and Fred Kenyon built the Windansea Surf Shack that we know today, which is also the one that was featured in a book by Tom Wolfe. In May of 1998, it became a historic landmark, and a few years ago, The San Diego Union-Tribune ranked it as one of the “50 Most Historical Sports Sites.”
Years passed and another surfing icon joined the Windansea Surf Shack. In 1963, two members of the Windansea Surf Club, Michael Dormer and Lee Teacher, built a six-foot, 400-pound statue of a cartoon character named Hot Curl. The statue remained in place for a period of time, but was destroyed before the decade was out. A small replica of the statue is part of the California Surf Museum’s collection.
Windansea Surf Club
In 1962, Chuck Hasley founded the Windansea Surf Club, which has a long membership list full of legendary surfers, including Mickey Munoz, Mike Diffenderfer, Chris O’Rourke, Pat Curren and Joey Cabell, who are some of the best wave riders and board shapers of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. In addition, a number of club members were cast for the film, “The Endless Summer,” such as Mike Hynson and Butch Van Artsdalen. Both were also among the first surfers to ride the Banzai Pipeline.
Other notable club members include, Rusty Miller and Debbie Beacham. The former was America’s top ranked surfer in 1965 and the latter was the 1982 professional world champion.
Windansea Beach today
Windansea Beach is still frequented by experienced surfers and was rated one of the “Top Ten Beaches in the San Diego Area” by USA Today. Treasured icons from earlier periods of the beach’s surf history have been destroyed over the years, including Windansea Surf Shack, which has been rebuilt several times, but the sun-drenched, surf-filled and inspired moments of the past remain vivid memories.
On December 24, 2015, the Windansea Surf Shack was hit by a series of waves during what Surfline reported was a 7.2 foot high tide. An SD News article stated that Friends of Windansea made plans to remount and stabilize the structure. SD News also reported that late last month, La Jolla’s Parks and Beaches, Inc. Board approved funding to anchor the Windansea Surf Shack when it is repositioned.