The once sleepy beach town of Santa Cruz has a long and storied history that is often associated with surfing. Records hold that in 1884 three Hawaiian princes brought surfing to Santa Cruz. The three Hawaiian princes traveled to Santa Cruz and made their way to the mouth of the San Lorenzo river and were the first to ever catch a wave in California. Since that fabled day, Santa Cruz has had Surfing in its water, and with a number of pro surfers pouring out of the city since the 1970’s it has been well-heralded surf mecca of the West Coast. Riding waves grew popularity, however, in the background to this, also came a dark side. The east-west localism in Santa Cruz grew out of the community’s surfing tradition. Surfers became a territorial, trying to keep outsiders out of their favorite spots. Longtime Santa Cruz surfers say the rivalry was good-natured and rarely got more heated than punches thrown after a surf session. Today, localism is alive and well on Santa Cruz beaches and has intertwined into the gang like confrontations between the groups of surfers and the groups of gang members. So much so that mistaken identity can turn into deadly confrontations. Adding to the difficulty in discerning from surf and gang cultures all groups project colors of choice. The outward difference between Westsiders with local pride and Westside Norteno gang members is subtle. The West Side of town and Norteno crime syndicate boast red and crimson like that of Santa Cruz High. The East Side and Sureno affiliates claim the color blue like Soquel High School across the San Lorenzo River. Times have changed in the Surf City; the shift has been gradual and gang activity has increased. But nevertheless, the importance in the history of surfing and culture is undeniable. It is and will always remain the birthplace of surfing on the North American continent. A place that also played a pivotal role in the creation and development of the surfing wetsuit, that opened up surfing to new regions around the world. The surf town of Santa Cruz and its locals have forever cemented their spot in the chronicles of surfing.
Santa Cruz Surf Rivalry
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