From The Dress Code
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Surfer is a look associated with the popular beach sport and its subculture.


Surfwear is a popular style of casual clothing, inspired by surf culture. Many surf-related brand names originated as cottage industry, supplying local surfers with boardshorts, wetsuits, surfboards or leashes, as well as other hardware.

An early Australian surf fashion company was Kuta Lines, founded by Tony Brown after visiting Bali in 1973. Brown adapted Indonesian textiles and designs for his surfwear. From the 1980s, Kuta Lines used traditional ikat weaving and dyeing techniques, adapted to a heavier, fleecy fabric for cool climate surfing.

Some other clothing brands include O'Neill, Rip Curl, Quiksilver, Town & Country, Ocean Pacific, Billabong, Oakley, DaKine, Reef, Roxy, Volcom, Element, Hurley, Von Zipper, Golden Breed and RVCA.


The bikini is an iconic piece of swim clothing. It was popularized in Europe initially but then was popularized in the United States after it was seen being worn by famous Hollywood stars. Based on this popularity films used the bikini to market their movies. The bikini created a connection between sexuality and the exoticism that was seen in the people and culture of the Pacific Islands. For many years women did not have the option to not wear the bikini as there were not other pieces of surf wear being tailored to their need. This changed as the style of surf clothes was adopted by those who were not part of the culture. Companies began to create board shorts specifically for women's bodies, thus giving them an option besides the bikini to wear while surfing in competitions. This is beneficial for both the female surfers and the brands as it gives women more clothing options and creates more revenue for the companies.


Even though waves break everywhere along a coast, good surf spots are rare. A surf break that forms great surfable waves may easily become a coveted commodity, especially if the wave breaks there only rarely. If this break is near a large population center with many surfers, territorialism often arises. Regular surfers who live around a desirable surf break may often guard it jealously, hence the expression "locals only." The expression is common in beach towns, especially those that attract seasonal vacationers who live outside the area. Localism is expressed when surfers are involved in verbal or physical threats or abuse to deter people from surfing at certain spots. It is based in part on the belief that fewer people mean more waves per surfer.

Some locals have been known to form loose gangs that surf in a certain break or beach and fiercely protect their "territory" from outsiders. These surfers are often referred to as "surf punks" or "surf nazis." The local surfer gangs in Southern California (Malibu Locals Only and Lunada Bay Boys) and those on Hawaii island (da hui) have been known to threaten tourists with physical violence for invading their territory. In Southern California, local surfers are especially hostile to the surfers from the San Fernando Valley whom they dub "vallies" or "valley kooks". The expression "Surf Nazi" arose in the 1960s to describe territorial, aggressive, and obsessive surfers, often involved in surf gangs or surf clubs. The term "Surf Nazi" was originally used simply to denote the strict territorialism, violence and hostility to outsiders and the absolute obsession with surfing that was characteristic in the so-called "surf nazis." However, some surfers reclaimed and accepted the term, and a few actually embraced Nazism or Nazi symbolism. Some surf clubs in the 1960s, particularly at Windansea in La Jolla, embraced the term by using the swastika symbol on their boards and identified with Nazism as a counterculture (though this may have just been an effort to keep out or scare non-locals and may have been a tongue-in-cheek embrace of the "surf nazi" label as a form of rebellion). The "locals only" attitude and protectionism of the Santa Monica surf spots in the early 1970s was depicted in the movie Lords of Dogtown, which was based on the documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys.

Localism often exists due to socioeconomic factors as well. Until relatively recently, surfers were looked down upon as lazy people on the fringe of society (hence the term "beach bum.") Many who surfed were locals who lived in a beach town year-round, and were from a lower economic class. For that reason, these groups were resentful of outsiders, particularly those who were well-to-do and came to their beaches to surf recreationally rather than as a way of life. Australia has its own history where surfers were openly treated with hostility from local governments in the sport's early days, and the tension never really went away, despite the sport's enormous increase in popularity. Maroubra Beach in Australia became infamous for localism and other violence chronicled in the documentary film Bra Boys about the eponymous group, although the surfers in the film maintain they are not a "gang."

Surf gangs

Surf gangs often form to preserve cultural identity through the protection of beach towns and shorelines. If known territory is trespassed by members of another surf gang, violence usually occurs. Long Beach is home to one of the oldest and biggest surf gangs, called "Longos." Some surf gangs have been known to not only claim land territory, but also claim specific surfing waves as territory. Surf gangs have gained notoriety over the years, especially with the production of Bra Boys.

The Lunada Bay Boys (in Palos Verdes Estates, California) became the subject of a class action lawsuit in 2016.


The Wolfpak was originally composed of a few select surfers from Kauai, Hawaii who believed in respecting localism. Kauai, according to a Wolfpak member, is a place where one is raised to honor the value of respect. This value is what led to the group's effort to manage the chaos associated with North Shore surfing. Some notable members have been pro surfers Andy Irons and Bruce Irons, as well as the reality show 808 star and Blue Crush actor, Kala Alexander.

Wolfpak began in 2001 when leader Kala Alexander moved to North Shore in search for job opportunities, and found disorganization and lack of respect in the surf lineup at surf reef break, Pipeline. Alexander found it necessary to dictate organization in who would surf the Pipeline to both preserve the value, and also protect surfers from the reef's potentially life-threatening waves.

The waves at Pipeline can reach over 6 meters and its powerful disposition has taken the lives of professional surfers. If a visiting surfer collided with another surfer, this could result in serious harm or death. These observations led to the Wolfpak's proactive enforcement on the North Shore.

The Wolfpak's territorial enforcement has drawn attention because of its violent means. In an incident where a tourist cut off a friend of Alexander's in a dangerous 180 centimeter swell, the Wolfpak leader assaulted the tourist. Comments from anonymous locals show that the presence of Wolfpak is well perceived, if not intimidating. Some locals who hold similar values of cultural respect support what the members are trying to do.

Alexander does not view Wolfpak as a gang, but says they look out for every local Hawaiian. They attempt to preserve their way of life and realize the implications that a lack of respect can have on Hawaiian culture.

Bra Boys

The Bra Boys are a popular surf gang founded in Maroubra, a beachside suburb in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, Australia. They established international fame and attention in 2007 with the release of Bra Boys: Blood is Thicker than Water, a documentary about the bonds and struggles of the many gang members. The Bra Boys name originates both from the slang word for brother, and as a reference to the gang's home suburb, Maroubra. Gang members tattoo "My Brothers Keeper" across the front of their chests and the Maroubra area code across their back.

Many of the Bra Boys came from impoverished homes and families torn apart by drug use. Brothers Sunny, Jai, Koby and Dakota Abberton, came from an especially difficult upbringing. To them the Bra Boys were much more than a gang, they were a group of friends, a family of their own that loved to surf and always stood up for each other. The documentary, written and directed by the gang members themselves, showed the raw gritty side of a surf life previously glamorized by Hollywood.

Surf terminology

Surfing (particularly in Southern California) has its own sociolect, which has comingled with Valleyspeak. Words such as "dude", "tubular", "radical", and "gnarly" are associated with both and Northern California created its own unique surf terms as well that include "groovy", "hella", and "tight". One of the primary terms used by surfers around the world is the word "stoked". This refers to a mixed feeling of anxiety and happiness towards the waves breaking. Surfers have often been associated with being slackers or 'beach bums' (with women being known as 'beach bunnies').

Beach bunny

A beach bunny is general North American popular culture term for a young woman who spends her free time at the beach. In surf culture it may also refer to a female surfer. Beach bunnies are known for the amount of time they spend sun tanning and are usually represented wearing bikinis, see Muscle Beach Party and Gidget.

Shaka sign

The shaka sign, associated with Hawaii, origins unknown, is a common greeting in surfer culture.

Surf culture is reflected in surf music, with subgenres such as surf rock and surf pop. This includes works from such artists as Jan and Dean, The Beach Boys, The Surfaris ("Wipe Out!"), Dick Dale, The Shadows, and The Ventures. The music inspired dance crazes such as The Stomp, The Frug, and The Watusi. While the category surf music helped popularize surfing, most surfers at the time, such as Miki Dora, preferred R&B and blues. A newer wave of surf music has started in the acoustic riffs of artists such as Jack Johnson and Donavon Frankenreiter, who are both former professional surfers.