Sense of Belonging: Space and Place in Southern California Surf Culture

Meg Elizabeth Sudac, University of Puget Sound


Modern surfing is a vital subculture in Southern California, especially in the LA area due to the historical figures surrounding the region. Over the last few decades, it has grown immensely popular and has become a defining characteristic of SoCal. Because of this many things have changed; the waves have become overpopulated which has led many local surfers to take a territorial stance. This phenomenon is known as localism and is based on a surfer’s sense of homeland. In its history localism has been conveyed in aggressive and violent ways that often lead people to feel unsafe at certain breaks. However, as times have moved on localism has taken a different form in most surf spots, now focusing on traits such as competitiveness and respect. This project focuses on the effects of localism, its legacy, the surfing communities it affects, and the physical spaces and places surfing culture occupies.