Could surfing return to Long Beach, California?

Once a surfing hot spot in the 1930s, a new study could bring the waves back to Long Beach. Photo: Courtesy of Ian Lind/OC Register

It’s no secret that Southern California is a hotbed for surfing. Famed surf spots like the Huntington Beach Pier, Rincon and Swamis dot the coastline and are ingrained in the minds of surfers across the state. But there’s one spot many surfers don’t even realize has a vaunted surf history that local authorities are considering returning to its former glory: Long Beach.

Long Beach is the seventh most populous city in the Golden State, home to nearly half a million people, but as detailed in recent reports by Surfline and the Orange County Register, most of those inhabitants don’t realize the history of its beaches. Thanks to a breakwater wall built in 1949 by the U.S. Navy, the waters of Long Beach have been flat for nearly 70 years.

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“If you come here on a beautiful summer day, people will be playing volleyball and lying on the sand,” Robert Palmer, a Long Beach local and Surfrider Foundation member told Surfline. “But nobody will be in the water.”

Long Beach brings back the surf

A current look at how the breakwater lets almost no swell into Long Beach. Photo: Courtesy of OC Register

But this wasn’t always the case.

Back in the 1930s, Long Beach was known as the “Waikiki of the West Coast,” renowned for its mellow, rolling waves. And thanks to a push by the Surfrider Foundation’s “Sink the Breakwater, Restore the Shore” campaign, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and a representative from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently signed an agreement to enact a $3 million study to figure out how to potentially bring the surf back to Long Beach.

The study, titled the “East San Pedro Bay Ecosystem Restoration Study,” will attempt to discover if removing the rock wall breakwater would improve ocean circulation and restore oceanic life to the beaches of Long Beach. If it’s proven that removing the breakwater would be beneficial, Long Beach could be seeing waves again in the upcoming years.

Long Beach brings back the surf

What the swell might look like in years to come if the breakwater is reduced or removed. Photo: Courtesy of OC Register

“It’s been a long-time coming,” Kelli Koller, owner of Seventh Wave Surf Shop in Long Beach, told the OC Register about the study. “I’m ridiculously excited … It would be an old wave coming back. It was one of the best on the coast at one point … It would be a dream come true.”