Malibu surfing club with a venerable history

The nonprofit Malibu Surfing Association has 150 invited members. The club will have its 20th annual Malibu Classic surf contest Sept. 8 and 9 at Surfrider Beach. The event will benefit Heal the Bay and the Surfrider Foundation. Photo courtesy of MSA

The 20th annual MSA Malibu Classic benefits Heal the Bay and the

Surfrider Foundation.

By Ben Marcus / Special to The Malibu Times

Over the weekend of Sept. 8 and 9, First Point at Surfrider Beach will be swarmed by some of the best longboarders in Malibu, California and from around the world, as the 20th Annual Malibu Surfing Association Malibu Classic will bring more than 300 competitive club surfers to Malibu for the 20th running of a surf contest with a venerable history.

A large contest like this has the potential to produce a great deal of waste and trash, but this year the MSA is going to lengths to actively reduce the negative effects by adopting “green” practices: sustainable printing, carbon offsetting, onsite recycling, reduced plastic use and water conservation education. In addition, proceeds from the event will benefit two champions of cleaner waters: Heal the Bay and the Surfrider Foundation.

“The MSA has a long relationship with Heal the Bay and the Surfrider Foundation,” said MSA Club Treasurer Michael Blum. “And we are also supporting the Malibu Legacy Project and City of Malibu environmental programs to improve water quality in Malibu Lagoon and Surfrider.”

The Malibu Surfing Association was started in 1961 by Butch Linden. In the early ’60s, surfing exploded from a secret thrill enjoyed by a happy few to a craze that swept California, the nation and the world, fueled by the movie “Gidget,” the surf music of the Beach Boys and the “waxploitation” beach blanket movies starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.

The Malibu Surfing Association was a competitive organization but also a benevolent society, as the members were encouraged to help citizens in and out of the water. One example of their good deeds: In the early 1960s safety belts were still a novelty in automobiles, and the MSA held seat belt clinics to encourage their use. Whenever someone from the club did a good deed for a stranger, they left anonymous cards stating, “You’ve been helped by a member of the MSA.”

The MSA was one of the first surf clubs to organize in California and it inspired the formation of other clubs, most notably the Windansea Surf Club, which came together to compete against surfers from Malibu. The Malibu Classic surf contest began in 1962 and was one of the premier events of the 1960s, when longboard surfing was the style, and Malibu was the perfect canvas for trimming and nose-riding. Many great surfers rode solo across many great Malibu walls during the surf contests of the 1960s, and there were classic rivalries between clubs and between surfers. Most famously, Malibu surfers Johnny Fain and Miki Dora had a fierce rivalry for the King of Malibu contest, which came to a head in 1967. In that contest, Dora and Fain surfed to a fever pitch, inspiring Dora to take off on a wave, drop his surf trunks and “moon” the judging stand and a crowd of 4,000 as TV cameras rolled.

Dora’s act of defiance prophesied a style shift in the 1970s, when surfing went underground and boards got shorter and classic longboard waves like Malibu’s were almost forgotten. According to “A History of the MSA” compiled by past club president Gary Stellern: “The MSA continued to thrive throughout the ’60s, and at the close of the decade, the MSA went into a brief hibernation, awakening once again in 1977 with the idea to keep the art of longboard surfing alive, as well as celebrating the friendship of the few longboarders still committed to the sport.”

The longboard revival of the 1980s also revived interest in clubs and contests, and the MSA came back to life in 1987. Now in its 20th year, the MSA Classic is one of seven quality events hosted by the Coalition of Surfing Clubs annual circuit.

The MSA is now a nonprofit organization of around 150 invited members. They no longer install seat belts in cars or leave business cards with strangers, but their good deeds extend to both sides of the surfline. According to the official MSA Web site at, “The MSA is dedicated to promoting the surfing lifestyle and fellowship through the promotion of surf-related activities and to supporting efforts to create and maintain a clean, safe, and healthy coastal environment.”

MSA President Margaret Yao said, “The MSA has donated more than $50,000 to environmental groups over the past five years. With help from our sponsors, partners and supporting agencies, we put on a great event and improve the water quality of Malibu and Santa Monica Bay.”

For this year’s event, close to 300 surfers will be competing in the Classic, representing Big Stick Surfing Association, Doheny Longboard Surfing Association, Hawai’i Longboard Federation, Malibu Boardriders Club, Malibu Surfing Association, Oceanside Longboard Surfing Club, Offshore Longboard Club (N.J.), Oxnard Wave Riders, Rainbow Bridge Surf Club (Japan), Santa Barbara Surf Club, Santa Cruz Longboard Union, Swami’s Surfing Association, Ventura Surf Club and Windansea Surf Club.

MSA Vice President and Team Captain Carla Rowland sad, “Don’t forget the Dodgeball Tournament and the Mystery Heat! I could tell you more about it, but it’s a mystery!”

The weekend’s events kick off with a pre-event concert at the Malibu Inn.

More information on the MSA and the Classic can be obtained online at and