Will the Real Surf City Please Stand Up?

“We’re going to Surf City!” Those words can spark a lot of confusion, and maybe even an argument or two. Surf City, USA could be Huntington Beach, California or Santa Cruz, depending upon who you ask. 

So what is the real Surf City? Let’s look at the history of this nickname and why it’s so divisive in some circles. 

What is the Real Surf City?

Huntington Beach and Santa Cruz are both well-known for their culture of surfing and watersports. For that reason, both have claimed the nickname “Surf City” at various points in the past. 

That, almost unbelievable, led to a bit of a trademark dispute in the early 2000s. While both towns had, for years, both peacefully used the nickname to describe their region, it was in 2004 that Huntington Beach took it a step further: they filed a trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office. 

The pier in Huntington Beach, California

As you can imagine, the town of Santa Cruz was a little nonplussed by this maneuver, especially as their location was the first recorded site of surfing in California. The little town boasts a surfing museum, several international surf competitions, and has an all-around reputation for being a Surf City if not the Surf City. So Santa Cruz filed an appeal in an attempt to claim the title for itself. 

Today, Huntington Beach is the “official” Surf City. However, if you ask the residents of Santa Cruz, they’ll likely tell you differently. After all, the town has been using the nickname since 1927; it’s only been officially used by Huntington Beach since 1990.

Surfing The Pier at Huntington Beach, CA

Surfing Santa Cruz

Other Surf Cities in the United States

It should come as no surprise that there are quite a few places in the United States called Surf City. In fact, it’s the official name of several towns across the country. 

Surf City, New Jersey is a favorite destination for mid-Atlantic vacationers. It’s a part of Long Beach Island, and is host to yacht clubs, casinos, dining, and plenty of entertainment for the kids to enjoy. The beaches in Surf City, New Jersey may not boast the high-crested waves in California, but it’s still a popular spot for surfers to catch a wave

Surf City, North Carolina is another hotspot for summer vacationers. It’s located on Topsail Island, a notoriously quiet and affluent part of the state. Close to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, you’ll frequently find college “kids” catching waves in this small area of the island. 

As you’d imagine, there are towns called Surf City all over the world. El Salvador, for instance, is known for international surfing competitions and its beach culture. 

Summary: Surf City Tourism

Surf City, USA is officially trademarked to Huntington Beach, California. However, Santa Cruz residents don’t necessarily see it that way. Then again, Surf City, North Carolina and Surf City, New Jersey residents may take issue with that moniker as well. 

So, what is the real Surf City? Frankly, it depends upon who you ask. 

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