surf Nazi


Description for a hyperdedicated surfer, usually adolescent or preadolescent; sometimes derogatory, but just as often used as a backhanded expression of respect. A popular expression in the late '70s and '80s; rarely heard after that.

American surfing has a long, intermittent, and mostly innocuous association with wartime Nazi imagery. In the early 1930s, Pacific System Homes in Los Angeles introduced the "Swastika" model surfboard—the first commercially available board, featuring a swastika emblem near the tail. The mark was a symbol of good luck and harmony before it was adapted by Hitler's Third Reich; in 1938, after Germany invaded Austria and pushed the world closer to war, Pacific System Homes changed the name of their line to "Waikiki Surf-Boards."

Nearly 20 years later, a small group of surfers from La Jolla, California, dressed up in German military uniforms and marched along the beachfront holding Nazi flags, with Greg Noll filming the proceedings for his upcoming surf movie. "We just did things like that to be outrageous," Noll recalled years later. "You paint a swastika on your car, and it would piss people off. So what do you do? You paint on two swastikas."

Artist and custom car builder Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, creator of the Rat Fink cartoon character, marketed American teenage rebellion as well as anybody in the 1960s, and in 1965 he introduced a line of Surfer's Cross decals and pendants, each modeled after the German Iron Cross military award. The surf press railed against the new gear, but Roth was unrepentant. "That Hitler," he told Time magazine, just before releasing a plastic copy of the German army iron helmet, "really did a hellava public relations job for me."

"Surf Nazi," though, didn't enter the surfing lexicon until the late '70s, as punk-inspired rebelliousness spread from the cities to the beaches. "Wayne Lynch at 25: A Very Experienced Surf Nazi" was the perhaps badly chosen title of a 1978 Surfer magazine profile on one of the sport's more peaceable and noncompetitive figures, and it earned the magazine a number of angry reader's letters, including one from Stephen Bruce of Atlanta, Georgia: "Doesn't the term [surf Nazi] call forth images of cruelty, callousness and the worst kind of sadism?" Surfer disagreed, and followed up with a competition report titled "Storm Troopers Hit Surf City."

"Surf Nazi" was mostly out of use among surfers by the late '80s, but the sport continued to make odd little connections with World War II Germanic symbols. In the early '90s, young Australian pro Matt Hoy began airbrushing an enormous Iron Cross on the deck of his surfboards. Surfing magazine, clumsily moving to Hoy's defense, reported that while the Australian recognized the Iron Cross to be a "symbol of Nazi power," to him it represented only "strength and winning."

In 2008, the relentlessly ironic Stab magazine published it's "Fascism Issue," which included quotes from Mein Kampf, and chided the surfers for "goose-stepping to the beach" with identical surfboards and wetsuits.