Iconic Malibu Surfing Area Added to National Register of Historic Places

California makes history with first listing based on surfing. Designation affirms new pathway for coastal conservation and qualifies the area for additional protections based on historical significance.

February 5, 2018

MALIBU, CA -- The Keeper of the National Register (National Park Service, Department of Interior) has listed Los Angeles' iconic Malibu surfing area in the National Register of Historic Places. This is the first National Register listing centered on surfing history and recognizes Malibu's worldwide contributions to the sport made in the years following World War II -- from surfboard design and production; to a distinct, relaxed, and "cool" style of surfing; to the beach of Gidget and the explosion of surfing's popularity.

The 160-acre Malibu Historic District is entirely composed of public property and includes: the First Point, Second Point, and Third Point surf breaks, the Malibu Pier, and portions of both Surfrider and Malibu Lagoon State Beaches. The immediate area of eastern Malibu now has three periods of California's cultural history represented in the National Register: the Chumash Humaliwo village site; Stiles O. Clements' Adamson House; and now the Malibu Historic District.

The Malibu Historic District listing establishes a new pathway for coastal conservation -- complimenting established protection models based on natural habitats or important species with those based on historical and cultural significance. The listing is site-specific and secures protections in state and federal coastal project planning explicitly from the point of view of the area's significance, in this case surfing. The listing serves as a qualifying step for additional state protections based on historical significance.

Said Michael Blum, Executive Director, Sea of Clouds, the organization which researched and authored the Malibu Historic District National Register nomination: "From Barcelona's Camp Nou to Yosemite's Camp 4, people gathered together in sport have created places of history, culture, community, and tradition. A jewel of surfing like Malibu is no different. We're pleased to honor the women and men who helped make Malibu and made their names surfing there. This project documents a part of our broad coastal history, an indelible part of California's history, and certainly of surfing history itself." He adds, "We think the history this National Register listing celebrates and the protections it secures establishes a forward-looking conservation path centered on coastal places rich in story. We are excited to explore these ideas further in future projects."

Said Henry Stern, California State Senator (D-27), whose district includes Malibu: "Never before has a surf spot been officially recognized as a historic place in our National Register. Nowhere is more fitting to be first than First Point, and the magical place that is 'Surfrider.' The iconic wave, deep cultural roots dating back thousands of years, and timeless style have always made surfing Malibu historic. Now it's official."

Said Skylar Peak, Mayor, City of Malibu: "It's terrific news for our community when you can add a National Register property to Malibu. Surfrider Beach has long been a destination for beach goers and surfers alike while acting as the catalyst destination for the Southern California surfing community in shaping its surf and beach culture seen on the worldwide stage. This beautiful beach and cobble point-break with the back drop of the Malibu Pier creates a perfect wave when the south swell is up and hosts millions of visitors on an annual basis. The district honors a generation who created surfing history here and whose legacy you see today surfing at First Point. I'm excited to celebrate the listing with our residents, other Angelenos, and the world community of surfing, Aloha!"

Said Milford Wayne Donaldson, FAIA, former California State Historic Preservation Officer and Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation: "This is a fantastic listing for California and the National Register. It recognizes Malibu's important post-war contributions to surfing and its catalytic reformulation of beach culture. The listing also exemplifies a growing practice within historic preservation to document nature-culture connections. This is an area of necessary work and unfulfilled potential. I look forward to more registration projects like this and hope the area's cultural landscape, including the Malibu Historic District, becomes a welcome site of learning, interpretation, and inspiration."

Said Harry Bubbins, East Village & Special Projects Director, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation: "As a surfer in the preservation field it is encouraging to see advocacy efforts coast to coast. This project doesn't rely upon the importance of architectural value, but honors and recognizes the contributions of historic and cultural significance in forging a specific sense of place. The Malibu Historic District is at the nexus of bringing together the goals of historic preservation and environmental conservation that will serve as a valuable example for other places and communities nationwide."

Said Dr. Michael Orbach, Professor of the Practice Emeritus of Marine Affairs and Policy, Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment: "The Malibu Historic District is at the forefront of the next generation of coastal and ocean planning. It combines physical, biological, ecological, economic, and cultural aspects into a community-based plan for the benefit of all."

Said Serge Dedina, Executive Director, WILDCOAST, and Mayor, City of Imperial Beach, CA: "The Malibu Historic District listing in the National Register recognizes the unique ecological, cultural, and recreational values of this iconic coastal landmark and the need to protect and conserve a globally important, and first, World Surfing Reserve."

Said Phyllis Grifman, Associate Director, USC Sea Grant: "Malibu is a unique and special place, iconic in spirit and geography. From the rich abundance of ecosystems fringed by the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands on one side and the rocky and scenic Santa Monica mountains on the other, it has long been a touchstone of the California coast. It has been important as a center of human habitation from the time of the native Chumash and Tongva people, and later during the settlement of the adjacent metropolis. Brought to the attention of the rest of the world as a mecca for surfing and beach culture, Malibu reminds us all that we live bounded by natural beauty and the opportunities and resources provided by Pacific shorelines."

In addition to the coastal planning protections secured through the National Register listing, the Malibu Historic District maintains existing public access, public safety, nearby private property rights, public property ownership, and the area's current uses, such as: pier fishing, summer camps, special events and, of course, surfing.

The National Register of Historic Places was created through the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and is the nation's official list of properties worthy of preservation. More than 90,000 properties are listed in the National Register and represent 1.4 million individual resources. The Keeper of the National Register, the National Register Chief, is part of the National Park Service, United States Department of Interior. Prior to final review by the Keeper, the Malibu Historic District was reviewed by: the Bureau of Land Management; California Department of Parks and Recreation; California State Historic Preservation Officer; California State Historic Resources Commission; California State Lands Commission; and Los Angeles County. The City of Malibu and local tribal representatives also provided comments.

The Malibu Historic District nomination included two photographs graciously provided by Mr. Dick Metz and the Surfing Heritage & Culture Center (surfingheritage.org). Mr. John Mazza and the Pepperdine University Special Collections Library provided access to, and photography of, several rare, period-specific surfboards (library.pepperdine.edu).

Information on the Malibu Historic District and an updated schedule of community outreach events is online at seaofclouds.org. A dedication ceremony celebrating the Malibu Historic District listing will be scheduled for Summer 2018.