Surf culture reached the peak of its popularity in the early 1960s in Southern California, influencing music, fashion, literature, and film. But what exactly do “woodies” have to do with surfing?
In reality, it was simply a random event that transformed woodies into a cultural icon in the 1960s: wooden-panelled cars were being abandoned by the general public because of the growing maintenance costs of the panels themselves, and Californian surfers seized the opportunity to bring them back to life after discovering that they were a cheap way to transport their longboards on their roofs and, why not, to sleep in or turn into comfortable travelling cabins.
The Beach Boys, a Californian rock band that wrote songs about surf culture, reached number 1 on the charts in 1963 with “Surf City” and contributed heavily to this phenomenon. Riding the wave of success, like the waves in the ocean, they made “woodies” even more popular, along with the “surf gods” who used them. The owners of these cars began to organize rallies and captured their symbolic value. Today, well-restored cars go for sums these surfers could never have dreamed of.
A must-see event for fans of this type of car is the Wavecrest Woodie Show between Encinitas and Oceanside, north of San Diego, which showcases some of the most beautiful wooden-bodied creations on the shores of the ocean. In 2014, the film “Love & Mercy”, an intimate portrait of Brian Wilson, the singer, songwriter and co-founder of the “Beach Boys” was released, with woodies in starring roles.