A short history of Windansea Beach

Surfing
Windansea Beach: La Jolla's famous surf break | Photo: Cho/Creative Commons

Welcome to Windansea Beach, a classic surf break located in La Jolla, San Diego.

Known initially as Neptune Beach, the famous Southern California surf spot is named after the 1909 oceanfront Strand Hotel, which was renamed Hotel Windansea ten years later by its owner Arthur Snell.

The hotel didn't resist the test of time because it burned down in 1943.

But the name stuck, and the first surfing pioneers arrived, they discover one of the most reliable peaks in America.

Thanks to its favorable swell window, Windansea, and the adjacent spots offer quality surf all year-round. The waves here break both left and right over a flat rock reef.

Depending on the time of the year, the break produces high-performance waves in the two-to-ten-foot range, so it is always one of the favorite picks by shortboard and longboard surfers alike.

There also a few peaks nearby that are worth a try - Middles, Big Rock, Turtles, Big Rock, and Simmons.

The Surf Shack: Windansea Beach's historical landmark was built in 1947 | Photo: Creative Commons

The Surf Shack

Woody Brown was one of the first surfers to catch waves at Windansea.

In 1937, he paddled out and was followed one day later by local wave riders Don Okey, Townsend Cromwell, Woody Ekstrom, Dorian Paskowitz, John Elwell, and others.

Windansea is also known for The Surf Shack, a historical landmark built in 1947 by returning World War II surfers - Ekstrom, Okey, and Fred Kenyon.

On December 24, 2015, The Surf Shack was destroyed by a huge swell but rebuilt six months later by a dedicated group of Windansea locals.

For better and for worse, Windansea is part of the history of surfing. The spot took the life of Bob Simmons in 1954 but also saw surfers wearing Nazi uniforms and riding a local storm sewer just for fun.

In 1963, former high-school teacher Chuck Hasley founded the Windansea Surf Club.

The surf club had famed members like Mike Hynson, Butch Van Artsdalen, Rusty Miller, Joey Cabell, and Skip Frye were some of the first members.

In the same year, Michael Dormer and Lee Teacher sculpted Hot Curl, a statue made out of cement and placed near The Surf Shack.

The six-foot beach bum holds a beer and stares at the waves.

Unlike what most people may think, it did not weigh 400 pounds or even close. Actually, it was hollow.

Teacher made it using a colander for the face/nose, a bushel basket for the stomach, a mop for hair, and other materials.

The whole thing was on a hollow frame made of wire, with rebar in the legs. Then, Lee Teacher coated it with cement or plaster.

The statue weighed well under 200 pounds - probably more like 150. It was carried down from the parking lot and installed in a cement base.

Hot Curl really wasn't all that heavy. It was easy for two people to carry, and Teacher was not a very strong or big guy.

In 1967, pop artist Andy Warhol shot his "San Diego Surf" film at Windansea and confirmed the spot as one of the most iconic surf breaks in Southern California.