Surfer statues: public art sculptures that celebrate the sport of surfing | Photo: Shutterstock

Surfing plays a significant social, economic, and cultural role in the development of many coastal communities.

With its intimate connection with the ocean and its close relationship with art, lifestyle, and health, surfing has become a key pillar for thousands of small villages, medium-sized towns, and even large cities.

In the heart of it all are the waves, an infinite resource that becomes scarce when quality is the aim.

Communities have their heroes, too. And sometimes, there's nothing better than a statue to honor the life and career of a surfer champion.

Surfing changes the world, and surfers are agents of impact and opportunity.

With the turn of the millennium and the popularization of the surfing way of life, the number of surfer statues and monuments popping up across the world has significantly increased.

Some of them could very well be in a museum; others can be a little controversial.

Take a look at the world's most famous and photographed life-size statues and sculptures depicting surfers and wave riders.

"To Honor Surfing" | Lighthouse Point, Santa Cruz, California

To Honor Surfing: Lighthouse Point, Santa Cruz, California | Photo: Shutterstock

The Santa Cruz Surfer statue is one of the most famous public landmarks in town.

The 18-foot tall bronze monument was erected in May 1992 to celebrate the passing of Bill Lidderdale, Jr., one of the original members of the Santa Cruz Surf Club.

It cost $60,000. The plaque reads: "This monument is dedicated to all surfers - past, present, and future."

The iconic statue was a cooperative creation of classical sculptor Thomas Marsh (the surfer design), Brain Curtis (the base), David Stewart, and Bill Grace (longboard).


"Kelly Slater Statue" | Cocoa Beach, Florida, USA

Kelly Slater Statue: Cocoa Beach, Florida, USA | Photo: Tasha Drazich

The statue honors Cocoa Beach's hometown hero, Kelly Slater.

The artwork sculpted by Tasha Drazich is located at N Orlando Avenue, near Sunflower Street, 200 yards away from the white sand beach.

The model's pose represents one of Slater's signature moves and highlights the importance of his contributions to the local community and the entire Space Coast.

According to the author, the sculpture is also a tribute to all East Coast surfers, past and present.

The 9.5-foot-high bronze statue was unveiled in November 2010.


"Kelly Slater Statue" | Cocoa Beach, Florida, USA

Kelly Slater Statue: Cocoa Beach, Florida, USA | Photo: Shutterstock

The Floridian surfing champion has another statue in his hometown.

The sculpture depicts Kelly Slater performing a top turn off the lip of a wave and was mounted in front of the iconic Ron Jon Surf Shop.

The 21-foot sand-and-resin replica of the local surfing legend was installed in 1996.


Unknown Title | Cocoa Beach, Florida, USA

Unknown Title: Cocoa Beach, Florida, USA | Photo: RDS Industrial

This 25-foot tall, marine-grade aluminum surfer statue aims to build a bridge between Cocoa Beach's ocean and space culture.

It was designed by a local resident, Henry Lund, and weighs 800 pounds.

The sculpture was dedicated in 2019 and can be seen in front of the Cocoa Beach Parking Garage.


"The Spirit of Imperial Beach" | Imperial Beach, California, USA

The Spirit of Imperial Beach: Imperial Beach, California, USA | Photo: Shutterstock

The 18-foot tall bronze statue depicts a surfer holding a surfboard at his side with a little boy and a little girl accompanying him and riding a fish.

It is located at an oceanside pedestrian plaza just north of Imperial Beach Pier.

It was designed by master sculptor James A. Wasil and was dedicated in January 2009. It cost $150,000 and was funded by the San Diego Port District's art program.

The monumental landmark honors Imperial Beach's surfing and sandcastle-building history.

The work also includes detailed images of shells, sandcastles, and crabs, symbolizing the unity between land and sea and the ties between young and old.


"Ultimate Challenge" | Huntington Beach, California, USA

Ultimate Challenge: Huntington Beach, California, USA | Photo: Shutterstock

The sculpture was originally created by Edmond Shumpert in 1976 and depicts an unclothed surfer riding a wave.

It is locally known as "Nude Dude" and "Naked Surfer" and has always been a controversial artwork.

Despite public suggestions to add a pair of pants, city officials rejected all proposals, even though public nudity is outlawed at Surf City USA.

The statue, which is the inaugural member of the Huntington Beach Public Art Program, is one of the most photographed monuments of surfing in California.


"Magic Carpet Ride" | Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, USA

Magic Carpet Ride: Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, USA | Photo: Creative Commons

The six-foot bronze sculpture mounted on a granite base was developed by Matthew Antichevich.

It cost approximately $120,000 and was dedicated in 2007.

The artist's idea was to depict a surfer performing a backside floater, but there was not enough funding to cover the additional wave component.

The local surfing community considers it an unrealistic depiction of a surfer, with the feet positioned incorrectly and the hands' odd appearance.

For many, the result is a beginner surfer with a strange stance, as if he is about to wipe out.

Its derogatory nickname is "The Cardiff Kook." Pranksters continue to dress the surfer in various attire and costumes.


"Duke Kahanamoku Statue" | Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Duke Kahanamoku Statue: Honolulu, Hawaii, USA | Photo: Shutterstock

The cast bronze figure was sculpted by Jan Gordon Fisher and erected in 1990 at Kalakaua Ave, in Honolulu, between Waikiki Beach and Kuhio Beach.

It's one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Hawaiian islands.

The nine-foot sculpture features the father of modern surfing with open arms, welcoming all tourists and visitors.

Kahanamoku is surrounded by honorary Hawaiian spears and dedication plaques and has a giant surfboard behind his back.

Hawaii's official Ambassador of Aloha statue is often adorned with fresh, colorful leis.


"Surfer on a Wave" | Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Surfer on a Wave: Honolulu, Hawaii, USA | Photo: Shutterstock

This life-size statue of a surfer riding a wave pays tribute to Hawaii's surfing heritage.

It was created by sculptor Robert Pashby and erected in June 2003.


"Makua and Kila" | Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Makua and Kila: Honolulu, Hawaii, USA | Photo: Shutterstock

The idea for this cast-patinated bronze and stone statue was based on a children's story by Fred Van Dyke, which honors the Hawaiian values of love and respect for Ohana (family) and the ocean.

The public art landmark was sculpted by Holly Young.

It was installed at Kūhiō Beach in 2001 and shows a young bodyboarder (Makua) riding a wave alongside a monk seal (Kila).


"Veado" | Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal

Veado: Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal | Photo: Shutterstock

A surfer with a deer's head installed on top of the iconic Nazaré cliff overlooks the legendary canyon waves.

The statue of marble, bronze, and weathering steel, was created by Portuguese sculptor Adália Alberto.

It honors the legend of Nazaré and the town's XXL waves. It is 6.4 meters tall and weighs 10 tonnes.


"The Guardian" | Ribeira d'Ilhas, Ericeira, Portugal

The Guardian: Ribeira d'Ilhas, Ericeira, Portugal | Photo: Shutterstock

The sculpture by José Queiroz aims to inspire surfers and citizens to take responsibility for preserving nature and individual health.

The artwork represents the guardian of Ericeira's World Surfing Reserve and was installed in 2017.

It is made of bronze and is currently on top of the cliff, overlooking the ocean and the waves and the world-class surf spot of Ribeira d'Ilhas.


"Fuente de Los Surfistas" | Orzán Beach, A Coruña, Spain

Fuente de Los Surfistas: Orzán Beach, A Coruña, Spain | Photo: Shutterstock

The dual-sculpture installation features abstract figures performing classic surfing maneuvers on a fountain lake-like area.

The bronze landmark is located near Orzán and Riazor, two popular nearby surf spots.

It was designed by José Castiñeiras Iglesias in 1992 to honor the local surfing community.


"El Regreso de Ícaro Con Su Ala de Surf" | Alicante, Spain

El Regreso de Ícaro Con Su Ala de Surf: Alicante, Spain | Photo: Shutterstock

The statue represents the Greek myth of Icarus through the figure of a naked man whose wings morphed into a surfboard.

The modern Icarus is walking over the calm waters of the local harbor.

The creator, Esperanza d'Ors, says it is a tribute to everyone who dares to fly and dream.

The 2.35-meter tall, cast-iron landmark was erected in 1999.


Unknown Title | Praia Mole, Florianópolis, Brazil

Unknown Title: Praia Mole, Florianópolis, Brazil | Photo: Shutterstock

This statue was created by Almir Tirelli.

In the 1990s, the landmark was supposed to be dropped by a helicopter at Praia da Joaquina.

However, an environmental lobby group forced the local authorities to stop the mounting process on the installation day.

The monument was kept in front of the artist's house for nearly ten years until the Praia Mole Hotel bought it and found a new home for it.

Today, it is one of the most popular attractions in the area.


"Estátua do Surfista" | Praia do José Menino, Santos, Brazil

Estátua do Surfista: Praia do José Menino, Santos, Brazil | Photo: Shutterstock

The sculpture shows a surfer riding a wave on top of his board mounted on a fountain lake.

The polychrome fiberglass artwork was designed by Daniel Leandro Gonzalez and installed in December 2001.

It celebrates the surfing community of Santos, Brazil's first surf city.


Unknown Title | Irpin, Ukraine

Unknown Title: Irpin, Ukraine | Photo: Shutterstock

This unusual statue can be found in the landlocked city of Irpin, in Ukraine.

It's a rusty metal landmark installed on the local riverfront promenade.

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