Americans celebrate the 4th of July to commemorate U.S. independence from British rule in 1776. But why is it known for fireworks, barbeques and hot dogs?Some say it started with a letter written by John Adams to his wife on July 2, 1776…“The day will be most memorable in the history of America.I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.”

So where am I going with this?Well, I always like to keep a theme to our messages and include a morsel of surf history or trivia.So, in an effort to recognize Independence Day and somehow tie it to surfing, I looked into the old surf term “hotdogging.”Hot dogs are about as 4th of July as fireworks…in fact, the Coney Island hot dog eating contest can be traced back to 1916!

While the Free Dictionary’s primary definition of hot dog is “a frankfurter,” the second one says, “One who performs showy, often dangerous stunts, as in skiing or surfing.”Kind of interesting that the dictionary calls out surfing!Matt Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing is more specific to our sport, describing hotdogging as a “quick and flashy style of surfing, generally limited to small waves.”

Hotdogging was a popular term in the ‘50s and ‘60s, used to describe a style of surfing that included moves like the head dip, the spinner (not to be confused with the 360), Mickey Munoz’s quasimoto, the headstand and the fin first takeoff. I remember watching Mike Purpus pull off a perfect fin first takeoff in a contest at Pismo Beach in ’68 or ‘69.I also remember thinking, “does that guy know that the fin is supposed to be behind him?”It didn’t take me long to figure out that he did it on “purpus” (sorry, couldn’t resist).Mike was a top five competitor in the men’s division of the U.S. Championships those years, so guess who the kook was for even thinking he didn’t know what he was doing!The stuff one remembers…

Guys like John Paia were doing spinners, headstands, and even somersaults at Waikiki as early as the 1930s, but many think hotdogging began in the mid-‘50s with the “Little Man on Wheels,” Dewey Weber.“Pig” boards - which Dale Velzy is credited with developing – were more maneuverable than the Malibu chip designs that preceded them, and the exceptionally athletic Weber took advantage with his quick, aggressive style.Last week I called Shea Weber, the late Dewey Weber’s son, and asked him to help me understand his dad’s take on hotdogging.Shea told me that the flashy tricks like spinners and headstands weren’t really Dewey’s way.Rather, his was “a ‘50s and ‘60s version of high performance surfing.I truly believe he was the first high performance surfer. Every move he made had a purpose. Spinners and headstands had no purpose.Turning had purpose, going to the nose had purpose, a floater had purpose.”

It seems each generation has it’s own set of hotdogging maneuvers, and a unique term to define the style.Somehow I turned Independence Day into hot dogs, and hot dogs into the classic surf term “hotdogging.”Kind of a stretch, but the message here is simply, happy 4th of July from Last Wave, respect the ocean, and enjoy the rest of your summer!


Ted Rich

Last Wave Originals