Skip to content
Businessweek
Politics

How Surfing Became the Key to Orange County’s Political Future

California’s redistricting efforts are under way, and different “communities of interest”—from the surf industry to Little Saigon’s nail salon workers—are vying for power.

relates to How Surfing Became the Key to Orange County’s Political Future
Illustration: Madison Ketcham for Bloomberg Businessweek

“Gavin Don’t Surf” became a rallying cry of last month’s failed effort to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom from office, as frustrated surfers attempted to punish him for closing beaches during the pandemic. Now surfing may play an outsize role in the state’s 10-year redistricting process.

The pastime has long defined the carefree culture and tourist economy of Orange County in Southern California, and tinged the area’s politics: Republican Dana Rohrabacher, an enthusiastic surfer, represented the coastal 48th Congressional District for three decades before being wiped out in the “blue wave” election of 2018. (Michelle Steel won the district back for the GOP in 2020.)