During the 1990s, the mainstream media at last came to view surfing as a permanent cultural fixture. No formal announcement, or single event, marked this shift. But more or less all at once, newspapers and magazines, novelists and documentary filmmakers, Hollywood studios and New York publishing houses – everybody seemed to decide that surfing was no longer a novelty or curiosity. The audience for surfing stories now potentially included everyone. What this meant, for the most part, was a lot more of the same old stuff. Violence and danger had always been the mainstream media’s favorite surf-tropes, and that was still true. What were the three biggest surf stories of the 1990s and early 2000s? Mark Foo’s death at Maverick’s, “surf rage” localism, and thirteen-year-old Hawaiian surfer Bethany Hamilton’s return to the water just a few weeks after a tiger shark bit off her left arm.
Yet the sport began appearing in places where it had long been conspicuously absent. Art galleries staged surfing exhibitions. Newspaper travel sections ran articles on exotic locations where good surf was the main draw. Famous surfers made the obituaries; when Mickey Dora died of pancreatic cancer in 2002, both the Los Angeles Times and the London Times published full-length notices, and smaller Dora obits ran everywhere from the Detroit Free Press to the Hartford Courant.