The Inertia Health Editor

Shorts were short, bikinis were high, and the only thing bolder than the vibrant colors everywhere was the groovy people who wore them. Southern California in the ’80s was arguably the epicenter of surf culture. From the eccentric surfing pros to the cult classic films such as Big Wednesday, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and North Shore, the sport achieved unparalleled commercial attention. Soon afterward, everyone was rocking flashy colors, reflective sunnies, and zinked noses. And if you didn’t, then you were like, totally not cool. Here are the ten best trends of the 1980s.

1. Zinka Sunscreen

Of course the king of cool Spicoli was rockin' the zinka.

If Spicoli was rockin’ it, then you know it was cool…

Long before there was Vertra, Shisheido, or any of that fancy stuff, there was Zinka. The thick, chalky sunscreen started in plain white, but by the ’80s, the company produced nearly every color of the rainbow. Zinka burst onto the Southern California surf scene and became the mark of the surfer. Surfers and beachgoers alike used the sunscreen to complement the bright boards and bikinis of their era. Zinka is still around today and it’s still making people look cool as hell.

2. Neon Wetsuits

You got to stand out somehow.

You have to stand out somehow.

No self-respecting pro would be caught dead in a plain black wetsuit. The ’80s saw some of the brightest and boldest wetsuits in recent surf history. To stand out in the water you had to wear color or else you would be written off as just another average Joe. The most popular hues of neon were yellow, green, pink, and orange. Surprisingly, they’re making a comeback.

3. Reflective Sunglasses

To not own a pair of reflective Oakleys is social suicide.

To not own a pair of reflective Oakleys was social suicide.

The ’80s were all about being bold. Naturally, sunglasses followed. Big lenses with plenty of color and reflection for added boldness was the rule. The future of surfing was so bright, people had to wear shades.

4. Boardshorts

Cool as a cucumber, baby. Photo: Warriors of Radness

Cool as a cucumber, baby. Photo: Warriors of Radness

Short shorts were the cat’s pajamas in the ’80s, and this attitude carried over into men’s swimwear. Surf trunks during this time were characteristically bright and tight. Trunks had relaxed a bit from the ultra-tight boardies of the ’60s and ’70s, but they still were much shorter than the baggy style that was so prevalent in the 90s.

5. Colored Boards

Surfing and art went hand in hand. Boards were bright and featured loud patterns and color fades. They sought attention much like pretty much everything else in the 80s. Neon made its way into the surfboard color palette, but conventional colors were used as well. From checker print to geometric shapes, the board art reflected the quirkiness and eccentricity of the ’80s surf culture.

6. Butts

Oh the highly admired gluteus maximus.

Oh, the highly admired gluteus maximus.

Butts were everywhere. Bikinis were cut with a high leg-line and they were pretty damn tiny in the back. Pro surfers were greeted with pretty blonds with big hair and small bikinis as they accepted their awards on the podium. The company Reef only accentuated this existing trend. Reef was created in the early ’80s, and while the company sold sandals, its marketing strategy was emphatically geared towards butt cheeks. Still, the butt remains a permanent fixture in surf culture.

7. Croakies

Don't wanna lose your favorite sunnies now, do you?

Don’t wanna lose your favorite sunnies now, do you? Photo: CatchSurf

Croakies were born at the intersection of fashion and functionality. While still popular today, croakies were essential to an ’80s getup. After all, there’s no better way to compliment your neon tank top and reflective sunglasses than with a patterned pair of croakies. Plus, a long day at the beach runs the risk of misplacing your favorite pair of sunnies.

8. Bodyboarding

Bodyboarding was cool back then.

Despite popular belief, bodyboarding was kind of cool back then.

Bodyboarding reached its peak popularity in the ’80s. The sport was taken to new levels at spots like the Wedge, and the rise of talents like Mike Stewart also drew attention to bodyboarding. The sport enjoyed both its own magazines and its own competitive professional tours. Plus, bodyboards served as a more affordable and accessible entry point to wave riding for those who couldn’t afford surfboards.

9. Hawaiian Tropic

Hawaiian Tropic promo girls. Photo: Hawaiian Tropic

Hawaiian Tropic promo girls. Photo: Hawaiian Tropic

Without the complete knowledge of the dangers overexposure to the sun, people worried less about skin cancer and more about achieving the perfect bronze. For many, Hawaiian Tropic was a key to the perfect tan. The sunscreen brand also produced famed tanning oil that was the scent of the generation. Additionally, the company put on dozens of bikini contests in conjunction with surf events that kept the brand close to the surfing culture.

10. Visors

The visor became increasingly popular in the ’80s because of its ability to shield your face from the sun without compromising one’s flowing locks. It was sophisticated, yet simple. Bold, yet understated. While not everyone could pull of the visor, it certainly made its presence known within the ’80s scene. Not to mention, your dad probably still wears one.


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