Jan 19

Surf Wagons: Icons of Beach Culture

Surf Wagons: The Icons of Beach Culture

It is a common visual in beach movies and surf oriented photos to see some variation of the traditional surfer style wagon. These vehicles were originally designed and marketed as a family vehicle, much like the minivans of today. Somewhere along the way wave riders realized that these were more than perfect transportation for accommodating the size and weight of a surfboard. Thanks to the roomy interiors, there was also lots of space for gear, friends – or garbage from grab-and-go burritos that fueled an early morning session. Reliable vehicles that were easy to acquire have become the preference for surfers of all ages and in all parts of the world.

0618 1952 Buick Eight Super Estate Woody Wagon

The Woody Wagon
This wagon with the wood side panels, or wood grain sticker as they evolved, are what is typically pictured when the term “surf wagon” is uttered. They came on the scene in the 1930’s and were readily embraced by early surfers. Ford, Nash and Chrysler were among some of the better-known companies who produced a version of the Woody in limited numbers. Many companies stopped production on their original wood trimmed models but these vehicles continued to have influence over new models all the way up to the year 2000 release of the Chrysler PT Cruiser and in 2010 the Chevrolet Spark was introduced with the optional “wood panel” kit.

Retour dans le passé

The VW Westfalia
In the time when peace and free love reigned supreme, especially for those who had access to some mind-bending substances, the VW Westfalia became popular with surfers and hippies…and hippie surfers. The Westphalia offered an even more spacious interior than the Woody and better privacy for “hitting it” after a day of hitting the waves. More often than not, these mini-buses were more than just vehicles; they were campers and even full time homes with no fixed address. It was customary for one to demonstrate their artistic gifts by painting and decorating their Westfalia both inside and out.

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Big Wheels
As time progressed so did the face of surfer transportation. The Woody’s and VW buses gave way to a new generation and while some held on to tradition others moved on to 4wd SUV’s. When introduced, the Toyota 4runner quickly became a popular choice due to both its price and dependability. In Japan, the 4Runner was sold under the name “The Surf”.

As the scene continues to develop and progress, younger generations are leaving their mark on the transportation timeline. Slammed four cylinder trucks such as Mazda’s, and Chevrolet S-10’s were seen more and more frequently in beach lots due to their affordability. The standard throughout the years has simply been “by any means necessary”. When it is a beautiful morning and the waves are rolling in, the last thing you want to be doing is looking for a ride or running toward the surf after your ride breaks down.


Not a wagon by any means, there is one more four-wheeler that deserves to be mentioned in the category of “ways to get ye to the waves”. Of course, it is the long board. By surfers, for surfers, it really does not get any better than that…and you get to build some killer legs!

Writer Biography
This is a Guest Post by Nate Miller. Occasional guest poster on car repairing and full time car enthusiast. Nate currently represents PartsGeek the best source online to find automotive parts & supplies.