Since the advent of the automobile age a century ago,
the beach cruiser has become a nostalgic presence found
along ocean shorelines worldwide. The
cruiser is usually old and rusted -- and always an integral part of
the local beach and surfing culture. To those who cast
only a cursory glance, the cruiser is often seen as
more than an unwelcome eyesore. But to those who
look beyond its rusty and faded skin, the cruiser is
truly the embodiment of a unique lifestyle marked by
sun, sand, salt and surf.
If the cruiser could only speak, what a story it
would tell! Decades ago our cruiser-to-be rolled
off a far away assembly line with the shine and new car
smell that made it a prized possession. No doubt more
than one young cruiser-to-be drove along a coastal
highway and thought to itself, "When I get old
I'll never look like that!" And in the naïveté of
youth the shiny new cruiser-to-be simply turned its head
and continued down the road --
probably headed for the pleasure of a pleasant car wash
and the protected comfort of its own garage.
But change is inevitable, especially in the automobile
industry where styling and mechanical advances are a
never-ending demand. In the span of a few short
years our cruiser was no longer the newest and latest.
Indeed before long it's likely our cruiser found itself
in the hands of a second or third owner where utility
rather than the latest look became the top priority.
experienced a less pampered existence as the harsh
realities of life now took center stage.
Fast-forward a decade or two and for most cruisers life
has evolved from a world burdened with few concerns to
one focused on day-to-day survival. Routine
maintenance and regular washing, let alone an occasional
polishing, are a thing of the past. Minor dings
and emerging rust spots are ignored. The ethos becomes
"keep running and deal with this new, harsher life -- or
else". Or else the junkyard and the car crusher may be just one
Where does the classic beach cruiser come from?
Cruisers come from hills of West Virginia, the plains of
Kansas and the mountains of Colorado. They
come from the snow of Vermont, the desert sun of Arizona
and yes, the sunny shores of Florida,
California and Hawaii. Some live their entire
pre-cruiser existence without having ever inhaled a
breath of salt air. What nearly all cruisers do have in
common however, is the good fortune to have been
spotted by someone (probably a young surfer) who cared
little about looks. The job description is simple.
"Can you carry my board and myself faithfully to the
beach everyday? Will you wait patiently without
in the warm sun and then faithfully
carry us home again?" If the answer is yes, another beach cruiser is born.
Some cruisers have had incredible life experiences that
would make many of us feel our lives have been quite
mundane. For example in our print collection
you will find a Woody that carried a President and later
toured with the Beach Boys. And there is an
old Chevy cruiser that once was Elvis' favorite getaway
car and a Volkswagen cruiser that came
within a hair’s breadth of becoming a movie star.
Still another, a rusted Mustang cruiser whose owner worked at a recording studio,
inspired a hit record. But accomplishments and
past life experiences don’t really matter very much on
the world's surfing beaches.
What defines a cruiser? The obvious things are a
surfboard rack, a generous dose of rust, duct tape (and
occasionally baling wire), bungee cords, tires and body parts that
don't match -- and of course lots of dings. But it is what
lies beneath the cracked and faded paint that really
matters. It is the character and wisdom that comes with
age as well as an appreciation for life that defines a
beach cruiser. It's not about good looks or
It's about a spirit and a special way of life. The past doesn't matter and the future
lies no further ahead than the next breaking wave.
We see character and wisdom etched in the leathery face
of an elderly person or in the facade of an old
building. That same character and wisdom are found
in the rusted and wrinkled sheet metal of the beach
cruiser, most of whom have lived longer and seen far
more of life than their younger owners. As our
beach cruiser will testify, it's not about looks and status. The young and beautiful have their time and place. But
to have survived and to be able to live one's Golden
Years parked on the sands of a sun-drenched
beach is the ultimate reward. Leisurely passing time
with fellow cruisers while your owner endlessly searches
out that perfect wave is truly Paradise – the Paradise
of being a beach cruiser.
Cruiser Art 1999-2015
(Note: The Beach Cruiser Story is included
with each VW Panorama print)