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5 Cool Facts About Pismo Beach

Today you know Pismo Beach as Your Wine and Waves Destination, with the classiest pier and the most beautiful beach on the coast. There have been major changes in Pismo over time, and one of the biggest is the growth of a world-class wine industry about 20 minutes away.

But Pismo has a long, fun history. Here’s 5 things you may not have known:

  1. Bugs Bunny had a hard time finding Pismo Beach, as you can see in this YouTube clip. It’s pretty obvious that the cartoon was made in the 1950’s, when people flocked to Pismo for the clams. In any case, if you keep your head out of the sand, you won’t have any problem finding us!
  2. As Bugs knew, Pismo Beach was known as the “Clam Capital of the World.” Local lore has it you could stick a special 6-tined fork into the sand and grab more than one of the big, tasty Pismo clams at a time. The truth is that by the 1950’s the only way you could harvest clams was as a recreational fisher. The commercial industry was banned in 1949 after taking over 6 million pounds off the beach in the previous 30+ years, using heavy tractors to expose clams at industrial scale. Of course, humans are not the only creature to love these mollusks: Sea otters, which expanded into the Pismo area in the early 1970’s, need to consume 80 clams per day to maintain body weight. The poor immobile clams don’t stand a chance.
  3. Speaking of ‘Pismo’, the name given to the special breed of clams (and the beach) is derived from the Chumash word ‘pismu’ meaning tar. As we wrote in a previous post, there are significant deposits of oil off the central coast, and that’s why you see the big oil platforms in the channel between Santa Barbara and the offshore islands. Sometimes this oil naturally seeps into the sea, or washes up on the beach. Pismu Beach?
  4. The Chumash who named the beach lived nearby, in locations that have long been covered over by modern towns and farms. These villages were numerous but small, probably composed of related families who sought spouses from neighboring villages. The historic placenames we have for a few of these right around Pismo Beach are Sepjato, Chmou, Chiliquini, and of course, Pismu.
  5. In our world, what could be more classic Californian than surfing? The Pismo Beach Surf Shop that you can visit today was the first surf shop on the Central Coast. It now offers gear the early surfers didn’t dream of, but its heart and connection to the surfing lifestyle is unchanged. In case you have never known a surfer, you need to understand that it is a lifelong passion. Surfers age, but they don’t quit surfing.

Come to Pismo to discover some facts of your own. You won’t have to dig too deeply. That’s all folks!

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