Installation and legality
The piece was installed on a 10 square-foot concrete wall on a rail bridge in the City of Encinitas. Dressed as construction workers, Mark Patterson and longtime friend Bob Nichols installed the mosaic clandestinely in about two hours on the afternoon of April 22, 2011 . It was covertly installed in Encinitas, California (Earth Day/Good Friday).
As the piece was installed without prior permission, the piece was considered to be graffiti. $2,000 was spent by officials for an art consultant to review how best to remove it without destroying it. During that process, they discovered - underneath the glass - part of Mark Patterson's name. He soon came forward and admitted to being the mosaic's creator.
Patterson was fined $500 by the City, and at the City's demand, paid approximately $6,000 to a local contractor to remove the mosaic from the train bridge wall. The mosaic came down in about 90 minutes, with minimal damage. The City allowed Patterson to reclaim the mosaic.
While some members of the Catholic and Latino communities found it offensive, others identify with it as symbol of their Mexican heritage. The local Catholic priest was fond of the artwork, and even asked that a local church be able to display it.
Benefactors in other cities, including Solana Beach and Imperial Beach, offered to take the mosaic and install it in their locales. While the mosaic was still up, local merchants in downtown Encinitas reported a 20% spike in revenues due to the number of visitors to the City coming specifically to see the mosaic.
The state believed that the mosaic could violate the separation in the constitution between state and church. As a result, the state denied the request of putting the Surfing Madonna at the entrance of Moonlight Beach State Park.
For a period of time the mosaic was on display on an exterior wall at Cafe Ipe, next door to Surfy Surfy, in Leucadia, California, north of its original location.
The mosaic is now out of storage and back in public view. It has been reinstalled in Encinitas directly across the street from its original location now called Surfing Madonna Park at Leucadia Pizzeria, on the corner of Highway 101 and Encinitas Blvd.
The Surfing Madonna Oceans Project raised $50,000 for the Encinitas Community in 2013 with their 1st Annual Surfing Madonna "Save the Ocean" 5K/10K Beach Run/Walk. In 2014 they set up a brick paver project www.surfingmadonna.org and will have their 2nd annual run/walk in hopes of raising $100,000 for the community. 
- Payton, Mari (June 10, 2011). "Surfing Madonna Artist: "It's a Gift"". NBC San Diego.
- Surfing Madonna mosaic draws mass following. Associated Press. BakersfieldNow.com. 07-06-2011.
- Surfing Madonna mosaic in Southern California draws mass following. Julie Watson. Associated Press. Oakland Tribune. 07-06-2011.
- Hello, Guest. "Surfing Madonna removed; no damage | UTSanDiego.com". Signonsandiego.com. Retrieved 2012-02-13.
- "'Surfing Madonna' mosaic in Encinitas removed - latimes.com". Latimesblogs.latimes.com. 2011-06-23. Retrieved 2012-02-13.
- Local Latinos, Catholics split on 'Surfing Madonna'. Ernesto Lopez. North County Times.
- Whitlock,Jared,"Surfing Madonna finds new home on Encinitas Boulevard", "The Coast News",October 16, 2013
- Apr 14, 2014. "Surfing Madonna foundation trying to raise $100,000 for the community - 10News.com KGTV ABC10 San Diego". 10news.com. Retrieved 2014-04-17.