When entering into the Surfing Heritage And Culture Center’s (SHACC) gallery, a visual onslaught invades. It is a kaleidoscope of nearly one thousand surfboards, give or take a few that have been lent out to various museums around the globe. The SHACC has boards currently in Australia at the Metropolitan Art Museum in downtown Sydney. The organization even lent out Duke Kahanamoku memorabilia to the Smithsonian. Often described as the “Smithsonian of Surfing” itself, SHACC is much more than a museum. A panorama of boards of every size, shape, and make adorn the white walls and are found hiding in every nook and cranny. It is like a “secret garden” of surfboards. Photographs and a detailed history of the boards identify every scrape, signature, label, and famous waves ridden by the previous owner. Barry Haun, Curator and Creative Director, walks in stride pointing out the labels, history, how shapes evolved, and which boards and memorabilia will be in the auction. There is something surreal, elusive, and magical about walking through the gallery, as if every board is speaking.
Every two years, the Surfing Heritage And Culture Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving, presenting and promoting surfing’s heritage, puts on a surf auction. The California Gold Vintage Surf Auction will take place on September 26, 2015, at the Culver City Veterans Memorial Museum. The silent auction will be held from 12:00pm-3:30pm. The live auction will take place from 4:00pm-7:00pm. Many of the legends of the surfing world will be in attendance, a roster of Greg Noll and Mickey Munoz, to name a few.
A portion of the proceeds benefit SHACC, and their ongoing efforts to preserve the last 100 years of surfing heritage through the fulfillment of a library archive, historical board procurement, and countless photographs and memorabilia. Another portion of the proceeds will benefit and spread awareness for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF). In recent years, the surfing industry has taken a hard look at the close relationship between patients with the debilitating disease and the healing powers of surfing. Organizations like CFF and Mauli Ola Foundation have made great strides in using saltwater as a natural saline solution while surfing.
Fifty of the best rated boards will be on the auction block. Why is this more important than a typical fundraising event? The goal of SHACC is to protect and preserve surfing. That is made apparent when taking a tour of their profound library. Dick Metz, Founder of SHACC, has a library archive on surfing that rivals many leading institutions. He calls it the “Fort Knox of surfing.” The SHACC is in need of funding to pay their employees in order to keep up with all of the archiving. Additionally, many of their boards are donated. However, some of the boards are “tagged” as Dick Metz describes it. If there is a historical board that SHACC is potentially interested in but the owner cannot afford to donate it, he attempts to get those to the auction. Then, they follow the next owner and see if they would be willing to eventually donate it to the SHACC gallery. Paul Strauch, Executive Director at SHACC and former member of the Duke Kahanamoku Surf Team, makes another argument for preservation:
The most important thing to a surfer is the surfboard that he rides. Surfing, first of all, is a very personal experience. It’s only you. It’s not a team sport. You don’t have to depend on anybody else. It’s you enjoying nature and the thrill of utilizing nature’s forces, waves particularly, and the ocean to travel and traverse the reefs on them– and the sensory experience is unbelievable, and it’s all yours. I think that’s what’s made it so attractive to so many people who have had the opportunity to try it, wherever they may be. […] My dad said you should always flow in harmony with the sea.”
Metz explained how he hitchhiked across the world for nearly three years: “It took me three years. I went to Tahiti and Australia, India and Africa. I was the first American to surf in most of those places. So, when I came home (I left here in ’58 and came back in ’61.), I showed my little photographs to Hobie and Bruce [Brown of Endless Summer] and all my friends. I finally got Bruce then to follow my trip; of course he did it in six weeks on an airplane and stayed with the guys I’d lived with.” He went on to explain that while Hawaii is where surfing began, modern surfing evolved from Southern California. The materials like balsa wood, fiber glass, and eventually foam really foraged from there. He told stories of how he initially collected boards from the Hobie shop. Near Dana Point, guys would get ready to toss their old redwood boards to the dump, and Metz would take them off their hands. He began storing them at the Hobie shop. He relayed: “That’s why we think we have to preserve that, not just for Orange County, but for the world to witness and get involved with. If we don’t, it’ll just disappear, and that’s what happened with a lot of the stuff. Guys die and their kid doesn’t want an old redwood surfboard and he throws it in the dump, and there goes the whole history of the thing.” He proposes a rather convincing argument. He also insinuates that preserving history will depict how surfing has progressed. He discussed all the old surf spots that they surfed with a single fin redwood. He explained that with more aerodynamic surfboards, kids can surf almost everywhere. Metz explained the gallery’s succinct ability to document this evolution: “When you walk around there and see, in my lifetime, my 109 pound redwood–no fin, that thick [makes gesture] to what’s used today… It’s pretty amazing. There’s no other sport that’s evolved to this degree this quickly.”
The boards all tell a story. For example, the board from Marge Calhoun’s victory at the Makaha International in 1958 is being auctioned off. Wife to Dick Metz’s longtime friend Hevs McClelland, Marge is often given the title “the matriarch of surfing.” Metz explained that much of her publicity was owed to her jovial and notorious husband. It is not the walls that talk in the SHACC. It is the boards, photographs, and dusty books. It is the surf breaks and people made only identifiable by men old enough to recall what the beach looked like before condominiums sprouted up in the skyline. Metz reflects: “That’s what happens to these pictures. Somebody holds them up to the light, and they can’t figure out where it is; so, they toss it away. But, it has meaning to somebody. We try and save all that. That’s what we spend all day doing.” The SHACC is Google archiving meets facial recognition software but on a much more personalized and magical level.
For those who cannot attend the auction, but wish to donate to this amazing cause: http://store.surfingheritage.org/donations.asp Memberships are also available for purchase.