by Rebecca Parsons
When you visit the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center (SHACC), you walk into a piece of history. Surfboards - from massive, historic wooden boards to modern short boards - line the walls, while photos and artifacts are dispersed throughout, and the subtle aroma of surf wax fills the air.
Although surfing has a long history, dating as far back as the 1700s in Polynesia, it wasn’t until 2005 that SHACC was founded in San Clemente. Dick Metz, a well- traveled surfer and owner of a number of Hobie surf shops, collected significant surfing artifacts throughout his career and displayed them in his local shops. Recognizing the importance of the artifacts and the stories they contained, he combined his collection with Spencer Croul’s and together they founded SHACC in an effort to preserve surfing’s history.
Now, the collection contains over 700 boards, four of which belonged to or were shaped by Duke Kahanamoku (the father of modern surfing). Balsa wood boards from Bob Simmons, Joe Quigg, and Matt Kivlin, Gerry Lopez’s Pipeline board, two George Greenough spoons, some Pat Curren guns, and a number of Hobie boards can be seen there.
In addition to boards, the collection also contains other noteworthy surfing memorabilia including early Rick Griffin artwork, Miki Dora’s leash, and Bruce Brown’s camera used to film The Endless Summer. SHACC also houses an extensive photo library containing over 100,000 photos from a number of personal and professional photo collections. The collection of boards and photos is ever growing as artifacts are donated or willed to SHACC by collectors and families around the world.
Boards are arranged in a circle around the room, with the oldest boards at the starting point and the newest at the end, providing a visual representation of the progression of surfboard shapes and materials through time. The oldest board in the collection is a 1904 cedar plank board and the newest is the modern short board as well as a foil board. As you navigate the room, there are placards and photos describing the boards, who they belonged to, and what they were made from.
In the center of the room is a display that is rotated out four times a year and has included exhibits such as “Trailblazers in Women’s Surfing,” “Photo Archives,” “What’s in Your Surfboard?,” “From Plastic to Fantastic,” and the current “Surf2Skate” display. Staff and/or volunteers are friendly and are happy to answer questions and point out key pieces in the collection.
San Onofre. Historic luau photographed by Phil Vedder.
In addition to their wonderful displays and artifacts, SHACC hosts a number of events throughout the year. Regular events include exhibit openings, surf movie premiers, book signings, ukulele lessons, concerts, surfboard collectors meeting, and cross-promotions alongside other charities. Some noteworthy events in the museum’s 13 years include the opening night party, a celebration of Duke Kahanamoku’s 125th birthday, a movie night with Laird Hamilton, Gerry Lopez, Lisa Anderson, and the Malloy brothers, the 50th anniversary celebration of The Endless Summer, and an outdoor ukulele concert with Jake Shimabukuro.
The facility is also available to be rented out for private events such as corporate meetings, weddings, and birthday parties.
SHACC is a non-profit organization funded entirely by donations from sustaining partners, member, and guests. Entrance to the museum is free but a $5 donation is suggested—a small price to pay for the incredible display within. Membership is also an option and includes a T-shirt, sticker, bar of wax, monthly newsletter, free admission to quarterly opening exhibit celebrations, and oftentimes a discount on SHACC merchandise. The museum is run by a small staff, as well as 150 volunteers, docents, committee members, and a Board of Directors.
Approximately 5,000 visitors come through the doors annually. Some are die-hard surfers, some are professors doing research, and others have never seen the ocean before, but all have a similar reaction: “Wow!”
“Doesn’t matter if the guest surfs or has never been to the beach. Doesn’t matter if they are 11-time world champ Kelly Slater, Phil Edwards, Gerry Lopez, Tom Curren, or the family from Wichita, Kansas,” says executive director Glenn Brumage of guest’s reactions, “it’s always the same, ‘We had no idea it would be this cool.’”
As both time and the sport of surfing move forward, SHACC hopes to pay tribute to the incredible history of surfing and its progression. By 2020, they plan to move to a higher traffic location at the Dana Point Harbor, but for now, they will continue inspiring guests from their current location.
“The Surfing Heritage and Culture Center exists at the intersection of surfing’s past, present and future,” says Brumage. “Our collection comes from all corners of the globe and reflects the spirit of exploration and adventure that is core to surfing’s ethos. Through it all we celebrate what it means to be a surfer and why surfing has captured hearts and minds since the first time someone rode a wave. Do us and yourself a solid, come visit and support surfing history and culture. You’ll be glad you did.”b
Surfing Heritage Foundation
110 Calle Iglesia, San Clemente
Phone: (949) 388-0313