The Santa Cruz Surf Museum, the first museum on the West Coast solely dedicated to surfing, will celebrate its 25th anniversary this Friday, 5/27. Sitting atop Point Santa Cruz with a spectacular view of Monterey Bay and overlooking the legendary Steamer Lane surfing hotspot, this little museum opened its doors in June 1986. It is located in the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse at Lighthouse Point, a lighthouse built in 1967 as a memorial to Mark Abbott, who died at 18 while body surfing at Pleasure Point and whose ashes reside inside the lighthouse.
The museum features photographs, surfboards, and videos tracing over 100 years of surfing history, particularly in Santa Cruz. Artifacts inside the museum tell the story of three Hawaiian princes who were seen surfing waves at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River in July of 1885 – the first documentation of surfing on the American mainland. The story is that the princes, Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ ole, Edward Abel Keli’iahonui and David La’amea Kawananakoa, were on the mainland attending a military academy in San Mateo and spent the summer in Santa Cruz with a woman named Antoinette Marie Swan, who was a former maid for the Hawaiian royalty.
It’s a wonderful chronological look at surf culture, which reflects and responds to popular culture. Photographs chronicle the evolution of surfing culture from idyllic summers spent at the beach in the 1930s and 1940s, through the hipster beach party scene of 1950s, the surf rock 1960s, the “soul surfing” 1970s, the neon 1980s, and the rebirth of classic long-board riding in the 1990s.
Examples of surfboards from each era are on display, ranging from redwood “planks” to examples of early foam boards and fiberglass boards to modern high-tech designs. Examples of early wetsuits are also on display.
The celebration is planned for 11 a.m. Friday and is free. It is sponsored by the Santa Cruz Surfing Club Preservation Society and Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation. The Santa Cruz Surfing Club Preservation Society will sell limited edition 25th anniversary T-shirts and all of the proceeds will go to keeping the museum’s doors open. For more information, check out the site: http://www.santacruzsurfingmuseum.org.