Too Soon for an Official Surf Museum? The Museums, a Foundation, and the Senator from Oceanside

Depending on who you ask, State Senator Bill Morrow's (R-Oceanside) proposal to designate the surfing museum in Oceanside as the "official museum of surfing history, art, culture, heritage, and memorabilia for the State of California," is either a way to raise public awareness for all surf museums in the state, or nothing more than a mean bit of political maneuvering.

Surf Museum Websites

California Surf Museum
Surfing Heritage Foundation
International Surfing Museum
Santa Cruz Surfing Museum

Seen in a positive light, the Senator's endorsement of the California Surf Museum in Oceanside will "support all [surf] museums," according to Aaron Byzak, a member of Senator Morrow's staff. This support, Byzak said, will come from the State Department of Parks and Recreation and their trained curators who have the expertise to properly maintain items of historical significance. The Senator and his staff will be working "behind the scenes to help all the museums," Byzak noted.

Still, the question remains: if one museum is given official status, how are the others going to benefit? "We'll share our stuff anytime," Jane Schmauss of the Oceanside museum stated, also indicating that she would like to see exhibits rotate between the different museums that are located in San Clemente, Huntington Beach, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz. "This is not a debate between the museums," Schmauss continued, "it's something the media is doing—things are pretty cool." Senator Morrow and his staff were also "a little surprised by the attention given to it by the media," Aaron Byzak said.

While the Oceanside contingent (Senator Morrow and the California Surf Museum) considers official status nothing more than an honorary designation, some of the other surf-history institutions are less sanguine. Jonathan Abrams, in an article for the Los Angeles Times, quoted State Assemblyman Tom Harman of Huntington Beach as saying, "I don't think there's any reason for them to have done that. We are known as 'Surf City.' It seems like we should be the one to have the official museum if there's going to be one."

Another facet to the debate (whether fomented by the media or not) is the question of who is in the position to most accurately, and thoroughly, portray the history of surfing. With a long-term vision of establishing a world-class facility, possibly as part of the proposed Great Park in Irvine museum complex, The Surfing Heritage Foundation (which has the world's most extensive and historically significant collection of surfboards) has stated: "It is not currently appropriate for Senator Morrow to select one museum within his jurisdiction over another when all are engaged in the same or similar effort."

What the Oceanside museum stands to gain in its official status is unclear. Aaron Byzak of Senator Morrow's staff insists there is no monetary advantage to having official status, saying that that "is definitely not our intent." He added that, "as far as the Senator is concerned [the Oceanside museum] is the California museum." Steve Pezman, publisher of The Surfer's Journal, sees the squabble in the papers as an embarrassment to surfing: "It's kind of a silly mistake," he said of the proposal to grant official status. "The state and one politician don't know enough about surfing." He added that the question of which museum gets official status is "a joke to most surfers."

Whether seen as a joke or not, the proposal to grant the California Surf Museum in Oceanside the status of official museum of surfing for the State of California will be set in law once passed. The effort to preserve and enshrine the culture and history of surfing has so far been a collaborative one, and surf museum curators are hopeful that it will continue to be.

Contact Senator Bill Morrow's office at: 2755 Jefferson St. Suite 101 Carlsbad, CA 92008 (760) 434-7930

Read the introduced Bill, SCR 69:

Italicized text includes proposed additions to law or the previous version of the bill. Struck text includes proposed deletions to law or the previous version of the bill.

INTRODUCED BY Senator Morrow JANUARY 13, 2006 Relative to the California Surf Museum.

SCR 69, as amended, Morrow California Surf Museum. This measure would recognize the California Surf Museum in Oceanside, California as the official museum of surfing history, art, culture, heritage, and memorabilia for the state State of California.

Fiscal committee: no.

WHEREAS, The California Surf Museum, which is located in the City of Oceanside, presents a varied picture of the many facets of surfing, and until the California Surf Museum opened, very little had been done in an organized way to preserve the history of surfing, its boards, or its fascinating artifacts; and

WHEREAS, At a time when the historical roots of many beach communities are rapidly changing or disappearing, the California Surf Museum is rising to the challenge by providing a strong link between the ocean, the many ocean sports, and the lifestyles of the community; and

WHEREAS, The California Surf Museum serves as an international repository and resource center on the lifestyle sport of surfing through capturing, preserving, and chronicling its art, culture, and heritage for the education and enjoyment of future generations; and

WHEREAS, The California Surf Museum has been actively locating, collecting, documenting, and preserving historic surfing and surfing-related artifacts and memorabilia for nearly 20 years, and presents that information to the public through a highly researched series of rotating exhibits, and makes that data readily available to all who inquire; and

WHEREAS, The California Surf Museum has photographs, surfboards, and blueprints of classic surfboard shapes, and has in its permanent collection the earliest documented surfboard in California, other vintage classics from solid wood to fiberglass, to the most modern state-of-the-art surfboards of today and related paraphernalia; and

WHEREAS, The California Surf Museum has received consistent support from the City of Oceanside since its arrival in 1991, serves as an important anchor for the city’s rapidly revitalizing central business district, logs in more than 20,000 visitors per year in a classic California surf city that is home to a healthy 30-million dollar-plus surf industry, and hosts numerous highly rated surfing competitions throughout the year; and

WHEREAS, The goals of the California Surf Museum include securing a permanent seaside location which will enhance the museum’s objectives of serving as an attractive, accessible visitor destination, developing interactive displays which capture and portray surfing as a lifestyle, highlighting surfing’s pioneering legends and their equipment, art and music, and providing the casual visitor, serious student, research fellow, and veteran surfer with an equally rewarding entertainment and educational experience; and

WHEREAS, The California Surf Museum is listed in hundreds of national and international travel guides throughout the world, recognition which is reflected in the signatures that grace the pages of the museum’s guestbook, and has a prominent entry in the renowned Encyclopedia of Surfing; and

WHEREAS, The California Surf Museum has, over its 20-year history, partnered with numerous state, city, and private agencies, including the recent exhibit at the State Fair in Sacramento to the upcoming display at the San Diego Maritime Museum, assisting with displays at colleges and universities, hotel lobbies, historical societies, and traveling exhibits, and coordinating efforts with subjects ranging from life-guarding to skateboarding to classic automobiles, clothing, and other related aspects of pop culture; and

WHEREAS, The California Surf Museum continues to attract sustained support from community, industry, and individual sources in order to create and maintain a professionally managed, fiscally sound organization that is respected by its community and within the nonprofit sector; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate of the State of California, the Assembly thereof concurring, That the California Surf Museum is hereby and within the nonprofit sector; and

WHEREAS, California’s surfing history is deeply interwoven in the fabric of our rich and vibrant culture, and is reflected by the many surfing museums located along its coastal shoreline that cumulatively contribute to the invaluable preservation and restoration of surfing memorabilia and artifacts and promote California’s heritage; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, by the Senate of the State of California, the Assembly thereof concurring, That the California Surf Museum is hereby recognized as the official museum of surfing history, art, culture, heritage, and memorabilia for the State of California; and be it further

Resolved, That the Secretary of the Senate transmit copies of this resolution to the author for appropriate distribution.