Icon Threatened By Budget Cuts

The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum sits inside the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse, a small brick structure that overlooks Steamer Lane. Outside, surfers shuffle past daily as on their way to the waves at the base of the cliffs. Inside, exhibits outline Santa Cruz's 100-plus-year surf history, chronicling the town's introduction to the sport in 1886—when three Hawaiian princes surfed the mouth of the San Lorenzo River—and continuing onward through the pre-war years, the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. Established in 1986, it's a link to the past in a town that prides itself on its longstanding devotion to the act of riding waves.

In early December, however, the Santa Cruz City Council voted to stop providing funds for the museum's operation in an attempt to trim its $7-millon budget deficit. In the wake of the decision, the council tasked the local community with the development of a plan to keep the museum open—if it so wished—and provided the public with 30 days to do so. In the weeks that followed, the museum managed to draw donations from several sources, including surf magnate Jack O'Neill, who presented the museum with a check for $4,000.

The museum's future, however, is still in doubt. According to museum director Jenifer Thomson, $20,000 is required annually to operate the facility. The Santa Cruz Surfing Club Preservation Society has offered to augment the funds that have already been raised—a short-term solution, which would provide the museum's board with enough time to develop a long-term plan for continued operation—however the city council must first approve this proposal in a vote tonight.

Check back in with Surfermag.com as this story develops. And to find out how to make a tax-deductable donation to the museum, e-mail Dan Young, the Santa Cruz Surfing Club Preservation Society's Secretary and Director of Public affairs, at dyoungpr@att.net .

Update / Jan. 14, 2008: The Santa Cruz City Council voted last night 7-0 in favor of a proposal by the Santa Cruz Surfing Club Preservation Society to help the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum remain open. The facility will continue operation through the end of the 2009 fiscal year, which concludes on June 31, due to a $10,000 donation from the Preservation Society.

Now that they've bought time, the Society will begin planning for the long-term operation and funding of the facility, a task they've effectively taken over from the city. "We know how to turn this into a self-supporting entity," says Dan Young, the secretary of the Santa Cruz Surfing Club Preservation Society. "But we're not professional curators, so we're going to need raise money so we can continue to pay the city's employees to take care of those tasks."

Several operations are already in the works to serve this end. Young is heading up the Preservation Society's arm of their fundraising organization, and the Santa Cruz chapter of Surfrider has also announced its plans to hold a fundraiser at Moe's Alley in Santa Cruz on the evening of January 24. For more information, contact Dan Young, or visit Surfridersantacruz.org