If you’ve been reading any of the Surfing Examiner’s past articles, you are, by now, familiar with the Surfing Heritage Foundation.
The Surfing Heritage Foundation, located in San Clemente, California, houses the largest collection of surfboards and surfing artifacts in the world.
And now they want your stories, a “Call to Yarns” so to speak.
Their Oral History Committee, a collection of volunteer historians, is dedicated to recording the recollections of our elders and has interviewed more than 100 men and women over the past four years.
“We’re running out of the old-timers,” says OHC member Craig Lockwood, a veteran surfwriter and Laguna Beach native. “The World War II generation is in their late 80s and 90s now. They were the pioneers. They made surfing happen.”
Last year, the Oral History Committee ran down a couple of Palos Verdes surfers, Tulie Clark and Fenton Scholes, who reminisced about the founding of the Palos Verdes Surfing Club in the 1930s.
“When we surfed, everyone who went for the wave got it,” Scholes shared. “There wasn’t any ‘This is my wave’ stuff. Everybody rode together, four or five guys on a wave. If some guy was next to you, you pulled his board in. You didn’t pull him out.”
Ah yes, the good old days. Exactly what the SHF is trying so hard to preserve.
Lets face it, surfing is like no other sport. There are no statisticians. There is no “Official Surfing Register” like many other sports. Our only link to surfing’s past is via the stories that have been told by those who lived them. And, fortunately for us, the Surfing Heritage Foundation and its Oral History Committee is aggressively seeking those recollections. They’ve even created their own oral history guide, a manual outlining interview technique, and have sent out letters to surf clubs all around the world.
“It’s the people we don’t know that we’re looking for,” says Paul Holmes, a former editor of Surfer magazine and OHC member.
Last year, the OHC caught up with 89-year-old Gordon “Mike” Howes, an early east coast surfer who, along with friend Henry “Stretch” Pohl, witnessed Duke Kahanamoku and Tom Blake surfing Steel Pier in Atlantic City in 1937. As a result, Howes and Pohl became just two of a dozen surfers in the state of New Jersey at that time, riding waves on an ironing board.
“It was just about the length and size and shape to ride the waves with,” Howes recounted.
A year later, an article by Blake on how to build a hollow board appeared in an issue of Popular Science, and Howes and Pohl began shaping paddleboards for the New Jersey locals.
Next was the formation of the Malolo-Akula Surf Club followed by a lifetime of surf. And in 2000, Howes and Pohl were inducted into the East Coast Surf Legends Hall of Fame alongside, ironically, existing members Kahanamoku and Blake.
“That was pretty great, you know,” recounted Howes of his induction. “Kinda felt like you were in the big time. We never thought of ourselves as being big time surfers. We were just surfers.”
It is these glorious recollections of our surfing past that the SHF is so committed to preserving. Howes passed away shortly after the interview, but thanks to the OHC’s efforts, his glimpse into the glory days of east coast surfing will live forever.
Perhaps you have a story to tell, or know someone who does. Or, maybe you have an old board just sitting around in your garage. In either case, do yourself, and the sport that you so endear a favor:
Share your link to our glorious past with the Surfing Heritage Foundation.
There is no better place for it to be.
For more information: Contact the Surfing Heritage Foundation
Sources: Surfing Heritage Foundation