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"One of the most rewarding projects I've ever been involved in, the "Women On Waves" exhibit at the California Surf Museum is ending in less than one month. Come check it out if you haven't already. Men/women, surfers/non surfers alike, you'll enjoy it." -Julie Cox, Operations Manager, California Surf Museum, January 2011.
When I read Julie's Facebook post above, it hit me like a ton of bricks that the Women On Waves exhibit would be closing down shortly. The California Surf Museum has put together one of the most extensive and significant collection of women's surf history ever housed under one roof. If you have not seen it yet, I encourage you to do so now because there is a very real possibility that nothing like Women On Waves will ever happen again in our lifetimes. You need to act quickly too because the exhibit will only be showing for a few more weeks.
The California Surf Museum has offered up a generous discount to JettyGirl readers until the closing of Women On Waves. Simply mention "JETTYGIRL" at the admissions desk and you'll receive a 2-for-the-price-of-1 discount admission. For questions, directions and museum hours, please visit surfmuseum.org --Chris Grant
JettyGirl: At last year's ribbon-cutting for the Women On Waves exhibit, many of the most famous female surfers in history showed up for the grand opening. Does anything particularly special stick out in your mind from that night?
Julie Cox: We had a ribbon cutting in March and a Gala in June. Each event was really really special... With the ribbon cutting we were working up to the wire, pulling 16 hour days to get everything installed, and hanging photos a few minutes before cutting the ribbon. Once the exhibit opened, everyone really liked it, so that was a relief. So many amazing women in the exhibit showed up to help cut the ribbon... Gidget, Linda Merrill, Linda Benson, Joyce Hoffman, Prue Jeffries, Kristy Murphy, Jennifer Smith, Jeannette Prince, Cori Schumacher, Debbie Beacham, Cher Pendarvis, Ashley Lloyd, Carla Rowland, Eve Fletcher, Donna Matson, just to name a few! It was fun watching the different generations talking, meeting each other, and taking photos together. Women featured in the exhibit brought family members along, it was a proud moment for many. My mom was there too, helping set-up, taking photos, etc. My co-worker, Sam played vintage vinyl on the turntables, the energy was amazing. Speaking with Joyce Hoffman that day was a highlight for me. Hearing about the first time she surfed Pipeline and hearing about her competitive side back then. Meeting her parents and seeing her smile when she saw her section of the exhibit was a great feeling. You could tell she was proud and had a good time seeing everyone.
The 3rd Annual Fundraising Gala was awesome, again, because so many of the legends of today and yesterday were at the museum. I am here everyday, but to have all of the people I look up to and admire come to me, was killer! Lisa Andersen, Frieda Zamba, Maya Gabiera, Courtney Conlogue, Keala Kennelly, Kassia Meador along with many of the ladies who were at the ribbon cutting came for a night to re-celebrate the exhibit.
JG: There's an Ashley Lloyd-shaped board in the exhibit that's been signed by the best of the best in women's surf history. When the exhibit closes, what will happen to that board?
JC: The California Surf Museum board of directors agreed to commission Ashley to shape a special Women On Waves exhibit surfboard to auction at our fundraising Gala, but once we began acquiring signatures, we decided it was too special to let go of. CSM will keep it for our permanent collection to display again in the future and continue getting autographs.
JG: Since you've walked the halls of the exhibit virtually everyday for the past year, you surely must have a favorite item or two. What would the item(s) be and why?
JC: First, the Mary Jane beaver tail wetsuit from the 1960s. The style is so cute, I wish someone would make something like that today. Second, there is a 1950's balsa board made custom for a woman named Donna Matson. I got to pick it up from her house in LA when we interviewed her and the board felt so at home under my arm. Finally, we have one of Rell Sunn's boards on display. She chose the cloth that is inlayed in the glass and had it made into a single fin after it was a 2+1. That board is very special and is one of my favorite things in the exhibit. There are many photos that I really like in the exhibit too.
JG: When you overhear visitors talking as they walk about the exhibit, is there one particular item that visitors seem to gravitate towards?
JC: When visitors first enter the exhibit, they gravitate toward the first swim suit examples on display. The first suit from the early 1900's is cumbersome, heavy, and looks very hard to surf or swim in. They love the cute suits from the 1930's and 1940's. But as soon as visitors see the shark bitten chunk out of Bethany Hamilton's board, they are drawn to that and can't believe they are looking at the actual board.
JG: Which era represented in the exhibit was the most difficult to gather items for and why do you think that is?
JC: We are lucky to have an enormous network of surfers and collectors who helped make the hunt for items go smoothly. But we really wanted to show the evolution of the women's swim suit fashion and our 1900's, 1930's and 1940's were weak. I just think we never came across the earlier suits and never expressed the need for them until this exhibit. Roxy
helped us by allowing us to buy 5 vintage suits we found online. Once the exhibit is over, the suits will go into the Roxy archives.
JG: If you could time travel to any era represented in the exhibit, which one would it be and why?
JC: I'd like to have surfed in the late 1950's- 1960's. It would have been fun to be a part of the surfing boom when spots were being discovered, opportunities for surfers were just beginning, and boards were getting lighter and better. Surfing was still a rebel's sport and lifestyle and the culture was really being shaped.
JG: It's quite possible that there will never be a collection of women's surf history in one place like this again. Do you have any plans for the exhibit to live on in some form?
JC: We researched and thought hard about having the WOW exhibit travel, but decided against it because of the precious items we have on loan, the cost it would take to insure the items, and the time and cost in manpower to oversee the operation. We're going to make a book out of it instead. So much of the hard work is already done, it would be irresponsible of us to let it all disappear.
JG: What's up next for the California Surf Museum?
JC: The board of directors have at least 4 exhibits in the works which will be installed late February through May in different phases. We're working on a 25 years of the California Surf Museum exhibit which will showcase some of the items that have been donated over the past 25 years. We're going to do an exhibit about the transition years 1966-72 when longboards went short. We'll integrate politics, culture, music, etc from that time period. To compliment surfing's transition years, we'll do an exhibit about skateboarding's transition years which were the early 1970's to circa 1975. We'll include some clothing and shoes as well-it is always fun to include a bit of fashion and style. We're also installing a permanent exhibit which will showcase 100 years of surfing and include examples of the prominent boards, fashions, and figures of each era. I will help out where I can in all of this but the lead is really being taken by Larry Balma, Guy Motil, Dale Smith, Jim Kempton, Tara Torburn, Jane Schmauss, and Ric Riavic.
IMAGES COURTESY OF THE CALIFORNIA SURF MUSEUM
Props to Julie Cox
for her assistance with this story and for her dedication to the promotion of women's surfing through her work at the California Surf Museum. For those of you who may not be aware of this, Julie has collaborated with talented shaper, Jed Noll, on a line of surfboards specifically designed for female surfers. Check out the Jule Collection of surfboards here!