Peeling back surf history

June 03, 2005

Lindsay Sandham

Before there were wetsuits, there were Wikies wool swim shorts.

Before the modern-day foam surfboard with a fiberglass finish, people

rode the waves on shaped wooden planks.

And before millions of people discovered the beauty of Orange

County, there were miles and miles of wide-open coastline, with huge

waves and only a few surfers, sailors and fishermen to enjoy them.


Surfers, water sports fans, and Orange County residents, the

newest exhibit at the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum offers something

for almost everyone.

The exhibit, "Orange Peel: A Slice of Orange County Surfing

History," features original photographs and film and video footage

from the 1920s to present, a wide collection that demonstrates the

evolution of surfboards, shows memorabilia of the history of surf

music and more.

Glenn Zagoren, president of the Nautical Museum, said the museum

staff tried to do something different with this exhibit by utilizing

multimedia and having famous surfboards on display that museum-goers

can touch. He said they wanted the exhibit to encompass everything

to do with surfing and its history in Orange County.

"This is a pretty cool exhibit," said Steve Meisinger, who was

born and raised in Newport Beach and now lives in Morro Bay. "There's

some things that remind me of the old days."

Meisinger started surfing in 1967 and nostalgically pointed out

many of his old surfing buddies in the old black and white photos

around the museum. He also remembered surfing some of the

now-developed areas in Dana Point.

"This whole coastline used to be wide open," Meisinger said.

"Before they had the harbor, [Dana Point] was one of the best waves


Some main attractions of the Orange Peel exhibit include one of

Tom Blake's original hollow surfboards, along with one of his surf

trophies from 1932; a photo of Dale Velzy that was signed May 15 --

right before he died May 26; one of Lorrin "Whitey" Harrison's famous

palm-frond hats; film footage of Corona del Mar in the 1930s; and

photo after photo of various Orange County surf spots, taken before

all the beaches were heavily developed tourist attractions.

Nancy Gardner, founder of the Newport Beach chapter of the

Surfrider Foundation, said that although she donated some of the

video footage, she has not seen the completed exhibit yet.

"I'm looking forward to it," she said. "It will be very


Since the exhibit features original prints, it took four months

and several volunteers to pull it all together, Zagoren said.

Zagoren brought in Orange County resident and surfer Felipe

Bascope as a guest curator. Bascope donated his skills, contacts and

time to getting donations and putting them together.

The museum also enlisted the help of many corporate sponsors, such

as Quiksilver.

"It's an exciting thing for us to have," Zagoren said. "In the

amount of space we have, we tried to put together a true Orange

County story."

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