NEWPORT BEACH — From the street it looks like a gallery of European fine art, but for the last few months it has been the unlikely home to a piece of surfing history.
In this Cannery Village art conservation and restoration studio, Ardenia Capannelli has restored a painting on a board owned by Duke Kahanamoku, considered the father of modern surfing.
Wedged between a painting of French lovers from the 1800s and a Raphael-style 1600s portrait of a noble woman, the 11-foot, 6-inch redwood and balsa wood board has been revived by a woman far removed from the board's Hawaiian roots.
Capannelli honed her skills in Italy, where she studied and practiced conservation of Renaissance-era paintings. When the Surfing Heritage Foundation of San Clemente asked her to restore an oil painting of a Hawaiian chief atop a long wooden surfboard, she had no idea who Kahanamoku was.
But as soon as she propped up the board in her Ardenia Capannelli Conservation and Restoration Studio, her clients — doctors, lawyers, surfers and non-surfers — marveled at it and instantly recognized Kahanamoku's name. She then realized how much he meant to surfers and others influenced the sport.