Photo by Dave OgleThere hasn't been a library this good since Henry Huntington's or J. Paul Getty's, or maybe Egypt's King Ptolemy I's, who came up with the idea of storing all of man's literature under one roof—in the second century B.C.: books on math, medicine, astronomy, navigation, history, philosophy, maps of heaven, schemes of the universe. Everything. His heirs went as far as stopping ships in the harbor and taking their books, something the Surfing Heritage Foundation hasn't had to do; its Costa Mesa warehouse is already packed to the gills with surfing's flotsam—books, maps, videos, movies, posters, photographs, surfboards, magazines, indexes, interviews, stickers, patches. There's one of everything from Captain Cook to Laird Hamilton here—and you; the foundation should open to the public later this spring in San Clemente.
Somewhere, Ptolemy, Getty, Huntington and Duke Kahanamoku are grinning. And playing pinochle. "We have big plans," says co-founder Dick Metz, who also started Hobie Sports. "This building is nice for now, but also temporary. We hope to move the whole collection to an even larger, more permanent home."
This is a dream gig for Foundation folk such as Metz, Surfer'sJournalpublisher Steve Pezman and Newport Beach resident Spencer Croul. They all grew up surfing—Croul in the '70s—and began collecting as adults.
"Mainly, I surfed the jetties, the river jetties and the point as a kid," Croul remembers. "And then I branched out to Trestles and other places when I got a car."
As he and others could afford to, they began buying up surfboards, books, magazines and memorabilia: garages of stuff that blossomed into this treasure trove of original and replica Hawaiian boards and examples of boards by Pacific System Homes, Kivlin, Quigg, Simmons, Noll, Velzy, Curren, Brewer and Lightning Bolt. One of Hawaiian surf legend Duke Kahanamoku's original solid-hardwood boards is in the collection, next to Laird Hamilton's tow board and a board from world champ Andy Irons.
"We have a collection of Dale Velzy's shaping equipment that will be on display in our shaping shack," says surfing historian Barry Haun, the foundation's creative director. "We've been promised items from Bruce Brown that will include his own photo archive. We have personal items that belonged to Tom Blake, things like his Waikiki Surf Club membership card from 1951. We have much of surfing historian Gary Lynch's taped interviews with legends such as Tommy Zahn, Mary Ann Hawkins, Doc Ball and other notables."
That's not even counting the traditional "library," which features a complete set of Surferand all of TheSurfer'sJournal(which is just a block away) and aspires to have every book, magazine, pamphlet and surfing catalog ever printed. This may be surfing's Cooperstown—or what Cooperstown would be if it had more than 150 surfboards in its collection. (Up next, they're digitizing all the surfing photos by legendary shooter Leroy Grannis.)
"Hopefully, what has been started here over time will benefit countless future generations," Haun says—and preserve "a lifestyle that has given us all so much enjoyment over the years."