Long before Glenn Brumage began serving on Surfing Heritage and Culture Center’s (SHACC) board in 2014, he had been fulfilling its vision to “spread the stoke” of surfing with the world. As of January, he became the San Clemente nonprofit’s executive director and gets to focus full-time on its mission of sharing the sport’s history and influence. “What drives me and gets me up every morning is that I’m literally working deep in the culture that I have loved since I was a kid,” he says.
Brumage grew up in Capo Beach, the son of a Laguna Beach police officer and a nurse. “It was very easy to walk down the stone steps to Beach Road or through the hole in the fence at Capo Beach park [to the water], bodysurfing, belly boarding, knee boarding, and then I kind of graduated my way up to surfing,” he recalls. “It was old-school self-taught—go paddle in and get whomped a number of times.”
Though he had his days of surfing Baja with scorpions in his sleeping bag, Brumage parlayed his love of board sports into a successful career as an action-sports executive. All the while, he surfed and effortlessly collected lifelong friends. One of his buddies from their days working at Hobie in the ’80s invited him to a summit in Hongzhou, China, in 2007. “Their ultimate goal was to attract the Quiksilvers and Billabongs to help them develop the surf industry,” says the level-2 surf judge. “But they had no customers. As the sales and marketing director for a skateboard company, I can’t come and sell products if there’s no one to sell it to.”
To generate interest, the group arranged surf demos, which morphed into the Silver Dragon pro event each fall.
The contest takes place on a bizarre wave. Hongzhou sits on a bay where a large river meets the sea. About 60 times per year, the incoming tide is so fierce it reverses the river’s flow and forms a wave you can ride inland for 9 miles. “It’s actually quite dangerous,” said Brumage, who has surfed most of China’s coast. “There are piers and bridges. During the tidal bore, they don’t allow anyone on the river; all the commerce goes into side channels, and they lock the doors. It’s pretty extreme.”
The San Onofre Surf club member has surfed Tavarua, “which, as a goofy foot, is almost mecca,” thanks to a 50th-birthday present from his wife, Laurie. On a trip to Ireland to pursue Laurie’s passion for riding horses, they encountered a drizzly, overhead break. An hour later at the closest surf shop, they discovered the only rentals were dangerously inadequate soft boards. “That was my shot at surfing in Ireland,” he recalls. “Fully denied.”
What’s not to be denied is his passion for leading SHACC. The place is abuzz with a new website launch and intensified social-media presence, and among a slew of other pojects, the permanent timeline exhibit is being re-imagined to include surf music with the help of Randy Nauert of the Challengers. As Brumage describes the Fender Showman amp’s ability to make a four-piece band fill the old ballrooms of Newport and Huntington beaches, he’s lit with curiosity.
But his deepest goal is aimed at kids. “They just don’t have all the links that go back,” he says. Each generation grows up idolizing the surfer who inspired them. But who inspired the idol? And the idol’s idol? “If those all connected, then you’d have appreciation from one end to the other of what the sport is; then you can go further back to the origins, people riding waves in the Hawaiian culture. All those things are a big part of what SHACC is.”
Lisa Black proofreads the dead-tree edition of the Weekly and writes about the arts and South County beaches. Her OC roots go back to the Cuckoo’s Nest but she left to create original theater on four continents, then returned to bodysurf small waves.