California Surf Museum in Downtown Oceanside

When you think of California, you think of the beautiful people, Hollywood and the beaches.  Running alongside the West Coast, there are no shortages of sandy refuges and ocean waves to splash around in.  Thus, California is also attached at the hip to the surf community, having prospered over time as a year-round playground for amateurs and pros alike.  From early technical advancements to record-setting rides and hosting world-wide competitions, California is synonymous with surfing culture and it’s only fitting that they have museum in Oceanside that highlights and celebrates such milestones.

Founded in 1986 and featured on television programs like American Pickers, the California Surf Museum specializes in the collection, preservation and documentation of the history of the sport and offers something for die-hards and casual fans alike.  It’s jam-packed with surf fashion, trophies, photographs, boards and films of the best history the California surf community has, and is just minutes from the pier where if inclined, you can jump on a board and surf yourself.

There are several permanent exhibits, including one highlighting the history of surf boards, divided by decade and has several examples of the types of boards used and the fashion of the era.  You can view the early models from the birth of surf in Polynesia, the fiberglass and foam advancements of the industry, a vast short board collection and various champion-ridden models from the best riders out there past and present.

San Onofre, the birthplace of California surf, also has an exhibit that pays tribute to the early days and pioneers of the scene and highlights both their milestones and early developments.  Heavy in their Hawaiian influence, the San Onofre crew were the first to bring ukuleles, luaus and grass shacks to their Southern California home-base and swish all the influences of the early days into what eventually became their own culture.  Expect to see a lot of these early artifacts on display and see how they planted their roots in growing one of the most vibrant and active surf scenes in the world.

Bethany Hamilton, the inspiration for the Hollywood production ‘Soul Surfer’ and who was attacked by a shark when surfing as a young woman, losing her left arm in the incident, has her surfboard and swimsuit worn during the attack in a special exhibit dedicated to her.  The highlight is a viewing area to watch the documentary she made called ‘Heart of a Soul Surfer’ recalling the day off the island of Kauai in 2003 that changed her life forever.

The Windansea Surf Club, one the state’s oldest and prominent of its kind and has welcomed and been shaped by some of the biggest and most influential names in North America, has an exhibit that showcasing a history at times as enthralling as surfing itself.  For the last 50 years the club has been memorable for their membership, excursions and growth of San Diego, all which are remembered and honored fondly in the exhibit.

Even as you are leaving you are transported into an animated world, as when you head out back of the museum you enter a scene created by Oceanside artist ‘John Lamb’  There is a rocky shore and beach surrounding you on 3 sides as you watch his signature rider catching a wave surrounded by beautiful and vibrant colors and puts you in an environment created by Oceanside’s own Brett Hazzard.

The museum has several special events throughout there including a talk and presentation by World Champion Surfer and Best-Selling Author Shaun Tomson on January 17th, 2014.  The California Surf Museum is open daily from 10-4pm, staying open until 8 on Thursdays and admission is $5 or free with membership.

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