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Santa Cruz Surfing Museum

The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum is a museum which was established in May 1986 to document the history of surfing. With collections dating back to the … See more


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Oct 17, 2022
We stopped at the Surfing museum as we arrived in Santa Cruz, it was such a novel place and we really enjoyed, glad to have stopped in. There was some very cool memorabilia and stories of the surfers… Full review by laura g
Sep 15, 2022
Santa Cruz Surfing Museum is one of the main tourist attractions in the town. It is located on the shore of Pacific Ocean and almost three sides are covered by the ocean. Museum houses a historical a… Full review by Balasubramanian R
Mar 28, 2022
Interesting to see pictures of surfing in the past and present. Cool t shirts and novelty surfing items to purchase! Full review by lisaeT474BC


The Evolution of Surf Culture
A lighthouse on the north tip of Monterey Bay houses a museum that chronicles the history of surfing, which was delivered to Santa Cruz by three Hawaiian princes. Surfing, of course, did not originate in California. It’s an ancient Polynesian sport, but Santa Cruz was its point of entry in the United States. It was introduced during the hot summer of 1885, when three teenage Hawaiian princes, David Kawananakoa, Edward Keliiahonui and Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole, escaped from their boarding school classes at St. Matthew’s in San Mateo, California, hopped on a train, and headed to the ocean. The beach was busy that day, with swimming races taking place, revelry in the many bathhouses along the shore, and even a theatrical troupe performing on the sand. But everyone was distracted from their amusements when the three Hawaiians took to the waves on massive boards made from local redwood pine. All those on the shore spent the day admiring the princes’ surfing exhibition, with the Santa Cruz band capping off the evening by bonfire. The three princes eventually left Santa Cruz to fight for Hawaiian independence, but their influence remained. In 1896 the Santa Cruz Surf remarked that, “the boys who go in swimming at Seabright Beach use surfboards to ride the breakers, like the Hawaiians.” This remained true throughout the 20th century, and the Surf Museum chronicles the evolution of surf culture, from the beach parties of the 1950s to competitive surf competitions in the ’80s and ’90s. The city’s 130 years of surfing history are detailed through photographs, surfboards, and assorted artifact in the little museum, spitting distance from the ocean. When it faced closure in 2008, big names in surfing came out to save the museum, including Jack O’Neill of O’Neill wetsuits. The lighthouse that houses the museum was erected in memory of 18-year-old Mark Abbott, who drowned while body surfing off Pleasure Point in 1965. With the reimbursement from his life insurance policy, Mark’s parents wished to erect a memorial in his honor. There had previously been a lighthouse overlooking the Santa Cruz Anchorage, but it was torn down when it was no longer needed to guide ships into Monterey Bay. The Abbotts, recalling how Mark had loved the lighthouses along the Oregon coast, had one constructed in its place to remember their son. In 1986 the city opened a museum in the body of the lighthouse building dedicated to the activity dear to so many Santa Cruzans, including Mark. From the lighthouse’s perch, visitors can also watch surfers on Steamer Lane as they hang five on their longboards, a modified take on the ancient Hawaiian boards.
The History of Surfing
The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum is a museum which documents the history of surfing, with collections dating back to the earliest years of surfing on mainland United States. Located in the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse at Lighthouse Point on West Cliff Drive, the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum opened its doors in June 1986 as the first surfing museum in the world. The lighthouse was built in 1967 as a memorial to surfer Mark Abott, who died while surfing at the nearby Pleasure Point surf break. Overlooking the Steamer Lane surfing hotspot, this little museum features photographs, surfboards, and videos tracing over 100 years of surfing history in Santa Cruz. After funding cuts in 2009, the Santa Cruz Surfing Club Preservation Society and private donations kept the museum open. Introduced in 1885 by three Hawaiian princes who surfed the mouth of the San Lorenzo River on plank boards, surfing has permeated every facet of the Santa Cruz community. A plaque was dedicated to the princes: David Kawānanakoa, and Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole in April 2010. Examples of surfboards from each era are on display, from the huge hollow paddle boards and redwood planks made and ridden in the 1930s and 1940s to examples of early foam and fiberglass boards, and speedy short boards used to create radical new surf moves beginning in the 1970s. The museum contains the current Santa Cruz Light, marking Point Santa Cruz on the west side of Santa Cruz Harbor. The light was allocated funding by congress in 1852, but disputes over the owner of the land meant that construction did not proceed until 1868. Operation hours: Summer Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. After Labor Day Hours: Noon - 4:00 p.m..

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