Curatorial statement

Surf Home
Artist list

Surfers owe a great deal to the first of the Maoli kings, great ancestors of the Tahitians and Hawaiians, who, more than 2,000 years ago, paddled their wooden surfboards into the crystal clear waters of Polynesia and took off on a wave. With that single act, surfing was born.

Subsequently, during a long period of cultural repression in the South Pacific, surfers became invisible and did not re-emerge in a strong way until the 20th century, when surfing celebrities like Duke Kahanamoku turned the waters of the Hawaiian islands into a surfer's paradise.

Surfing found its way to California in 1907, via George Freeth, "the Bronze Mercury," who became one of surfing history's modern heroes. For the next 50 years Polynesia cross-pollinated with California, giving birth to the Golden Age of the surfing phenomenon. California culture transformed the surfing experience, creating a hybrid that commingled aspects of Hawaiian surf culture with trends then emerging in the popular culture of California, in particular Hollywood. The Gidget movies of the late '50s and early '60s, Frankie and Annette, the "Aloha" shirt, the "Surf Shack," the Beach Boys, all helped make surfers and surfing permanent fixtures in the American consciousness.

In the 1970s, the trend expanded, encompassing surfing magazines, skateboards, the Boogie board, the rubber mat, artificial waves in Arizona, and much more. Today, surfing continues to permeate the culture. From "wave cams" and the K-2 $50,000 Big Wave Challenge to Puka shell necklaces, surfing has embedded itself in our lives in more ways than we can imagine. It has even provided the millennium with one of the most enduring metaphors of our time—"surfing the web."

The contemporary artists and surfboard shapers presented in this show reveal in their work a newly emerging and more artistically cognizant world surfing culture. Though we are ultimately primitives of the ocean and the beach, our work in this show points to history, tradition, nature, beauty and a purity of soul.

—Bob Carrillo, Guest Curator