Pensacola, Florida
Monday June 18th 2018


Florida Surfing Safari

By Kate Peterson

In the past, if you said you were a surfer from Florida in a crowd of surfers from California or Hawaii, you would be laughed out of the conversation. No one used to think Florida could possibly have any surf-able waves. The reality—Florida has the lengthiest coastline in the country and excellent surf. No one used to recognize surfers from Florida, even though there have been many pro surfers coming out of the state, including 11 time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater. Well, no more—the new historical photographic exhibit of surfing in Florida at the Pensacola Museum of Art shatters those old myths and explores the states surfing history.

According to Guy Stevens, Preparator, Registrar and Facility person for the Pensacola Museum of Art, “Surfing Florida: A Photographic History,” was organized by Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla. University Galleries Director, Rod Faulds and Project Curator and Editor, Paul Aho organized the exhibition, which was made possible through a grant from the Florida Humanities Council and through funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The creators Faulds and Aho gathered old photographs, old interviews, old film clips and news stories. They pulled information out of the stories, blew up the photographs and wrote all the copy. The exhibit is broken down chronologically and by region. How surfing turned into a sport, the competition of surfing and how it became a religion are all revealed in the exhibit. The crafting of surfboards is also explored. Florida shapers donated boards, including a hollow surfboard by Tom Blake from 1934; he has been featured in National Geographic.

Some surf music collections are included, Eastern Surfing Association collectables, photos and mementos from many people in Florida. It would take you about two hours to go through the whole exhibit. Photography takes center stage and makes it appeal to all walks of life. There is also a media station available to watch videos and movie clips.

Some local surfers are working on blowing up more photos, donated from the local area surfers, and making panels to showcase the Northwest Florida surfing scene. In the local section, they feature a Hank Warner surfboard, a Brian Waters board and boards from other shapers. The local wing of the exhibit opens the night of the Beach Ball. There is also involvement from local surf shops Innerlight and Waterboyz, who is celebrating 10 years in business.

The Museum will be featuring ongoing lectures on surfing history, events and showing a specially prepared documentary after the June 8, Beach Ball. Check back on the Museums website or Facebook page for more information on upcoming events.

Fred Esposito, local surfer, musician and photographer said this about the exhibit, “I heard about the exhibit a year ago. Someone found a picture of me online, and asked me to get involved. I really love that it explores Florida surfing history in general. It is not about the commercialization of surfing, but about the craftiness of surfboard development and world champions.”

Esposito also added, “I am always proud to be a Floridian. When I paddle out, I am proud. It is nice that this exhibit shatters the myth about all surfers being like Sean Penn’s character in the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” Spicoli. We don’t all go around saying hang ten and dude. We are creative and diverse people who are at one with the water.”

Since the exhibit opened on May 24, the Museum has seen increased traffic over other exhibits and especially on free Tuesdays.

Along with the exhibit, Pensacola Museum of Art will host a “Beach Ball,” a beach-themed, outdoor street party at the Museum in lieu of the Museum’s usual monthly Culture Club event. The “Beach Ball” will include tropical food and drinks and live music by The Coconuts featuring Lucy Garcia. Tickets are $10 per person, and available at the Museum, or online for those 21 and older. Join in for this casual, exciting event, as the contributions of local surfers are revealed.

WHEN: Now until Saturday, September 1
WHERE: Pensacola Museum of Art, 407 S. Jefferson St.
COST: $5

WHEN: 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 8
WHERE: Pensacola Museum of Art, 407 S. Jefferson St.
COST: $10