Surfing rides new wave of interest thanks to FAU exhibit

Surfing Florida: A Photographic History – Traveling exhibition and book project at Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt Center Gallery runs from March 17 through May 12. Opening reception Friday, March 16.
* Official FAU galleries site | Exhibit Facebook page | March 16 Facebook event

When one thinks of the history of surfing, Florida – with its lack of monster waves and international acclaim that made Southern California and Hawaii famous – often takes a back seat. But the Sunshine State has its own rich surf history and culture, which will be getting its due respect this spring at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

Surfing Florida
Artwork by Liam Milano (courtesy of PureHoney)

Surfing Florida: A Photographic History presents the history of Florida surfing through contributions from more than 50 photographers and 100 surfers. The comprehensive exhibit kicks off Friday with an opening reception featuring live music by Guy Harvey and Cutback. Housed at the university’s Schmidt Center Gallery, it will run through May 12 and include other special events, such as film screenings and lectures by “surf scholars.”

Starting March 22 and continuing for 10 weeks, there will be a screening of a surf film every Thursday in the lecture hall next to the gallery. The first film will be Evolution, the classic 1969 movie by New Zealand director Paul Witzig. On March 29, the 1972 film Morning of the Earth will be shown. Featuring stunning surfing sequences from Bali, Angourie, Kirra, Oahu, Maui and elsewhere, it’s considered by some the greatest surfing film ever made.

With Dick Dale coming to town in April, it’s shaping up to be a surf-happy spring. Tickets to Dale’s West Palm Beach and Miami concerts April 21-22 will be given away at the film screenings.

The exhibition will combine a chronological history with digital reproductions of vintage photos, original portfolios of the state’s top surf photographers, and media stations containing video, music and interviews. It will also include classic surfboards and artifacts. As the exhibition travels the state, each venue will be encouraged to work with regional collectors to showcase these items.

Surfing Florida

A compilation CD of Florida surf bands – from country twang to punk/surf rock – will be available to exhibition visitors. It was compiled by FAU music professor James E. Cunningham. The entire project was developed by W. Rod Faulds, director of the FAU University Galleries. The exhibit’s editor and curator is Paul Aho, a lifelong Florida surfer who competed in the sport as a teenager.

The exhibit reflects a trend in the surfing community worldwide to seriously document the sport and lifestyle through books, museums and surfing history organizations. While Florida has always been burdened with lackluster waves compared to the world’s hot spots, its surfers are among the most active. They’ve won numerous world titles and a maintain a deep
cultural history.

Surfing Florida: A Photographic History seeks to reach out to this community, with plans to also include a book. The project has been in development for more than a year, with scholars from four universities assisting with research into Florida surfing history. They cover such subjects as nature/religion, environmental activism, surf music, and maritime history.

The project is in a constant state of development, with organizers seeking information, photographs, memorabilia and high-quality surfboard collections. For more information, go to the official FAU galleries Web site or Surfing Florida blog.

Related links
* Sun-Sentinel: A surfing exhibit breaks clean at FAU
* Exhibit and book project to explore the history of Sunshine State surfing
* W. Rod Faulds, Paul Aho and crew bring surfing to the seminary
* Cocoa Beach Surf History Museum | East Coast Surfing Legends Hall of Fame

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