Heritage, Craft & Evolution: Surfboard Design 1885 – 1959
Where: Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, 113 Harbor Way, Santa Barbara
When: Thursdays through Tuesdays (closed Wednesdays), June 24—October 30, 2021
Cost: Admission to the museum.
Sponsored by: George H. & Olive J. Griffiths Charitable Foundation, Mimi Michaelis, Alice Tweed Tuohy Foundation, and Wood-Claeyssens Foundation
“It’s not very surprising that surfing, surfboards and art have a long and deep relationship. Surfing itself is considered by many to be an artform – a dance on water – and surfboards are three dimensional sculptures designed to harness the energy of moving waves. Surfing inspires and informs both artists and artisans.” (Paul Holmes, from the foreword of the book, Heritage, Craft & Evolution: Surfboard Design 1885 – 1959)
And with those words begins a most unusual project, book and art exhibit. Opening to the public at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum on June 24, 2021, the exhibit traces the history of surfing and the evolution of surfboard design, illustrated by replica boards with oil painting vignettes of the locations, plus text and historic photographs. The book and the exhibit are the result of a unique collaboration between three important figures in the California surfing community: Renny Yater, one of the first commercial surfboard shapers of the 1950s; John Comer, plein- air painter; and painter and surfboard shaper, Kevin Ancell. Altogether, the exhibit presents a multimedia story of surfing, surfboard development, and the California surfing scene.
An exhibit not to be missed by surfers, surf historians, and lovers of art and the California coast…
What makes this exhibit so unusual and definitely worth a trip to the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is the way in which it tells the story of California surfing, beginning in 1885 with the three Kawananakoa Brothers, heirs to the Hawaiian royal throne, who attended a boarding school in San Mateo and introduced surfing in Santa Cruz. Accompanying the story is a six-foot oil painting of the San Lorenzo Rivermouth where the brothers first rode their redwood plank boards. The project also includes paintings of Santa Cruz and Corona del Mar in addition to full-scale boards representing the materials and shapes ridden during specific periods of surfing history. Each board also features oil painting vignettes of iconic locations including Redondo Beach, San Onofre, Rincon, Malibu, and Dana Point. The book and the exhibit chronicle the sport as it evolved through the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, each time combining photographs, stories, boards and paintings to depict and highlight the heroes of each generation.
Renny Yater was one of the first and most prominent commercial surfboard shapers of the 1950s and is largely credited with expanding the sport of surfing. One of his unique attributes has been his ability to adapt to changes in the sport and available materials and to stay on top of current trends. Shaping boards from the 1950s to the present, Renny can still be found working in his shop in Santa Barbara.
John Comer’s painting career began in 1968 with his first solo gallery exhibition in Santa Barbara and has been intermingled with surfing and sailing voyages to the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, the Pacific Islands, and Africa. His paintings reflect the colors, light and atmosphere that make our maritime environment so unforgettable.
Kevin Ancell, who grew up in Southern California’s surfing scene, explores art as an expression of the inner self, and draws on the painting styles of Spanish, Italian and Flemish classical art. He also taught and studied in China before returning to the United States. Today, he divides his time between surfing, shaping surfboards, and painting.