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The Cooperstown of surfing

Huntington Beach museum aims to bring together the complementary tributes to the sport through its 'Famers' exhibit.

December 06, 2013|By Michael Miller
  • Paul Taylor, business administrator for the board of directors, poses for a portrait at the newly remodeled International Surfing Museum in Huntington Beach on Tuesday.
Paul Taylor, business administrator for the board of… (KEVIN CHANG, HB…)

Imagine if, around the same time as the Oscars, another theater across the street hosted a similarly named ceremony — the Oswalds, say — that honored most of the same movies and people.

Such has been the case for years in Huntington Beach, where a pair of complementary displays honor the legends of the surfing world. On the south side of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway, the Surfers' Hall of Fame features Grauman's Chinese-style concrete panels with names and handprints etched into them; a few yards north, the Surfing Walk of Fame sports honorees' names on Hollywood Boulevard-style squares.

Now, 36 of those heralded athletes are getting recognized for a third time. The International Surfing Museum, which recently reopened after an extensive renovation, is hosting "Famers," an exhibit spotlighting the inductees whose names appear on both sides of the street.

"The city of Huntington Beach has all these assets, you know, these surf assets that all operate independently like the Surfing Walk of Fame and the Surfers' Hall of Fame and the museum, and I thought it was time to do a collaboration with all the assets and turn them into one," said surfer Peter "PT" Townend, who co-curated the exhibit.

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"So with the renovation of the museum, I said, 'Let's do the common inductees of both sites. In other words, let's act like Cooperstown.'"

Like the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in New York, the Huntington exhibit celebrates its honorees with a slew of memorabilia: surfboards, gear, posters, paintings and more. A browse through the museum's compact main room includes bronze shoes from Mark Occhilupo, a board signed by Kelly Slater and trophies won by Rick "Rockin' Fig" Fignetti, among other items.

The wall display stretches around the museum's main room, which appears larger and more spacious than its previous version — even if, for the most part, it isn't. Starting in May, crews took out ceiling panels, put in new floors and repainted the interior and exterior. Perhaps most noticeably, they removed the black panels that once ran through the middle of the main room and, in the words of director Cindy Cross, "cut the museum right in half."

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