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California Surf Museum celebrates women on waves

OCEANSIDE — The California Surf Museum’s third annual gala fundraiser celebrated female surfers and the new Women on Waves exhibit on June 5. Female surfing legends were honored at the gala and guests enjoyed the display of surfboards, bathing suits and photos of top women pros.
It was an evening of living history with surfing icon Eve Fletcher and top female pros Linda Benson, Lisa Anderson and Keala Kennelly among the honorees present.
“It’s cool we have all the ladies celebrating women’s surfing,” Kennelly, a big wave rider featured in the movie “Blue Crush,” said.
The Women on Waves exhibit started as a display of the 100-year evolution of women’s swimsuits. Photos, posters and surfboards of women pros were added and the exhibit quickly evolved into a timeline of women’s surfing that fills the entire museum. “We wanted to broaden our audience,” Jim Kempton, California Surf Museum president, said.
It took more than a month to regear the museum for the large, comprehensive exhibit.
Museum staff went to great lengths to hunt down items for the exhibit. Many of the swimsuits, posters and boards come from Roxy archives. Other items are on loan from private collectors. Collectors got word of the planned exhibit and loaned items that fit, Randy Hild, Quick Silver executive and Roxy manager, said.
Hild is an avid collector and loaned the museum the board used by Marge Calhoun when she competed in Mahala in 1958. The surfboard is on display next to a photo of her holding it at the competition.
The exhibit is set in chronological order starting in the early 1900s with black and white photos of female surfers, a wool one-piece swimsuit, and thick wood surfboards. “Women have been there since the beginning,” Kempton said.
The display continues with a 1950s light balsa board shaped for a female surfer. The material and design changed the sport significantly. Balsa boards allow riders to paddle out easier and perform radical moves.
Further along the timeline is a photo of professional surfer Lisa Anderson and the poster from the 1996 Quick Silver Roxy Pro, signed by all the women who competed. “Pre-1990 women who surfed were truly pioneers,” Hild said. “It was quite a small world of women surfers.”
The exhibit concludes with a photo of Bethany Hamilton, who continues to surf after she lost her arm from a shark bite in 2003. Her surfboard with an eight-inch bite taken out of it is also on display.
The Women on Waves exhibit will be on display at the California Surf Museum through February 2011.