The founder of the funky but memorabilia-rich surf museum in downtown Huntington Beach has died after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Natalie Kotsch never surfed but fell in love with the sport and the lifestyle that surrounded it.
She had battled cancer for a decade. She died Tuesday at the age of 76.
Kotsch was the founder of the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum and earned a spot in the beach city’s Surfing Walk of Fame for her effort to preserve the memorabilia and artifacts of the surfing culture.
Her daughter, Julie Holson, said when her mother first visited the beach “she put her foot in it once and didn't like it."
"But she just liked the surf culture. She thought it was an amazing culture and didn't want to see it lost."
Kotsch moved from Simcoe, Canada, to Huntington Beach in 1976 and worked as a real estate agent but became fascinated with surfing.
The museum, tucked in the city’s downtown, features a cramped but bountiful collection of surfboards, early photos, posters and other memorabilia.
Longtime friend and museum director Cindy Cross said it took an outsider to make Surf City realize that its hometown sport should be celebrated.
"She just worked tirelessly on this museum for over 20 years," said Cross.
Plans for Kotsch's funeral have not been finalized, though Holson said a paddle-out -- a traditional memorial in the surfing community -- is being organized.