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San Diego: Mingei Museum's surfboard design exhibition is one fun ride

'Surf Craft' chronicles the evolution of surfboard design at the Mingei International Museum in San Diego

If you haven't seen "Surf Craft" at the Mingei International Museum in San Diego, go now. The compelling exhibition about American makers and shapers of all kinds of wave-riding boards ends Sunday.

Surf historian Richard Kenvin has assembled an amazing collection of boards from the early 20th century to the present. Even if you don't know anything about surfboards, these marvels of wood, fiberglass and foam stand on their own as works of art.

"Other surfing [exhibitions] are more based on nostalgia," says Kenvin, who surfs and has been researching surfboards for a dozen years. "This is more the craft story."

Indeed rarely have the 60 to 80 pieces -- some from museums, some from private collections -- been displayed together, Kenvin says.

For those in the know, Surfer magazine describes the exhibition this way:

"Spread out and suspended amongst the austere Mingei setting are paipos and spoons, asymmetricals and boogie boards, fish and stingers, Simmons twin fins and TOMO MPHs."

Got that? Even if you don't, you can learn plenty from the museum placards that provide context and history for California's surf culture that extends far beyond its borders.

Vintage items on display include a body board favored by tourists that dates to around 1900, a wooden ironing board turned surfboard from the 1930s, and a prototype for the original Boogie Board from 1971.

The real stars are pieces like boards crafted by Bob Simmons in the 1940s and '50s, and glossy redwood boards made by Tom "Pohaku" Stone based on those used by traditional Hawaiian surfers.

You can see "Surf Craft" now through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; tickets cost $8 for adults and $5 for children 6 to 17 years old.

Info: Mingei International Museum, 1439 El Prado; (619) 239-0003

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