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Surfing Museum Finds a Home in Oceanside : History: City officials hope the collection of artifacts--to be displayed for now in a vacant bar--will become a highlight of the redevelopment district.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After dreaming of a permanent home for nearly six years, the California Surfing Museum is finally settling in Oceanside’s downtown redevelopment area, where it will occupy a vacant, funky blue bar.

For at least a year, antique surfboards--some valued at $5,000 and up--and vintage black-and-white surfing photographs will stand inside Pride’s Inn, where for 60 years the only froth and foam had been on the head of a beer.

And beyond then, when the museum’s lease runs out, supporters are convinced that they can strike a deal to remain in Oceanside, within walking distance of the city’s pier and its legendary glassy waves.

“This is going to be one of the best things that’s happened to Oceanside,” said museum organizer Jane Schmauss, who doesn’t surf but refers to herself as “the keeper of the flame.”

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“I just love the story of surfing, the clothing, the lifestyle and the language is so colorful,” Schmauss said.

For the first time since February, 1986, when the nonprofit museum corporation was formed, its directors think the days of longing and searching for a permanent location may be over.

The museum has a small exhibit in Pacific Beach and had one in Encinitas until two years ago, when it was forced to move. Afterward, museum supporters considered several North County locations for a permanent facility, but always came away disappointed, until now.

“We have been looking at different locations for two years and drawing a blank, then Oceanside happened,” Schmauss said.

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As it turns out, Oceanside city redevelopment officials and key commercial developers believe the museum might be just the thing to help entice people to the city’s downtown.

Pride’s Inn sits atop a bluff overlooking the city pier and beaches, which attract 3 1/2 to 4 million visitors a year. The old bar, closed a year ago, is within a 10-block area proposed for a $325-million commercial-hotel-residential project.

The project is considered the most important venture in the city’s nearly 20-year redevelopment history.

Redevelopment Director Patricia Hightman said, “Any museum draws people to see what’s here. Oceanside is so associated with surfing contests and the surfing lifestyle, this is an appropriate location for it.”

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The museum has a one-year, $1 lease for Pride’s Inn, and could stay as long as two years, until the bar is demolished to make way for the huge development.

But even when the bar is razed, it is likely the museum will find another location in downtown Oceanside, Schmauss and developer representatives said.

“There are preliminary discussions about having the museum be a tenant in the retail portion of the project,” said Mike Ogden, project manager for landowner James Keenan. “I think a surfing museum would be a draw.”

Keenan and developer James Watkins are nearing an agreement with Oceanside for a $250-million project consisting of a 250-room hotel, 150 condominiums, 350 time-share units, 150,000 square feet of retail space and a 70,000-square-foot office building.

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A $75-million companion development by Catellus Corp., which is the Santa Fe Railroad’s real estate division, calls for 15,000 square feet of restaurants, 64,000 square feet of shops, a 20,000-square-foot office building and 318 condominiums.

Hightman believes that allowing the museum to use the old bar would “get them established up here” for eventual relocation into the huge development.

The real estate broker who conceived the idea of putting the museum in the vacant bar believes the surfing artifacts will pull tourists from the pier and beaches up to the city’s commercial area.

“The surfing museum’s going to be sitting at the head of the pier, they’re going to have a staggering amount of people,” predicted Bill Fritzsche.

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To Schmauss, finally having a place means an opportunity to show the public, at no charge, the rich history of surfing.

Exhibits will change every six months and feature topics like famous places to surf, the history of surfing in Oceanside and the story of “Woodies"--the wood-paneled station wagons favored by 50s and 60s era surfers.

There will even be a photo exhibit documenting the relationship between surfers and Camp Pendleton, where surfers have traditionally trespassed on government property to reach the favored waves. The exhibit will show “Marines arresting surfers,” Schmauss said.

A Surfing Hall of Fame is situated in San Diego’s Balboa Park, but Schmauss said the Oceanside museum will have a different emphasis. “We want to show the whole history of surfing, not just the greats,” she said.

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The museum will open in two or three weeks, after a security system is installed, and Schmauss predicted more than 100 visitors a day.

“It will be very popular,” she said.


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