Painting at the minimum

Dave Reynolds gave his new exhibit at the International Surfing Museum the title "Minimal Surf."

An alternate name for it, which admittedly sounds like a spice or a cologne, could be "Essence of Surfer."

Reynolds, the museum's exhibits director, recently created a series of paintings that strip surfing legends down to the bare minimum: no faces, no shading, no waves, sometimes only the hint of a surfboard. The images, which adorn two walls of the museum, capture nothing but the most basic body language.

Even most of the names that adorn the bottoms of the canvases are minimal: Slater, Dora, Tomson. As far as Reynolds is concerned, they're recognizable enough. Each of the images is taken from a well-known photo, and the artist guesses that many devotees would figure out the subject just by studying the pose.

"Anybody who's been surfing for 20, 30, 40 years would see that and know that's Dora's style," Reynolds said Tuesday, putting his hand over the bottom of Miki Dora's portrait to demonstrate.

Of course, they might recognize Reynolds' artistic style, too. For more than 30 years, the Huntington Beach resident has pursued his twin passions of surfing and painting — his own minimalist portrait is among those on the wall at the museum. In 1988, Reynolds launched the company Kahuna's Klassics (now better known as to design trophies for the ASP World Tour, and he estimates that he's made more than 10,000 trophies since then.

Those trophies featured plenty of illustrations, but the artist conceived them as generic surfers. It wasn't until six months ago that he began capturing specific people.

Peruse the walls at the museum at 411 Olive Ave. and you'll spot Peter "PT" Townend doing a "soul arch," twisting his torso as he balances diagonally on a board; Kelly Slater, setting his weight on his back foot as the front dangles off the board; Shaun Tomson, slouching back with his arms at his sides. Amid the paintings is a panel offering a definition of the word "minimalism": "any design or style in which the simplest and fewest elements are used to create the maximum effect."

Already, Reynolds has gotten at least one tribute from a subject.

"I think it looks pretty cool," said Townend, the vice chair of the museum board. "I actually have it as my Facebook profile icon at the moment."

And if anyone is curious how they would look in a "Minimal Surf" painting, Reynolds has an offer: For $200, he'll take a photo of a customer riding any kind of board and create a 16-by-20-inch painting with a color background, plus a pair of T-shirts with the image. To demonstrate the process, Reynolds posted his own photograph on the museum wall with the original sketch, the second draft and the painting alongside it.

So how does he determine which lines to retain for the final version? Reynolds chalks it up to intuition.

"After a while, you get the hang of it," he said. "You're able to figure out what lines look the best."

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

If You Go

What: "Minimal Surf"

Where: International Surfing Museum, 411 Olive Ave., Huntington Beach

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Monday, noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday, noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through Feb. 19

Cost: Free

Information: (714) 960-3483 or

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