International Surfing Museum looks to the future with ‘Surfing Circle of Honor’


Five hundred surfers will paddle off the shore of Huntington Beach in June to form a record-breaking circle to promote the International Surfing Museum and in a bid to be the host city of Olympic surfing in 2024.

Diana Dehm, executive director of the museum, has assembled the mass of surfers in an effort to raise money for the museum and promote Huntington Beach as the potential surfing village for the 2024 Summer Games, for which Los Angeles is currently being considered.

The group is vying for two Guinness Book of World Records, the largest paddle-out and floating logo, which has been deemed the “Surfing Circle of Honor.”

The event is slated for June 20, International Surfing Day.

Dehm is working closely with the city and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, hoping that the circle of honor, along with the city’s longstanding nickname of Surf City USA, will persuade Olympic officials to consider the destination.

The event is one of many that Dehm has organized to raise funds for the museum since she became its executive director about a year ago.

A lifetime “water-dog” who loves surfing, Dehm took the reins at the museum when asked by board chairman Brett Barnes. She was eager to accept after being struck by the significance of the famed ode-to-surfing while strolling through its exhibits.

The walls of the small, unassuming museum are adorned with the relics of surfing legends like Eddie Aikau and Duke Kahanamoku, deemed the “grandfather of surfing” by Dehm.

With new leadership came a new perspective.

Dehm said the museum has always been an homage to history, but she is hoping it can be the proving ground for bridging the gap between the past and future of the sport.

To this end, Dehm has planned several programs and events.

She started the “On the Couch” series, where famous surfer Peter “PT” Townend and surfer-cum-actor Gregory Harrison have lectured youths on the sport.

Dehm also hopes to start a grom, or young surfer, program to provide educational opportunities, including teaching youths about the ocean and how they can contribute to sustainable living.

But Dehm said the museum has been embroiled in difficult financial times necessitating increased funding before her ambitions can reach fruition.

Money problems have only emboldened Dehm to work harder to secure financing and she has found that the entire community has been rallying around the museum.

Just within the last few weeks, fundraisers were held for the museum by several outside groups. .

On April 15, the Kowabunga Van Klan, which displays classic Volkswagen vans, held an event at the pier and donated all funds to the museum.

Don Ramsey, who founded the car group, said he considers it a “blessing” to help the museum.

“We need people to remember the heritage of surfing,” Ramsey said.

Proceeds from an event Saturday celebrating the 50th anniversary of the revered “Endless Summer” film will go toward the museum and organizers from the Taste of Huntington Beach offered a vendor booth to Dehm for Sunday’s event.

Last week, a member of the Hermosa Beach-based telecom company Sandler Partners bought the museum a new television after noticing Dehm’s broken one while working to repair the business’ phone system.

“The community is coming together to support the [museum] in remarkable ways,” Dehm said. “I’m surprised every day.”

Dehm has also been organizing events for the public herself.

She held “Night at the Surfing Museum” in February where SyFy television host and paranormal investigator Ben Hansen took an audience through the history of Huntington Beach and the legendary hauntings in the area.

But, Dehm believes the circle of honor will be the biggest event yet.

Several professional surfers will take part, including first woman world champion Jericho Poppler.

Poppler said she is also driven by the need to bridge surfing’s past with the future, and the museum, being the oldest surfing museum in the world, is a valuable piece in that strategy.

Poppler also hopes the surfing circle will help bring Olympic surfing to Huntington Beach, which she calls “the Jerusalem” of surfing.

In preparation for the big event, some of the 500 surfers will head out to the Huntington Beach Pier at 9 a.m. Saturday to practice forming the circle.

Dehm said the public is welcome to come watch the festivities.