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Barbara Diamond The history and art of...

Barbara Diamond

The history and art of surfing didn’t leave town when the Surf

Culture show closed Sunday at the Laguna Art Museum.

Local wave riders made sure of that by creating the Surfing

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Heritage Foundation here.

“The foundation was set up to preserve historical old surfing

boards, but also to preserve the history and other memorabilia of the

sport and the industry,” said Dick Metz, a Laguna Beach pioneer in

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both.

Metz donated his significant collection of surfboards, dating from

1900, to the foundation.

“He didn’t want the boards to end up as cocktail tables,” said

Three Arch Bay’s Bill Blackburn, a director of the foundation and

Metz’s longtime friend.

However, as the major contributor to the foundation, Metz cannot

be on the board, presently composed of Blackburn, restaurateur Bob

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Mardian and Surf Magazine publisher Steve Pezman, all surfers.

The foundation has qualified as a tax-exempt charity. Donations of

significant boards, photographs and memorabilia are sought, all

tax-deductible. Surfer magazine recently donated about 15 boards

valued at $200,000.

“We don’t want just old boards, but ones with a story, a history,”

Metz said. “These guys are dying, and some nephew comes from Omaha

and the stuff disappears. Some people have pictures or boards that we

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could preserve, instead of them going to the Goodwill.”

The foundation has three top projects: a historical surfboard

registry to authenticate, preserve and certify historically

significant boards; a surfing timeline, to trace the history of

surfboard development; and the creation of a Web site on which to

publicize the organization’s historical and pictorial information.

“We are willing to show the boards in other venues,” Metz said.

“Ideally, we should have a real museum with city or corporate

sponsorship.”

Metz is an experienced public speaker, with a wealth of stories

about surfers and surfing.

Foundation board member Blackburn met Metz at San Onofre, where

Blackburn’s father took his three sons and a daughter to surf. It was

Metz who convinced Blackburn in 1989 to buy Hobie Sunglasses from

Hobie Alter, another Laguna Beach surfing legend.

Blackburn was 9 when his dad began taking the family from their

Pasadena home to San Onofre most weekends. By that time, Metz was an

old hand.

Metz may not have gone from the bassinet to the boards, but he was

not much more than a toddler when he rode his first wave.

“In the early ‘30s, my dad owned restaurants at Main Beach, first

the Diner in an old railroad car, and then the Broiler,” Metz said.

“So he put my bassinet under the boardwalk and paid some of the older

guys who didn’t have jobs a hamburger to watch me.”

Metz’s baby-sitters include the legendary Brennen “Hevs”

McClelland and George “Peanuts” Larson, whose 10-foot-10, 102-pound

solid redwood 1937 board is part of the Metz collection.

“I was their meal ticket,” Metz said. “When I got out of the

playpen at 4 or 5, they would take me out in the lifeguard boat at

Main Beach or down to San Onofre where they went to surf.”

Metz began school in Laguna Beach. Kindergarten was then held at

the high school. His father, Carl, and his mother, Edna May, divorced

when Metz was 10. His mother, a Laguna Beach teacher and co-founder

of the Ebell Club here, eventually moved to Claremont with a new

husband.

“But I could drive by then and I spent every weekend here,” Metz

said. “I never felt like I left Laguna.”

That doesn’t mean he was stuck here. Metz surfed his way around

the world -- Tahiti, India, Africa, Europe -- blazing a trail for the

movie “Endless Summer.” Wherever he went, he spread the latest

development in surfing equipment, a lot of it designed by his friend

Alter, who serves on the foundation’s advisory board.

Metz met Alter as a youth at the beach in Laguna.

“Hobie’s folks had a summer place here,” Metz said. “He saw some

of the boards being used and said, ‘I can make a better board than

that!’ Hobie started making boards in his folks’ garage. He made

about 100 boards, unnumbered and unsigned.

“Finally his dad got mad and rented a two-car garage in Dana

Point. It became our clubhouse and eventually, the first retail surf

shop in the world.”

Metz said he is the better businessman of the two by default.

“Hobie is an inventor, creative,” Metz said. “He doesn’t like the

routine of managing. He goes into a store, buys something and thinks,

‘I can do this better.’ I am more organized.”

Despite Metz’s claim that all he ever did was surf and party, he

managed to earn a master’s degree in economic geography. So it was

Metz who established the chain of 22 Hobie stores.

The stores introduced JAMS, the first real surfing clothes and

forerunner of Reyn Spooner’s use of inside-out fabrics. Metz’s former

wife convinced him to devote a small portion of the Hobie stores in

Hawaii to bikini separates, a retailing blockbuster.

And he collected surfboards, using some of them to decorate his

stores.

Eleven examples from Metz’s collection were displayed at the

museum’s surfing show, courtesy of the foundation. Some of the

foundation’s boards also are to be exhibited this fall at the Ocean

Institute in Dana Point.

The collection begins with a 1900 board, one of the oldest redwood

boards made in Hawaii, and includes boards owned by Duke Kahanamoku.

Boards in the collection that have specific ties to Laguna Beach

include the 1948 11-foot-6-inch, 108-pound balsa-redwood hi-bred made

by Laguna legend Jim “Burrhead” Drever; several of Alter’s boards and

“Board 45,” made at Sleepy Hollow Beach by Lorrin “Whitey” Harrison.

The Harrison board is an early example of semi-hollow designs that

sought to lighten the weight of the boards.

“Surfing has totally changed,” said Metz, eyeing a replica of the

1937 board that hangs on the living room wall of his Laguna Beach

home.

“The early boards had no fins, you rode straight in,” Metz said.

“But you never had to worry about anyone stealing your board -- it

took two men to carry them. Now they weigh 8 pounds.”

Boards were made of redwood in the early days. The next step was

balsa wood, but that absorbed water and didn’t float. From 1948 on,

balsa was coated with fiberglass and resin. Boards have also gotten

shorter over the years.

“I never use a short board,” Metz said. “I’ve played with them,

but the short board doesn’t float you so well and you have to paddle

harder. You get a style.”

Metz perfected his youthful style at Laguna’s beaches.

“Brooks Street is the best if the surf is breaking, but it doesn’t

break often,” Metz said. “Some guys argue that Rockpile or Thalia are

better.”

Metz has spent his life seeking the best waves. Now he has help in

preserving the surfing history he created.

The Surfing Heritage Foundation is at 305 N. Coast Highway, Suite

P. For more information, visit www.surfingheritage.com or call Metz

at 494-0067.


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