In the Pipeline: Wyland takes on Surfboards on Parade

When the famed marine-life artist Wyland unveils a new piece near the pier on Jan.14, he will be just across from the Golden Bear, where he painted a mural more than 30 years ago — before he was known for his building-size whales.

Wyland will be kicking off what I think is one of the most exciting local programs in recent history. It's called Surfboards on Parade, and it's a celebration of 100 years of surfing in Huntington Beach.

Put on by the Rotary Club of Huntington Beach, Surfboards on Parade will feature the placement of dozens of specially crafted surfboards throughout the city in the coming months. In March, surfboards will be unveiled at the Waterfront Hilton, the Hyatt Regency and the Shorebreak.

In May, a reception will be held at the Huntington Beach Art Center, and exhibits and events will continue through September, culminating in the Night of One Million Waves Gala, art auction and award ceremony at the Waterfront Hilton.

In addition to the Rotary Club of Huntington Beach, the event benefits the Hoag Family Cancer Institute, the Huntington Beach Art Center and the International Surfing Museum.

But back to Wyland, with whom I had the chance to speak last week. He is one of the artists chosen to create one of the special surfboards (the board Wyland painted was shaped by local legend Tim Stamps).

As I mentioned, back in the late '70s, Wyland pained a mural on the Golden Bear, the iconic nightclub that closed in 1986. So for him, this project really is like coming full circle.

"I was sitting in the Golden Bear one night watching B.B. King play," the artist told me. "And I was sitting there doing a sketch. The owner of the club, Rick Babiracki, came over and asked what I was doing. I told him that I was a muralist and I was sketching some of the artists that have played the club. He asked when I could start painting on the side of the building and I said, 'Tomorrow.'"

This was before Wyland became famous for painting what he calls The Whaling Walls.

Wyland told me that he used to love surfing here too.

"I would surf all the time in Huntington. I knew all the local guys that would go on to become really great surfers. That's why I'm so happy to be involved with Surfboards on Parade.

"I have roots in that community and it's a place were I always feel at home. Plus, it's an amazing cause, it benefits some great places, and so for me this is just something that I consider to be a no-brainer.

"Tim Stamp shaped a really great board for me, and I'm excited for people to see it in Huntington Beach. I'm also proud of all of the other artists taking place in this event, because it shows how committed they are to helping our community."

I really do think that this nine-month event is going to be something truly special, and so special thanks to the Huntington Beach Rotary club for putting it all together. For more information, visit


In honor of Thomas Cooper

And speaking of unveilings, I also wanted to let you know about a special ceremony I was privileged to attend last Saturday in Central Park.

The family of Thomas J. Cooper, who served as Huntington Beach's Parks and Recreation commissioner for 19 years, unveiled a bench in his honor overlooking the duck pond, right down the path from where Kathy Mays restaurant is (the former site of Alice's in the Park).

In addition to his work on the parks commission, Cooper also handed out trophies at many a Huntington Beach surfing competition and hosted a series on local Channel 3 called "Interviews with former Huntington Beach mayors."

A true community servant, he did many other things here as well. As Cooper and I sat on his bench just before the ceremony, he joked that he's glad the plaque on the bench doesn't read "In memoriam."

Just as glad were the many family and friends who gathered, including Mayor Matt Harper and former mayors Ralph Bauer and Don McAllister, all of whom spoke on behalf of Cooper.

So, if you ever have the chance to sit on the bench and look out at the pond and the ducks and the rest of the nature that surrounds you, always remember that Thomas J. Cooper played a large part in helping to make Central Park what it is today.

CHRIS EPTING is the author of 19 books, including the new "Baseball in Orange County," from Arcadia Publishing. You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at

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