Surfboards on Parade collection to be unveiled at Art Center

Bill Stewart and Wade Koniakowsky used chance to determine which of them would paint the front side of their board for the Surfboards on Parade exhibit in Huntington Beach.

Still, by the time the public sees the board, any notion of "front" and "back" may be moot.

At the Huntington Beach Art Center, where the board will be displayed Thursday as part of the Rotary Club of Huntington Beach's citywide art exhibit, Stewart and Koniakowsky's work will rotate slowly on a 2-foot pedestal. It will appear the same way when it moves to Duke's Huntington Beach the following day. And if a private buyer takes it home later this year, Stewart is willing to punch a small hole in the tip so the board can hang like a mobile from the ceiling.

Call it a compromise between longtime friends — who met a decade and a half ago when shaper Stewart traded one of his boards for one of artist Koniakowsky's paintings.

"I called him up and I'd shaped a board, and it was all ready to be painted," said Stewart, who owns Stewart Surfboards in San Clemente. "And I thought, 'OK, should I just start painting this? Because I wanted to paint the deck, and I thought, 'Well, that's not fair to him.' So I called him up and I said, 'Hey, wait, I'm sure you want to paint the deck. I want to paint the deck. Let's flip a coin.'

"So I said, 'You flip it. I'll call it.' He flipped it, I called heads, and I won."

As a painting competition, perhaps it's a draw. Stewart's side features a beach scene with a wave crashing on the shore and a background of mountains and clouds, while Koniakowsky portrayed a woman in Polynesian garb standing before the tide amid tropical vegetation.

Stewart and Koniakowsky's board will be among 28 displayed Thursday at the Huntington Beach Art Center as Surfboards on Parade unveils its full collection. In the first third of the year, the Rotary Club released a handful of boards, including one by artist Wyland and shaper Tim Stamps and another by shaper Robert August, one of the surfers featured in the 1966 documentary "The Endless Summer," and artist John Van Hamersveld, who designed the film's poster.

The organizers originally intended to display 25 boards, but response from artists and shapers proved so strong that the number shot up by three, according to Jodi McKay, the event's co-manager.

"There were some that we couldn't live without, so we let them jump in," she said.

Thursday evening, all the boards will share a single room for the opening reception. Friday, they will relocate to other spots around town, including the International Surfing Museum, Huntington Surf & Sport and the Shorebreak Hotel.

In addition to the boards, the opening reception at the art center will include interactive exhibits, food from Duke's, wine from SeaLegs, beer from Beach City Brewery, a short film about the making of the 28 entries and more. The project commemorates the 100th anniversary of surfing in Huntington Beach, which Hawaiian athlete George Freeth visited in 1914 for a board demonstration at the pier.

The festivities will continue for most of the year: Surfboards on Parade plans to host an exhibit at the art center in August and September and then auction off the boards for charity Oct. 4 at the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort. Proceeds will go primarily to the Hoag Family Cancer Institute, with Rotary, the surfing museum and the art center also benefiting.

"Surfboard art has come a long way from just the surfboard manufacturers doing some simple pen lines or racing stripes, colored panels, all the way to this full-blown expression of the beach lifestyle," Koniakowsky said Wednesday in the gallery, surrounded by mounted boards. "It's pretty exciting to see. This is a cool show."

Some of the boards could function as conversation pieces, to say the least. Two local high school students, artist Ian McKibben and shaper Brad Hernandez, created a white board with a shark crashing through it, while artist Sam Bernal and shaper Chuck Dent designed a bubble tank, complete with LED lights, in the shape of a surfboard. Michele Leal and Don "Hoyie" Johnson's submission is carved like a wooden Tiki sculpture.

Then there's shaper Barry DeffenBaugh and artist Kim Hamrock's "The Beached Mermaid," which features a busty — and topless — gold-colored woman emerging from the water's surface with her tail poking out behind. Kate Hoffman, the art center's executive director, called it a nude in the classic tradition, no matter how patrons of the show might react.

"It's important to remember that it wasn't done as a form of erotica," she said. "It was done as a fine art piece."

If You Go

What: Surfboards on Parade VIP Kickoff Reception

Where: Huntington Beach Art Center, 538 Main St., Huntington Beach

When: 6 p.m. Thursday

Cost: $25 (tickets available at until 11 a.m. Thursday; available at the art center afterward)

Information: (714) 374-1650 or

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