California Surfing Museums
Inside the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum
California has several museums dedicated to the sport of surfing. It seems like surfing has been huge here forever. Some Southern California cities claim to be the birthplace of surfing in the state, but no matter where it started, this state has surf blood running through its veins. Even if you are not a surfer, it is fascinating to watch expert and pro surfers work their craft. There is a lot of history around this sport and many colorful and influential personalities came from California.
These museums have exhibits telling the story of surfing from the early times as it moved from Hawaii to California and then evolved from there. Many movies, songs, and books have been influenced by the surf culture here. Each one of these non-profit facilities is located near prominent beaches in these surf cities.
International Surfing Museum, Huntington Beach
This museum houses surfing memorabilia from all over the globe. They have many exhibits and display items from California, the USA, and the world. It is not a huge museum, but it is informational and well-done. Check their event schedule as they often have live music and other things going on. If you are visiting Huntington Beach City Beach, it is only a couple blocks away.
Surfing Heritage and Culture Center, San Clemente
Think of this facility as a national museum of surfing. They work hard to keep it interesting for visitors by collecting and displaying new and old photographs, videos, books, and artwork from around the US. The exhibits have items from surfboards to wetsuits and surf wax that show the evolution of the sport. Some of these are rotating or on loan for display so you can see new things each time you visit. It’s not far from Pier Bowl and North Beach.
California Surf Museum, Oceanside
This museum is dedicated to the history of surfing in California. It has many permanent exhibits and always offers some rotating exhibits. The building was designed specifically for this museum so it is quite an impressive facility. They host many different types of events here including book readings, interviews, and surf specific events. It is only about three blocks away from Oceanside Pier Beach.
Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, Santa Cruz
This small surfing museum is in a lighthouse, Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse, on the point in Lighthouse Field State Beach west of the Santa Cruz Wharf. They have displays covering the important local surf scene and the rest of the state. A famous surfing spot called Steamer Lane is below the lighthouse so come so see the park, the lighthouse, the museum, and the experienced surfers riding the Lane.
Outdoor Surfboard Museum, Imperial Beach
This “museum” is definitely outdoors. There is no building and there are no surfboards per se, but there are full scale representations of different sized and shaped boards from the beginning to the current era. If you are in IB or at Imperial Beach City Beach, then take the walk and see this attraction, but otherwise, don’t go out of your way to see it.