“There are so many components to surfing—there’s the boards, the music, the art, the fashion, the photography, the film, the lifestyle. People say soccer’s bigger than surfing and I say, ‘Yeah, but name me five songs about soccer.’”
That’s Barry Haun, Curator/Creative Director of the Surfing Heritage & Culture Center, and one of the most passionate surfers I’ve met in a long while. For Barry it’s not just the time in the water, it’s the culture and the history.
“I couldn’t afford to collect surfboards,” he told me, “so I collected books about surfing, and that got me interested in the whole historical aspect. And that’s how I became a curator.”
We were standing in the middle of the SHCC in San Clemente, California. Vintage surfboards—over 700 of ‘em—surrounded us. But there was much more than that, there were skateboards, paintings, fins, wetsuits, a pair of resin-drenched shoes worn by a glasser who must have glassed a thousand boards. There was even a shaping room, complete with tools. And dust.
A lifelong surfer with a background in fine art, Barry curated a retrospective of George Greenough for the Huntington Beach Museum in 2003. That same year he met Dick Metz, founder of the SHCC, and so began his gig here.
I asked him what he loves most about his job.
“This!” he said, waving his hand around the room. “And meeting my heroes. The Lopezs and the Currens and the Slaters and the John Johns. I get to meet these people!”
I asked him about his most valued treasures.
“You mean if the building was on fire, what would I save?”
“Come on, let me show you.”
“Obviously any Duke board you would save. This one’s probably the most famous ‘cause it was used in a tourist bureau advertisement and a Dole ad campaign. Duke is the epitome of aloha.
And this is pretty cool. This is an early, early Rick Griffin artwork. It was on the bedroom wall of his high school buddy. Rick drew the waves that we all wanted to surf. Our Pee-Chee folders were covered with waves, and they were Rick Griffin waves.”
“This is one of my favorites because people see it and go, ‘No, it’s not!’ This is Miki Dora’s leash. There was a gal who was Miki’s sometime girlfriend from when he was over in Europe and South Africa and she had a couple of Miki’s boards that she was hanging on to and she went to Miklos Sr. and said, ‘Do you want the boards back?’ and he said, ‘Put them somewhere where they belong.’ So this was on one of the two surfboards. And yeah, I guess when you’re surfing Jeffreys Bay you want to wear a leash.”
“Anything with George [Greenough] I’d save. This one’s an ‘80s carbon fiber, flex-tail board of George’s. It weighs even less than the spoons do. He goes out with these 30 lbs. cameras on his back on these boards that don’t float to begin with! George was the first one to give us that view of the tube from the inside looking out. The first exhibit I did was a retrospective of George. So George was pretty much responsible for my doing all this.”
“This is Bruce Brown’s camera. He used this to shoot The Endless Summer—the most watched documentary of all time. I saw it before I started surfing. It engrained that idyllic lifestyle into me. I went, ‘I want to do that! I want to go there!’ It still resonates.”
“This is a medal that Duke gave to Hevs [McClelland], founder of the US Surfing Association. I love this because Duke acknowledged one of our Californian elders. And right below is Linda Benson’s Makaha trophy. She won it when she was what, like, fifteen or sixteen? She went over to Hawaii and entered the contest and she won it when she was just a little kid in 1959. And because it never had her name on it she finally decided to get her name put on it, and they put it off center, and that crushed her, but I was like, ‘That just adds to the story.’”