Santa Cruz Surfing Museum

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Santa Cruz Surfing Museum
IMG 9846Santa Cruz Lighthouse.jpg
Established 1986
Location Santa Cruz, California
Type History
Visitors 70,000 visits annually
Director Jenifer Lienau-Thompson
Santa Cruz Light
Santa Cruz Surfing Museum is located in California
Santa Cruz Surfing Museum
Location Santa Cruz, California
Coordinates 36°57′05.34″N 122°01′36.36″W / 36.9514833°N 122.0267667°W / 36.9514833; -122.0267667Coordinates: 36°57′05.34″N 122°01′36.36″W / 36.9514833°N 122.0267667°W / 36.9514833; -122.0267667
Year first constructed 1868
Year first lit 1869
Automated 1941
Construction Brick
Tower shape White lantern house on brick building
Focal height 60 feet (18 m)
Original lens Fifth order Fresnel lens (Removed)
Range 12 nautical miles (22 km; 14 mi)
Characteristic Fl W 5s
ARLHS number USA-1001
USCG number 6-0305 [1]
surfboard and three Hawaiians
Plaque honoring 1885 Hawaiian surfers

The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum is a museum which was established in May 1986 to document the history of surfing.[2] With collections dating back to the earliest years of surfing on mainland United States, the museum houses a historical account of surfing in Santa Cruz, California.


Located in the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse at Lighthouse Point on West Cliff Drive, the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum opened its doors in June 1986 as the first surfing museum in the world.[3] The lighthouse was built in 1967 as a memorial to surfer Mark Abott, who died while surfing at the nearby Pleasure Point surf break.[4]

Overlooking the Steamer Lane surfing hotspot, this little museum features photographs, surfboards, and videos tracing over 100 years of surfing history in Santa Cruz. After funding cuts in 2009, the Santa Cruz Surfing Club Preservation Society and private donations kept the museum open.[5]


The exhibits at the museum explore this unique culture from its early origins in Ancient Hawaii and over 100 years of surfing in Santa Cruz. Introduced in 1885 by three Hawaiian princes who surfed the mouth of the San Lorenzo River on plank boards, surfing has permeated every facet of the Santa Cruz community.[6][7] A plaque was dedicated to the princes: David Kawānanakoa, Edward Abnel Keliʻiahonui, and Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole (later a delegate to US Congress) in April 2010.[8]

Throughout its history, surf culture has reflected and responded to popular culture. Photographs chronicle the evolution of surfing culture in Santa Cruz from idyllic summers spent at the beach in the 1930s and 1940s, through the hipster beach party 1950s, the surf rock 1960s, the “soul surfing” 1970s, the neon 1980s, and the rebirth of classic long-board riding in the 1990s.

Examples of surfboards from each era are on display, from the huge hollow paddle boards and redwood planks made and ridden in the 1930s and 1940s to examples of early foam and fiberglass boards, and speedy short boards used to create radical new surf moves beginning in the 1970s.

Santa Cruz Light[edit]

The museum contains the current Santa Cruz Light, marking Point Santa Cruz on the west side of Santa Cruz Harbor. The light was allocated funding by congress in 1852, but disputes over the owner of the land meant that construction did not proceed until 1868.[9] The original light was a one-story wooden structure, displaying a fifth-order fresnel lens. Erosion of Point Santa Cruz required the lighthouse to be moved 300 feet (91 m) in 1879.

Undated USCG photo of the original lighthouse

Around 1909 [10] (sources vary, possibly 1913[9]) the lens was replaced with a fourth-order fresnel, for better visibility against the light of the city. The light was electrified in 1917, replaced by a wooden tower in 1941, and the original building demolished in 1948.


  1. ^ Light List, Volume VI, Pacific Coast and Pacific Islands (PDF). Light List. United States Coast Guard. 2012. p. 4. 
  2. ^ Katherine Bishop (May 10, 1988). "Santa Cruz Journal: Surfing Museum Far East of Hawaii". New York Times. Retrieved September 14, 2011. 
  3. ^ Santa Cruz Surfing Museum Info
  4. ^ Joel Hersh (May 24, 2011). "Surf museum shares its 25 years of history Friday". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved September 14, 2011. 
  5. ^ Ariana Smith (July 23, 2009). "Santa Cruz Surfing Club throws benefit concert to help keep Surf Museum open". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved September 14, 2011. 
  6. ^ Genevieve Bookwalter (November 25, 2009). "Hawaiian royals honor Santa Cruz surfing history". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved September 14, 2011. 
  7. ^ Geoffrey Dunn and Kim Stoner (March 31, 2010). "Riders of the Sea Spray". Santa Cruz Good Times. Retrieved September 14, 2011. 
  8. ^ J. M. Brown (April 10, 2010). "Santa Cruz dedicates plaque honoring surfing princes from Hawaii". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved September 14, 2011. 
  9. ^ a b Santa Cruz Lighthouse, California, retrieved 17 April 2012 
  10. ^ Santa Cruz Lighthouse, retrieved 17 April 2012 

External links[edit]