St. Augustine Surf Culture & History Museum
A bright, fun and informative look at how surfing has become such an important part of the Oldest City’s story.
St. Augustine is a small town with lots of museums – it would be impossible to tells its 456-year history without them. And now there’s a new museum that features a subject that has not previously received the local historical attention it deserves – surfing! Located in the Tovar House, the former home of a Spanish artilleryman (yes, it’s impossible to get away from that history), the museum provides a bright, fun and informative look at how surfing has become such an important part of the Oldest City’s story.
Waves Gone By
The museum’s exhibits start with the earliest days of surfing at St. Augustine’s beaches – 1915 to be exact. That was the year local media first featured homegrown surfing pioneer Preston Floyd who made surfboards from cypress planks he got from the nearby railroad workshop. By 1918, board construction became far more sophisticated when St. Augustinian Antonio Capo began creating much more practical hollow boards. The museum features “Driz” Drysdale, Capo’s nephew and local high school athlete who wowed beach goers that year with his Patriotic Surfboard painted battleship gray with red, white and blue stripes. The museum explains by the 1920’s, St. Augustine had fully embraced surf culture. For instance, the interesting display on the evolution of swimsuits includes a 1924 ad from a local department store that offered women “a snappy, tight-fitting attention-attracting bathing suit.”
Although housed in one of the city’s many ancient buildings, it’s easy for museum visitors to get those “good vibrations” immortalized by the Beach Boys while learning how, by the 1960’s, St. Augustine had become a major destination for surfing enthusiasts. Numerous surfing competitions began here and some, like the Hugh Shaw Memorial Long Board Classic continue to attract surfers from around the world. The St. Johns County Ocean Pier is featured as the center of local surfing and a photo opportunity not to be missed by surfers from throughout the country. There’s even a scale model to explain the pier’s popularity with surfers along with an exhibit focusing on the conflicts that sometimes erupt there between surfers and fishermen.
Surf’s Up…But Why?
So, if you want a little hydrology and geology with your surfing (and who doesn’t?), the museum’s interesting look at local surfing hot spots should be just what you need. The exhibit explains how waves are formed and how they break. It also describes how easily storms can quickly erase a surfing hotspot. The map of popular local surfing locations is particularly valuable – especially for visiting surfers.
St. Augustine’s Surfing Hall of Fame
The museum features local surfers, past and present, who have distinguished themselves in national and international competitions, as well as St. Augustinians who have added so much to surfing through their photography, writing, promoting and board shaping. In fact, 13 local board shapers are acknowledged. Of course, no tribute to local surfing luminaries would be complete without including St. Augustine native and former world tour pro surfer Gabe Kling. The museum includes memorabilia from his illustrious career.
Created by local surfers and sponsored by more than 30 local businesses, the St. Augustine Surf Museum is part of the St. Augustine Historical Society’s Oldest House Complex located at 14 St. Francis Street. Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Surf Museum is included in the $10 admission to the Oldest House.