“Surfing Miami” exhibition organized in Cocoa Beach at the Florida Surf Museum

Windex colored water, pastel painted buildings and bronze bodies characterize South Beach. But lost in the world of models, muscles and “Musica Latina”, the now glamorous district of Ocean Drive proved to be a big push for the evolution of surfing, starting in the 1930s.

“It’s a very important part of Florida surfing history, especially near a big city and all the tourists,” said John Hughes, executive director of the Florida Surf Museum in Cocoa Beach and host of “Surfing Miami: A Definitive Look at Surfing on Miami Beach.

The inauguration of the “Surfing Miami” exhibition will take place at 7 pm on Saturday, December 11 and will remain visible until March 2022.

Much of the Florida Surf Museum’s exhibit is attributed to the comprehensive book “Florida Surfing: A Photographic History” by South Florida surfer Paul Aho, with the help of his friend Ron Faulds, and murals from the Florida Atlantic University.

There are stories from the Miami Herald of how a rival surf store allegedly burned down a competitor’s building; how a University of Miami student practically invented “baggies,” only to see his factory fold when a wave of Hang Ten clothing was introduced; and how looting and degrading morals shut down other businesses.

But surfing in South Florida – actually first documented in the 1920s and pioneered by the legendary Whitman brothers – has played a central role in the sport’s progression, bringing it into the same conversation as ‘Hawaii and California.

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Bill Whiddon of Indialantic, 67, was born in Miami. He and his father surfed where the Miami Beach Pier stood on First Street and Ocean Drive, next to the Miami Beach Kennel Club.

In 1964, Whiddon was in his fourth grade when his father took him to the Sunnyland Theater in South Miami to see “Endless Summer,” an epic film that still stands the test of time.

“My dad was jazzed up, like me… We had a big old blue pop-out, but I was fed up with sharing the board, so dad took me to Cocoa Beach,” Whiddon said, recalling the purchase of a 9ft 8in Foam Yater Spoon and fiberglass board from the former Ron Jon Mall store (before it later became “the largest surf showcase in the world). world ‘two-story).

The evolution towards the shortboard era in the mid-60s increased the hype for the sport, especially in the tropics.

Soon Whiddon said, “You would see surfers cutting their beautiful boards, but that was it – the Beach Boys, ‘Surfin’ USA, ‘peace and love. Everyone wanted to be a surfer.

Whiddon, whose career evolved in the creative design and advertising industry, lived in Coconut Grove on Biscayne Bay, 8-10 miles from the beach on the McArthur Causeway.

Living far from the beach, he, like other surfers, used a pay phone to call Jack Diamond, who operated Jack’s Stand outside the Kennel Club and had a bird’s eye view of the ocean. By calling collect to save those pennies, they would be asking for “Morey Pope” – the code words for surf conditions. “If Jack said, ‘He’ll come back at 2 meters’, we knew it was 2 feet, and if he said, ‘He’s not here, he’s chopping wood’, we would know there is had a hit (wave). “

Whiddon also became an accomplished paddleboarder. He and Thad Foote were the first to paddle a stand-up from Bimini in the Bahamas to Miami (17 hours, 48 ​​minutes), a charity event to raise awareness of plastics in the ocean.

When Whiddon moved to California to pursue his college education, people looked at him in disbelief and said, “What? There is no surfing in Miami.

“Well, from my point of view, if you learned to surf anywhere on the east coast – with long periods of flat, choppy winds, and where you’d be happy to take a three-second lap – you could surf anywhere. “

Miami area surfers considered “kooks”

While attending the University of Miami in the early 1960s, Bruce Walker said he “needed the money.” at 10 Ocean Drive, a stone’s throw from the dog track and the beach, where parking is 25 cents.

“The image Miami surfers had at the time was that of ‘kooks’ – it was horrible but probably well deserved. That’s the way it was, ”Walker, 69, said from his Oahu home after a day of skateboarding at Banzai Skate Park near the famous Pipeline on Hawaii’s north coast.

“Then what happened – I’ve always been in the cinema – I would show my movies later at the Melbourne Beach Community Center and those waves (sometimes) looked like Hawaii, so the news spread pretty quickly.” and the whole attitude changed. It wasn’t great, but it didn’t matter, and they wouldn’t bore you after that.

Off Ocean Drive, the area on the south side of the pier that led to the harbor, “maybe about a few football fields,” Walker said, sometimes produced the best waves.

An epic photo of a huge swell – maybe 8 feet – is one of the exhibits at the Florida Surf Museum. “Now if you’re from Miami it’s a 12 footer,” Hughes said with a laugh.

Incidentally, Walker, a Hall of Fame skateboarder and surfer who moved to Melbourne Beach to open another surf store of the same name on Ocean Avenue in Indialantic, trained and groomed 11-time surf champion Kelly Slater for his illustrious career.

Shortly after Walker’s departure from Miami, board shaper Bud Gardner – who was also inducted into the East Coast Hall of Fame before his death – opened the Bud Gardner Surf Shop not far from where it is located. found Walker’s store in South Beach. Gardner, referred to as a “legend” by Walker, then moved to Melbourne Beach, where he continued his fine line of surfboards in addition to other crafts.

The Whitman brothers pushed

In the 1930s, teenage brothers Dudley and Bill Whitman, who learned to surf in Hawaii, began passionately promoting the sport in Miami from their home on Collins Avenue. Bill, who later invented the first underwater camera, is credited with building Florida’s first Hawaiian surfboard – from sugar pine, 10 feet long and 10 inches thick.

Tom Blake, originally from Wisconsin, first “cheated” on a surfboard left in Florida in 1922. He would soon deliver a lighter, hollow surfboard to the area, revolutionizing surfing technology and igniting the scene. surf.

In the mid-1930s, Dudley Whitman opened Miami’s first surf store called the Challenger Marine Showroom on 133rd Street in North Miami.

“They kind of started surfing in Florida,” said Hughes. “As much as they were known as promoters, they were also very good surfers. “

West Coast East Surf Shop was formed in 1961 on 1st Street in Miami Beach and became Surfboards Miami by Bruce Freeman. Then there were the adventurers of diving and surfing. These stores were literally shaping the future of sport.

Mark and Roddy Perry were just two of South Beach’s surfing stars, but many agree that Miami’s best surfers were in fact the late Dick Catri and his pal, the infamous Jack “Murph the Surf” Murphy, who were part of the Miami hotel dive groups. Beach before later settling in Brevard County.

Unfortunately, surf shops and other businesses were victims of looting by the Merilitos (freed Cuban prisoners), who began to settle on South Beach after disembarking in the Keys.

Today, the dog run by the beach has given way to dizzying condos. The municipal jetty, once a popular site for major competitions, has been demolished. Art-Deco buildings now line the neighborhood where Walker and Gardner had their surf shops.

“I wouldn’t have changed a thing,” Whiddon said, thinking back to his youth. “It was a wonderful time to be a surfer in Miami.”

Caroline Marks done for 2021

Caroline Marks of Melbourne Beach failed to qualify for the Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold Haleiwa Challenger in Hawaii earlier this week.

One of the most anticipated rounds of the day included Marks, former Championship Tour contender Coco Ho (Hawaii), Bettylou Sakura Johnson (Hawaii) and Championship Tour 2020 substitute Amuro Tsuzuki (Japan).

Marks made an early jump to the lead, but as the heat progressed she needed a score to be in a position ahead.

But Tsuzuki’s last-minute effort secured the Japanese contender’s place in the quarter-finals and the elimination of Marks.

Marks now looks to the start of the 2022 Championship Tour at the Billabong Pro Pipeline starting January 29.

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