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From Sherman Library's Collections

Articles highlighting Sherman Library's collections and the history of Sherman Library & Gardens.

The 1928 Pacific Coast Surf Board Championship

Paul Wormser - Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Recently, both Huntington Beach and Santa Cruz have claimed the moniker, Surf City, USA.  While today nobody considers Corona del Mar the center of surf culture in California, in 1928 it might well have claimed the title Surf City, USA.  In that year, Corona del Mar had the only surf club on the Pacific Coast (with twelve members) and was the site of the first Pacific Coast Surf Board Championship. One of the most popular photographs in Sherman Library's collection shows contestants in this race posing next to their redwood longboards.

In 1928, the entrance to Newport Harbor was a perilous place for boaters.  Boats entering or leaving faced the real possibility of running aground or being swamped in the high surf.  Only three years earlier five men died when the charter fishing boat Thelma was swamped in the harbor channel. Attempts to quiet the water by building jetties on both the east and west side of the harbor entrance had failed.  However, the same waves that imperiled boats made for excellent surfing. Duke Kahanamoku, the 1912 and 1920 Olympic gold medalist and the man credited with popularizing surfing, considered the waves breaking into the entrance to Newport Harbor to be the best on the California coast. 

 

 
  Contestants in the Pacific Coast Surf Board Championship, August 7, 1928. 
Sherman Library Photograph Collection.

At noon on Sunday August 7, 1928, the Corona del Mar Surf Board Association sponsored the first Pacific Coast Surf Board Championship and Sparr Bathhouse manager, T. W. Sheffield, organized the event.  The competitions included a paddling contest from Corona del Mar beach to the west jetty and back, a canoe tilting completion, a demonstration of the use of surfboards for life saving, and finally a "rough water" surfboard race from the bell buoy off the harbor entrance to the channel nearest the east jetty.

The event organizers undoubtedly timed it to take advantage of the crowds gathering to watch the Star Class International Championship sailing race being held off the Newport Beach coast.  Several hundred people lined the beach to watch the surfing contest.  Fifteen contestants entered, coming from Corona del Mar, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Redondo and Santa Ana.

Had Duke Kahanamoku been at the race, he would have been the favorite to win.  Kahanamoku, however, could not attend, because he was filming a movie title The Rescue. The contestants included Tom Blake, who later would write the first book on surfing and revolutionize board designs, and Gerard Vultee, a pioneer in the airspace industry.  Blake took home silver trophies for first place in both the paddleboard and surfing competitions.

Eight Decades of Change in Two Photographs of Corona del Mar

Paul Wormser - Wednesday, August 01, 2018


At first glance, this photograph may seem uninteresting.  It is after all, a shot of a nearly empty street with a few buildings.  If you look closely, you will see a number of clues to the location and date.  To the left, you can see the Goldenrod footbridge and to the right a grocery store, which also served as a post office.  The store was Scott's Grocery, which city directories indicate was on the corner of Coast Highway and Marigold Ave.  In the distance toward the center of the photo, you will notice two additional buildings. The nearer of the two, on the left, was Brigg's Service Station, and the smaller building in the distance was the K. I. Fulton real estate office.

The photograph is undated. However, some elements help us to pinpoint the probable year as 1932.  First, are the facts that Coast Highway was opened through Corona del Mar in 1926 and the Goldenrod footbridge was completed in 1928.  So, the photograph has to be dated after 1928.  Samuel Scott, the grocery store owner, was also the Corona del Mar Postmaster from 1927 to 1934, when he sold his business and moved out of the area. This means the photograph was taken no later than 1934.  The final clue is more difficult to discern.  If you look to the right of the Fulton real estate office, you can see a white fence across coast highway.  Even though it was only six years old, in 1932 the State of California began widening Coast Highway between Newport Beach and Dana Point.  It seems likely that this photograph was taken in 1932, when parts of Coast Highway were temporarily closed while the road was widened.

This contemporary photograph was taken from the same spot as the original, the median of Coast Highway, looking toward the intersection at Marguerite Ave.  Scott's grocery is long gone, replaced by a dry cleaner.  The footbridge is no longer visible, the line of sight being blocked by businesses.  The service station was roughly where the Rite Aid is now. In the time since the first photo was taken, Coast Highway has also been widened even more, and medians added.  

This animation shows the 1932 photograph dissolving into the 2018 image, and back again.  It is a stark demonstration of the changes eight decades have brought to Corona del Mar.