The Happy Beach Bums from San Onofre

The Happy Beach Bums of San Onofre

August 5 – October 28, 2012

San Clemente, California, May 17, 2012 – The recent re-discovery of a collection of 150 black and white Polaroid photographs taken of families at San Onofre beach in the early 1960s is the basis for The Happy Beach Bums from San Onofre, an exhibition scheduled for August 5 to October 28, 2012 at Surfing Heritage Foundation.

During the early to mid 1960s, the late Don Davis, A.I.A., an avid surfer and Belmont Shore architect, purchased a Polaroid camera and began using the instant picture maker to record San Onofre surf families. He mounted each photograph on lined paper and recorded his subjects’ name, address, phone number, and occupation, with the goal of creating a future publication. His album of photographs is a joyous document of the unique culture that has revolved around San Onofre State Beach as well as the burgeoning California surf culture.

Over the decades San Onofre has served as the Waikiki of California–a family oriented, multi-generational surf beach adorned with grass shacks and totems that bespeak of Polynesian roots. Families raise their children there, where they safely run wild, surf, play, flirt, and feud while adults enjoy daytime sports and then evening beverages, music, dancing and luaus. Vehicles are customized to carry surfboards, provide shade, sleeping quarters, field kitchens, etc. Specially adapted “beach food” from recipes developed by San Onofre families are shared on customized folding camp tables with built-in seats. Beach parties and bizarre pranks are customary; and anyone who surfs shows up there at one time or another. While the waves can be quite fun, it is not the home of hot surfing so much as it is a seminal epicenter of California beach lifestyle.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a print-on-demand book reproducing the original album with essays by Steve Pezman (co-founder of The Surfer’s Journal) and John Upton (professor, photographer, curator, and co-author of the college textbook Photograph). The Happy Beach Bums from San Onofre is curated by Steve Wilkings.

Currently on view at Surfing Heritage Foundation through July 15, The Innovations of Hobie–an overview of the contributions that Hobie Alter has made to the surfing, skate, sailing, sunglass, and glider worlds. Hobie has made practical what had been expensive and unwieldy and in the process popularized activities and pleasures that have come to symbolize carefree aspects of Southern California culture and lifestyle.

Surfing Heritage Foundation is open 7 days a week 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is $5 and $4 for students, seniors, and the military.

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