This year marks an especially exciting 12 months for the Huntington Beach surf community. The centennial of George Freeth's historic ride at the HB Pier on June 20, 1914, has arrived, and to celebrate, notable local groups have come together to launch "Surfboards on Parade," a series of one-of-a-kind shaper and artist collaboration boards. The third unveiling wowed the crowd at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa on Tuesday, March 18, with the pretty in pink iconic visage of Marilyn Monroe.
On the heels of Tim Stamps/Wyland and Robert August/John Van Hamersveld pairings, the third board—the first shortboard of the ongoing collaborative community exhibition—features longtime San Diego-based shaper Tim Bessell and late pioneering artist Andy Warhol. Having already partnered up with The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts to create a series of boards showcasing Warhol's legendary pop culture art, Bessell gladly included an appropriate board to honor Surf City. Monroe, in case you didn't know, was a surfer back in her day.
With the men's first world surfing champion Pete "PT" Townend as the host of each unveiling, chuckles are always aplenty, and event organizer Rotary Club of Huntington Beach curates a compelling lineup of speakers every time. While soaking in the Southern California March sun in the Hyatt's courtyard and sipping an unexpected but welcomed late morning glass of champagne, we shot up in our seats when another first world champion took the stage—Jericho Poppler.
Greeting her audience with a wide smile, Poppler spoke briefly on the history of women in surfing, nodding to Townend and offering to share her experiences with anyone interested in discussing the female role in the surfing community. "Being a woman riding these waves was really thrilling, and the guys, they accepted the few women that were surfing out here," she said of HB, the waters of which she's surfed for more than five decades and where she was crowned U.S. champion in 1970. Six years later she became the first women's world surfing champion.
A 26-year stage four melanoma survivor, Poppler hit home for the project's mission to eradicate skin cancer. Linking arms with beneficiaries Huntington Beach Art Center, International Surfing Museum and Hoag Family Cancer Institute, Rotary HB has arranged for proceeds of the October surfboard auction to benefit all three groups.
The project holds a personal significance for Bessell, who first met Warhol at the Playboy Club in New York City in the early 1980s. "Basically, I walked in with my two friends and there's Andy Warhol standing with four beautiful tall models," recalled Bessell, laughing. "He was my hero," added Bessell, who was studying art at San Diego State University at the time. His friends dared him to approach Warhol, and when he did, the two instantly connected, thanks to mutual friend and shaper Carl Ekstrom, who made two boards for Warhol's 1968 film San Diego Surf. Bessell said of Warhol, "He loved surfers, surfing and the lifestyle."
Flash-forward to 2011, and Bessell found himself cold-calling the foundation to offer his shaping services. The partnership has been active since 2012, producing more than 100 boards and raising upward of $300 million for numerous art foundations.
As the black "Surfboards on Parade" cloak fell on Tuesday, Bessell declared, "Pink is in." We concur.
Bessell and Warhol's board will display at the Hyatt through August 17, when it will then join the other 26 surfboards on parade at the HB Art Center on August 30.
For a growing list of 100 years of surfing events, check out our handy guide.