Museum Tells Stories of NJ Surfers

By Maddie Orton
Arts Correspondent

Catching a wave isn’t just a summer sport. It’s a year-round passion for surfers and for the New Jersey Surf Museum. Tuckerton Seaport and Baymen’s Museum showcases all things maritime in the state, so including a hall for ‘hanging ten’ just makes sense.

“The people who we’re already telling the stories of, some of them were surfers as well,” says Director of Education Jaclyn Wood.

Wood says surfing made its Garden State debut in the early 1900s when Olympic gold medal swimmer Duke Kahanamoku gave an exhibition in Atlantic City.

“He came to Steel Pier in Atlantic City and really inspired a lot of local people,” Wood says.

A young boy named Sam Reid was among them.

“He saw that surfing demo, he went home, obviously he couldn’t buy a surfboard, so he took his mother’s ironing board, took the legs off, and went surfing,” explains Wood.

Oral histories like Reid’s play a role in shaping the museum, and so does science. It’s the surf experience, though, that’s at the heart of the museum — club jackets, trophies, skimboards, longboards, boogie boards, even a mini-wax museum and not the Madame Tussaud’s kind.

For people who want to try their hand at the sport, but aren’t quite ready to catch a wave, the museum also features a surf simulator.

“Some people, they’re troubles don’t necessarily disappear when they go in the ocean, but they definitely shrink,” says teaching artist and surfer Randy Budd. “It’s well-documented that the bubbling of the waves releases a ton of oxygen and it’s good for you.”

Budd likes looking at the vintage longboards. He’s a board maker himself and teaches carving classes at the Seaport.

“I mean everyone has, you bump into people [and they say], ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve got a this Yater Spoon in my attic,’ or this or that, and you never get to see it,” he says. “You come here, you can see it.”

That means visitors can also see the evolution of longboards to shortboards and wood to foam—a history that will be preserved for generations to come.

“My grandfather surfed, my dad surfed, I surf, my son surfed, we have high hopes for my grandson,” shares Budd.

Summer may be coming to a close, but it’s not too late to hop on a board. Budd says Jersey shore surfing is actually better in the winter. The water certainly won’t be warm, but a good wetsuit can go a long way.

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