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Cultural Nuances Of The U.S. & Italy

An Interview with Jane Schmauss, Historian at the California Surf Museum

California Surf Museum
Jane Schmauss

Jane Schmauss, Historian at the California Surf Museum

As a member of the Board of Directors at the California Surf Museum (CSM), I expressed my wish to interview Jane Schmauss, the museum’s esteemed historian and co-founder. Jane immediately accepted. She is such a lovely, fantastic, and energetic lady who has dedicated her life to preserving the rich history of surfing, ensuring that the cultural significance and stories of this beloved sport are shared with future generations.

Jane, can you tell my readers a bit about the origins of the California Surf Museum?

Certainly! The California Surf Museum was founded in 1986 by Stuart Resor and a dozen interested individuals, including myself. Our initial goal was to create a space where we could document and celebrate the history of surfing. We started in a small space in an Encinitas shopping plaza, and our first exhibit, “Iron Men and Wooden Boards,” showcased early surfing pioneers through photographs, memorabilia, and historic surfboards. Since then, we’ve expanded significantly and now operate out of a modern twelve-hundred-square-foot facility in downtown Oceanside, a city you, Severino, often call “my happy place”. One point of fact: our building is 5800 sq ft, with a bit over 3000 sq ft dedicated to exhibit space.

What inspired you to start the museum?

My background as a teacher and librarian gave me a profound appreciation for preserving and sharing knowledge. Coupled with my interest in surfing, I saw a need for an organization that would document the rich history and cultural impact of the sport. It’s been a labor of love from the start, driven by a desire to educate and inspire both surfers and the general public.

We know that the museum is known for some iconic exhibits. Could you highlight a few for the readers?

Absolutely. One of our standout exhibits is the timeline of surfboards, which traces the evolution of board design from the early 1900s to today. We also have Bethany Hamilton’s shark-bitten surfboard, which tells an incredible story of resilience and courage. Additionally, we regularly host rotating exhibits that cover various aspects of surfing culture and history, from local legends to global influences. Our 2010 “Women on Waves” exhibit was a resounding success, tracing the history of women’s surfing from ancient times to the present, and our 2017 “China Beach: Surfing During the Vietnam War” addressed the healing power of surfing.

California Surf Museum
California Surf Museum

How does the museum contribute to the local community and the broader surfing culture?

The museum serves as a cultural hub for the local community by hosting events, educational programs, and exhibitions that engage people of all ages. We also act as a repository of surf history, ensuring that the stories of influential surfers and significant events are preserved. This not only honors the past but also inspires future generations of surfers. I also want to highlight the commitment of the Board of Directors, which you are part of, our amazing staff, and all the volunteers and docents that support our museum activities with enthusiasm.

What has been one of the most rewarding experiences for you at the museum?

I am constantly inspired by seeing the reactions of visitors, especially those who may not have been familiar with the depth of surfing history – it’s incredibly rewarding. Watching young surfers connect with the stories of the pioneers who came before them is a powerful reminder of why we do this work. It’s about creating a bridge between the past and the present, and witnessing those connections is truly fulfilling. We welcome tens of thousands of annual visitors from all over the world, Italians included, Severino!

Can you share any exciting future plans for the museum?

As you know, we’re always looking to expand our exhibits and include more interactive elements to engage our visitors. The public is always welcome to access our website, which is dynamic and informative. We’re also working on increasing our digital presence, something you keep pushing for, to make our archives more accessible to people around the world of any age. Our goal is to continue evolving and finding new ways to share the rich tapestry of surfing culture with an ever-growing audience.

At the end of our conversation, I had the pleasure of gifting Jane a copy of my book “Point Break, ti porto in California”. She accepted it with enthusiasm, expressing her excitement to delve into the stories and experiences detailed within. Jane Schmauss’s dedication to the California Surf Museum has been instrumental in preserving the vibrant history of surfing, ensuring that the stories of past surfers continue to inspire and educate, highlighting the profound impact of surf culture on both a local and global scale.

Point Break: Ti porto in California
Jane Schmauss and Severino

you might also be interested in:

Everybody’d be surfin’! Get Inspired

A Conversation with Eric Noel Muñoz, author of “Peli Can Surf”

Severino Ricci, riconfermato membro del California Surf Museum di Oceanside

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