Hobie Surf Shops and the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center (SHACC) today announced a collaborative project called the “Surfing Innovators Series.” The first installment of the series will be an exhibit inside Hobie’s Dana Point surf shop that showcases Lorrin “Whitey” Harrison and the profound impact he had on the nascent California surfing scene.
“Whitey Harrison was among California’s first real watermen,” said Paul Strauch, SHACC’s Executive Director. “As a teenager in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Whitey surfed the beaches of Corona del Mar and Laguna, initially on a solid pine surfboard left behind by the legendary Duke Kahanamoku on one of his trips to the mainland. There were very few surfers in California at that time. Not only was Harrison a skilled surfer and body surfer, but he also helped popularize free-diving for abalone and lobster off Orange County’s beaches.”
According to SHACC’s Curator and Creative Director, Barry Haun, Harrison also helped popularize surfing on the beaches of San Onofre. “In about 1935, the construction of jetty extensions in Corona del Mar drove Harrison to seek new places to surf,” Haun said. “That search led him and a few of his buddies to San Onofre, where they quickly learned that the waves were consistently good and ideal for surfing.”
As early as age five, Harrison began crafting his own wave-riding body boards out of wood. He would later emerge as one of the most innovative builders of redwood surfboards and paddleboards, as well as outrigger canoes to which he had been introduced during his first trip to Hawaii in the early 1930s.
“Harrison was of the mindset: why buy something if you can make it yourself,” Haun added. “So in addition to building surfboards, paddleboards and boats, he fabricated many of his own tools, fishing gear and lobster traps.”
The Whitey Harrison exhibit inside the Hobie Dana Point store includes some of Harrison’s early shaping tools, historic photographs, his signature hand-woven palm-frond hats, and other memorabilia that undoubtedly laid the groundwork for the California surfing lifestyle. Many Hobie staff members worked with SHACC to organize and install the Harrison exhibit. The shop is located at 34174 Pacific Coast Highway.
“Hobie and SHACC share a long and rich history in the surfing community,” said Jake Schwaner, Hobie’s General Manager and part owner. “SHACC co-founder Dick Metz and Hobie Alter had been close friends from the late ’50s until Hobie’s passing this year. Metz helped Hobie open a series of successful surf shops in the early 1960s – in California, Hawaii and the East Coast.”
-By Paul Strauch, Executive Director, SHACC