SAN DIEGO — People have made surfboards for centuries. Standing alone, these boards are often striking examples of functional design. Together, they tell a compelling story about the evolution of an important American art form.

surfTraditional craft, cutting-edge engineering and minimalist art converge in the Mingei International Museum’s new exhibition devoted to surfboards built from the late 1940s to the present day.

“Surf Craft: Design and the Culture of Board Riding” opened on the first day of summer (June 21) and runs through Jan. 11, 2015. It is a unique surfboard exhibition exploring board design from a previously unexamined perspective: in the context of Soetsu Yanagi’s mingei philosophy of the importance of craft.

Through this lens, the exhibition captures the influences behind American design in board riding, from the alaia boards of ancient Hawaii, to obscure surf bathing boards of England, Japan and Africa, to post-war hydrodynamic planing hulls of Southern California.

Innovative board-shapers and surfers of the past and present are highlighted, including legendary surfer Bob Simmons, who died at Windansea in La Jolla in 1954, and renowned San Diegan Carl Ekstrom.

Guest curator and surf historian Richard Kenvin will author the 176-page hardcover book of the same title, which will be co-published by Marquand Books and MIT Press and will include 150 historic and contemporary photographs.

Also on view:

“A Golden Age of Marketing Design,” exploring marketing and advertising design of the company Huyler’s Chocolates from 1874 to 1925, through Aug. 17.

“Masks,” presenting a diverse collection of masks from the museum’s permanent collection from numerous countries, including Mexico, Japan, Indonesia and Nigeria, through Sept. 28.


“In the Realm of Nature,” presenting an inspiring retrospective on the careers of two esteemed American artists, Bob Stocksdale and Kay Sekimachi. Opens Sept. 13.

“Three on the Edge,” highlighting Kendrick Kellogg, James Hubbell, and Wallace Cunningham’s architecture and design creations. Opens Oct. 25.

The Mingei International Museum is located at 1439 El Prado in San Diego’s Balboa Park. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (extended summer hours on Thursday until 7:30 p.m. through Aug. 21). For more information, call (619) 239-0003 or visit

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