South Florida Ocean Waters and a Group of Entrepreneurs Developed a Rich Surf Culture – So Surprisingly – Surf Culture | Local
Windex colored water, pastel painted buildings and bronze bodies characterize South Beach. But lost in the world of models, muscles and “Musica Latina”, the now glamorous district of Ocean Drive proved to be a big push for the evolution of surfing, starting in the 1930s.
âIt’s a very important part of Florida surfing history, especially near a big city and all the tourists,â said John Hughes, executive director of the Florida Surf Museum in Cocoa Beach and host of “Surfing Miami: A Definitive Look at Surfing on Miami Beach.
The inauguration of the “Surfing Miami” exhibition will take place on December 11 at 7 p.m. and will remain visible until March 2022.
Much of the Florida Surf Museum‘s exhibit is attributed to the comprehensive book “Florida Surfing: A Photographic History” by South Florida surfer Paul Aho, with the help of his friend Ron Faulds, and murals from the Florida Atlantic University.
There are stories from the Miami Herald of how a rival surf store allegedly burned down a competitor’s building; how a University of Miami student practically invented “baggies,” only to see his factory fold when a wave of Hang Ten clothing was introduced; and how looting and degrading morals shut down other businesses.
But surfing in South Florida – actually first documented in the 1920s and pioneered by the legendary Whitman brothers – has played a central role in the sport’s progression, bringing it into the same conversation as ‘Hawaii and California.
Bill Whiddon, 67, was born at Mercy Hospital just across from the famous Rickenbacker Causeway leading to Key Biscayne. He and his father surfed where the Miami Beach Pier stood on First Street and Ocean Drive, next to the Miami Beach Kennel Club.
In 1964, Whiddon was in his fourth grade when his father took him to the Sunnyland Theater in South Miami to see “Endless Summer,” an epic film that still stands the test of time.
âMy dad was jazzed up, like meâ¦ We had a big old blue pop-out, but I was fed up with sharing the board, so dad took me to Cocoa Beach,â Whiddon said, recalling the purchase of a 9ft 8in Foam Yater Spoon and fiberglass board from the former Ron Jon Mall store (before it later became “the largest surf showcase in the world). world ‘two-story).
The evolution towards the shortboard era in the mid-60s increased the hype for the sport, especially in the tropics.
Soon Whiddon said, âYou would see surfers cutting their beautiful boards, which were getting shorter, but that was it – the Beach Boys, ‘Surfin’ USA ‘, peace and love. Everyone wanted to be a surfer.
Whiddon, whose career evolved in the creative design and advertising industry, lived in Coconut Grove on Biscayne Bay, 8-10 miles from the beach on the McArthur Causeway.
Living far from the beach, he, like other surfers, used a pay phone to call Jack Diamond, who operated Jack’s Stand outside the Kennel Club. By calling collect to save those pennies, they would be asking for âMorey Popeâ – the code words for surf conditions. “If Jack said, ‘He’ll come back at 2 meters’, we knew it was 2 feet, and if he said, ‘He’s not here, he’s chopping wood’, we would know there is had a hit (wave). “
Whiddon also became an accomplished paddleboarder. He and Thad Foote were the first to paddle a stand-up from Bimini in the Bahamas to Miami (17 hours, 48 ââminutes), a charity event to raise awareness of plastics in the ocean.
âWe were paddle boarding on a Saturday morning around Hobie Beach or paddle boarding around the island at Virginia Key by Marine Stadium,â he said. âBut most of all, when big waves came from the north swell, we were riding Bear Cut Inlet near Jimbo’s Bar and Grill,â sometimes paddling three-quarters of a mile to catch the best surf.
When Whiddon moved to California to continue his college education, people told him there were no surfable waves in Miami. “From my perspective, if you learned to surf anywhere on the east coast – with long periods of flat, choppy winds and where you’d be happy to take a three-second lap – you could surf n ‘ no matter where. “
Miami area surfers considered “kooks”
While attending the University of Miami in the early 1960s, Bruce Walker said he “needed the money.” at 10 Ocean Drive, a stone’s throw from the dog track and the beach, where parking is 25 cents.
âThe image Miami surfers had at the time was that of ‘kooks’. It was horrible, but probably well deserved. That’s the way it was, âWalker, 69, said from his Oahu home.
âI’ve always been in the moviesâ¦ and those waves (sometimes) looked like Hawaii, so the news spread pretty quickly and the whole attitude changed. It wasn’t great, but it was even.
Off Ocean Drive, on the south side of the pier that led to the harbor, sometimes produced the best waves, Walker said. An epic photo of a huge swell – maybe 8 feet – is one of the exhibits at the Florida Surf Museum.
âNow if you’re from Miami it’s a 12 footer,â Hughes said with a laugh.
Shortly after Walker’s departure from Miami, board shaper Bud Gardner – who was also inducted into the East Coast Hall of Fame before his death – opened the Bud Gardner Surf Shop in South Beach.
The Whitman brothers pushed
In the 1930s, teenage brothers Dudley and Bill Whitman, who learned to surf in Hawaii, began passionately promoting the sport in Miami from their home on Collins Avenue. Bill, who later invented the first underwater camera, is credited with building Florida’s first Hawaiian surfboard – from sugar pine, 10 feet long and 10 inches thick.
Tom Blake, from Wisconsin, first “cheated” on a surfboard left in Florida in 1922. He would soon deliver a lighter hollow surfboard to the area, revolutionizing surfing technology and igniting the surf scene. surf.
In the mid-1930s, Dudley Whitman opened Miami’s first surf store called the Challenger Marine Showroom on 133rd Street in North Miami.
âThey kind of started surfing in Florida,â said Hughes. âAs much as they were known as promoters, they were also very good surfers. “
In 1956, Bill Riedlof’s Little Hawaii surf store opened in North Miami Beach, and the South Florida Surf Club was a hotspot for surf culture in Hollywood. West Coast East Surf Shop was formed in 1961 on 1st Street in Miami Beach and became Surfboards Miami by Bruce Freeman. Then there were the adventurers of diving and surfing. These stores were literally shaping the future of sport.
Mark and Roddy Perry, Roger Kincaid, Ralph Lima, Joe Burnell, Randy and David Smith, Adam Salvio, David Byrd, Gary Minervini, Mike Beluzzi and Lewis Graves were some of the early sports stars in South Florida, from Bal Harbor in South Beach.
Ross Houston was also a big influence. As president of the Dade County Surfing Association, he was successful in pushing for more surf areas to open up, from Fort Pierce to Miami.
Many agree that the real stars of surfing in Miami were the late Dick Catri and his pal, Jack “Murph the Surf” Murphy, who were on the dive groups at hotels in Miami Beach. Later, they became internationally recognized for surfing and promoting the sport. Murphy, unfortunately, also gained notoriety as a convicted murderer and for stealing the Star of India sapphire in 1964 from the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
Ocean Avenue Surf Shop opened on February 6, 1972 (“We were late in the game,” Walker said), and then sold it to a man who managed to have a good year in business before d ‘be forced to close.
âHe’s had a really good year in business,â Walker said. âBut that was when the Marielitos arrived after the release of the Cuban prisoners by (Fidel) Castro. Many (criminals) have started to settle in South Beach. They robbed his store in the middle of the night.
Today, the dog run by the beach has given way to 40- to 60-story condos. The municipal jetty, once a popular site for major competitions, has been demolished. Art-Deco buildings now line the neighborhood where Walker and Gardner had their surf shops.
“I wouldn’t have changed a thing,” Whiddon said, thinking back to his youth. “It was a wonderful time to be a surfer in Miami.”