Curiosity Killed the Californian
Well…I hope not.
But it’s the driving force behind this blog, which all began on a sunny, blue-sky day at the end of April, when I got the call of a lifetime.
Would I like to do a month-long road trip around the western U.S. for National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel blog?
I blinked a few times until it registered, then tried to rein in the school-girl-excitement that threatened to burst my body at the seams.
Yes! Yes. Yes, I would like to do that.
Fast forward a month. Now that Memorial Day has ushered summer in to my hometown of San Diego (along with heavier traffic and crowded beaches), I’m ready to strike off and explore what the rest of the West has to offer.
Amid the frenzy of planning, and visions of wild-west cattle drives and craft beers at off-beat pubs, I knew exactly what my first stop had to be.
Though I’m a surfer, I’d never been to the California Surf Museum, which is just ten minutes from my house in Oceanside.
Shameful, I told myself, but handy, too. My oversight had given me the chance to highlight what this trip is all about — not only uncovering new hidden gems, but training myself to see the familiar in a new light.
Searching every corner, crack, and crevice for the unusual, the interesting, the unforgettable.
So this morning, I battled rush hour traffic on Interstate 5 through the gray drizzle of June gloom and pulled up to the museum — a bright spot. Julie Cox, director of the museum and a professional surfer in her own right, greeted me with a smile and took a break from training a new intern to show me around.
I found it hard to pull myself away from each exhibit. Here’s a little taste of what I saw there:
– The “Transitional Era” exhibit traced the evolution from long boarding to short boarding from 1966-1972, with hippie culture weaved in. In it was this priceless commentary: “When the hair went long, the boards went short, and the world went crazy!”
– The museum has on display the board now-famous Bethany Hamilton (whose life was portrayed in Soul Surfer) was riding when she was attacked by a tiger shark. Julie explained that the family was tired of holding on to the reminder and offered to loan it to the museum.
– The outside “Secret Spot,” where the museum often holds events like its upcoming Surf Gala, transported me to a beach on Hawaii with its colorful mural by John Lamb and Brett Hazard.
– And the best treat of all, an exhibit still in the works that will be unveiled to the public soon: A collection of boards
- Nat Geo Expeditions
beginning with Koa Wood Alaia boards from Hawaii circa the 1890s (I didn’t know surfing had been around that long), through sugar pine, redwood, and balsa, and ending with the foam and fiberglass we use today.
I could have spent hours in there, but I knew that my trip was just beginning and that I had other places to explore waiting just around the bend.
But I did learn a valuable lesson during my time there: not to take the things in my own backyard for granted. I know it’s something all of us have been guilty of at some point in our lives, but it’s a good goal.
Definitely pay the museum a visit if you’re ever in the area for a dose of surf culture and history — and to meet a few friendly locals (the best kind of hidden gems)!
Follow Shannon’s adventures on Twitter @CuriousTraveler and on Instagram @ShannonSwitzer
Shannon is photographing with an Olympus PEN E-PM1 and an Olympus Tough TG-820.