The start of the 21st annual Woodies on the Wharf weekend was very special indeed. 130 years ago in the summer of 1885 three Hawaiian princes, David Kawananakoa, Edward Keli’iahonui and Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole, who were in California to attend boarding school, introduced surfing to the U.S. mainland. The three Hawaiian princes surfed Santa Cruz’s San Lorenzo River mouth — the first recognized instance of the sport in the U.S. — riding “o’lo” boards cut and shaped from local, old growth Santa Cruz redwood. When the princes returned to Hawaii around 1890, they took the 18-foot, 150+-pound boards with them. For decades, two of the three original boards were forgotten deep in the bowels of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii until discovered by staff members in 2012. They have never been shown to the public, according to Santa Cruz historian Geoffrey Dunn, who first heard the lore of the missing boards in the 1970s. Dunn worked with Kim Stoner of the Santa Cruz Surfing Club Preservation Society to bring the boards back to Santa Cruz for the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History display, which runs July 3 to Oct. 25, 2015.
Our own Dave Welles learned of the surfboards special homecoming and offered to provide a Woodie escort into town. Over forty woodies accompanied the surfboards on the last leg of their historic journey, leading a procession from the Pasatiempo Inn parking lot on Thursday morning. The motorcade was greeted at the museum by Kumu Kaui Peralto, a Hawaiian hula teacher who chanted blessings in her native tongue, meant to wake and welcome the spirits of the surfboards. The two long wooden crates were wheeled into the Museum lobby in front of a large crowd of Woodie owners and surfing enthusiasts as workers lifted the crate lids to reveal the beautifully simple, single-plank boards, which were naked, with no fins, paint or resin. Redwood o’lo boards are long, narrow and incredibly heavy — hard to carry, maneuver and paddle. The feeling in the room was unmistakable as those of us who had joined the Woodie procession as well as the assembled surfing community got to see the uncrated 130 year old redwood longboards for the first time. It was an extraordinary way to kick off the weekend!
Later that evening, Alan and Jules Hilton threw a party for Woodie owners at their beautiful home overlooking the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to welcome everyone to the weekend’s festivities.
Friday morning many of us got up early to drive over to Jim and Patty Ferdinand’s for their annual paddle out and breakfast gathering. Many of the assembled Woodie owners and three generations of surfers took to the waves to enjoy the breaks at Pleasure Point followed by a wonderful hot buffet breakfast along with the companionship of family and dear friends. While our more adventurous members were surfing, Robin Carolan led her “Get Bendy in the Park” Yoga session for the more health conscious and for those who just wanted to start the day stretching and breathing properly.
Friday evening we gathered at the Ocean Pacific Lodge (OP) for appetizers and adult beverages and for our second annual Wacky-Tacky Hawaiian Shirt, Muumuu and Flip Flop Contest hosted by Santa Cruz Woodies-Next Generation. It’s always gratifying to see our younger club members stepping up and helping out. Awards went to Malibu Bill Sampson who was “pretty-in-pink”, Toni Wilkerson, Barry Johnson, Mickey Christiason, and Sheldon Jones.
Saturday morning low clouds rose over the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf with a light breeze blowing over the water that later turned into slightly warmer temperatures and mostly beautiful weather throughout the day. Many of us had driven our Woodies unto the Wharf at the crack of dawn to secure our favorite parking spots. As is customary, our friends at Stagnaro Brothers Restaurant & Seafood were serving hot, freshly brewed coffee and donuts to all who braved the early hours to get their cars ready for the day’s events. After coffee and donuts, many Woodie owners went to work at the T-shirt booth, manning the entrance, or the well-organized stage. Others went back to their cars to get in some pre-event cleaning and polishing, to take advantage of those early morning photo opportunities, or to catch up with old friends. As the morning progressed large crowds had gathered. By 12 PM the day’s activities were in full swing with thousands of Woodie admirers on the wharf. Many of us grooved to the music of SCWC member and DJ Jon Dufour of Classified Sound who provided an unusual mix of tunes to brighten up the day. Floyd Smith, Surfboard Hall of Fame Shaper, was again present on the wharf and drew a big crowd intrigued with his shaping of another great board for one lucky member of SCWC.
The SCWC raffles are always a crowd favorite, and this year was no exception with winners taking home some great prizes including beach cruiser bikes and a custom made fiberglass and resin SCWC Logo surfboard by Pearson Arrow (won by Diane Walsh of Santa Cruz Woodies) and an intricately made balsawood board by Floyd Smith Surfboards (won by Dan Close of San Diego Woodies). The longest distance award was won by Jerry Witt who traveled over 700 miles from Phoenix, AZ in his 1946 Mercury Woodie to join the fun. Other award winners included Terry O’Conner for the beautiful 1942 Ford Marmon Harrington 4×4 display who won the Woodies Owners Choice Award; Rocky Brown with his 1937 modified Hercules Bodied Ford for the People’s Choice Award and Tom O’Brion from Lodi, Ca. who won the Flathead Award. By the club’s count we had 185 wood-bodied cars in attendance. All of which can be seen by the very cool drone video shot by SCWC member Clay Coleman. – https://youtu.be/W92349BGH7c
At 3:30 PM our friends and longtime supporters at the Santa Cruz Police Department assisted with traffic control by providing a motorcycle escort and allowed us to parade our Woodies off the wharf to the delight of the many assembled on-lookers.
Saturday evening found us all back at the OP for our annual post WOW dinner and tailgate party where we handed out some very special awards and raffled off some more great prizes including art and woodwork and a lovingly created quilt designed and fabricated by Cheryl Luchsinger who wows the crowd every year with her artistry in fabric. We then enjoyed an evening concert with SCWC member Bob Lopez on guitar.
Sunday morning’s weather was sunny and mostly clear for the large number of cars that turned out for our annual, now renamed, “Kenny Would Go” cruise (named for deceased SCWC Past President Ken Francis) along West Cliff Drive and down to the Santa Cruz Harbor and Java Junction where complimentary coffee and extraordinary pastries were provided by SCWC for everyone to enjoy while we said our final alohas – until we meet again next year!!!
Don’t forget to mark your calendar for next year’s event which will be held Saturday June 25, 2016 when we will celebrate 22 years of aloha at Woodies on the Wharf.