A NEW SECRET has been uncovered from the depths at the NC Maritime Museum in Beaufort. And no, it’s not the infamous Queen
Ann’s Revenge. It is a new exhibit that lets visitors take the drop into North Carolina’s rich surfing past and ride the wave through its incredible historical journey to becoming a cultural and economic staple of the coastal community. The exhibit is open now, just in time for the summer surfing season.
When people picture crashing waves, patterned boards and colorful swim gear, they often imagine tropical getaways like Hawaii or the Caribbean, or far-off coastal locations in Florida and New Jersey. However, North Carolina’s Crystal Coast has nurtured a nautical secret – a surfing tradition over a century old.
There exist records of surfing on North Carolina’s coast dating back to the first decade of the twentieth century, the same time as a surfing revival in Hawaii. Then, surfboards were plain, long swaths of wood, often used for practical transportation and, on occasion, recreation. With influence from Hawaiian surfers and the growing popularity of surf culture in television and film, many of North Carolina’s coastal towns grew into burgeoning surfing communities that are alive and well today.
The treacherous tides and sneaky sandbars of North Carolina’s coast have drawn wave junkies and fans to places like Rodanthe, Cape Hatteras, Atlantic Beach, Wrightsvillle Beach and more for decades.
After nearly a century of sport, it is clear that surfing in the Crystal Coast is more than just a passing fad. The craft is surely here to stay, with North Carolina ranking as one of the most popular states for surfing.
“It’s unbelievable that North Carolina has such a massive surf following that has gone majorly unexamined,” said David Cartier, public relations coordinator for the NC Maritime Museums. “Up until last month, people could sit in the sand or take to the waters themselves to observe it. Now, they can come to the museum, too. Our new exhibit offers a dynamic look at how surfing shaped the North Carolina coast and its culture that will fascinate parents and kids alike.”
Surfing, surf shops and the tourism that they created have encouraged economic growth on both local and state levels for decades with no signs of stopping.
The exhibit features photos, videos and artifacts that document surfing history in eastern North Carolina. Visitors can observe the evolution of surfboards from plain, wooden slabs to the sleek, colorful boards that ride today’s waves. They can watch video of North Carolina’s greats shredding just off the beach, see pictures of historic surfing landmarks and look at various surfing gear from days past.