The beer will flow, the auctioneer’s gavel will fall, and wallets will lighten at the Surfing Heritage Vintage Surf Auction, May 11, at the Orange County Fair and Events Center. A fundraiser for the non-profit Surfing Heritage Foundation, the auction, themed “California Gold,” will offer more than 40 historic surfboards alongside other pieces of cherished surf history memorabilia. An aloha-shirted Randy Rarick will be on hand to emcee the auction, a dinner and cocktails reception precedes the main event, and doors will open at noon for a pre-auction gawk fest.
We asked the auction’s director Scott Bass to single out the five most compelling pieces up for sale. He pulled these babies down from the rafters.
[A] “The Surf Riders of Hawaii,” AR Gurrey Jr, 1914
Considered the first book devoted solely to surfing, this self-published and hand-bound treasure also marked the debut of what the modern world would recognize as true surf photography. Gurrey paddled out to the Waikiki surf in an outrigger canoe to record the images printed in this book, some of which feature his fellow members of the legendary Hui Nalu surf club, including the Duke. One of eight known copies.
Pre-auction estimate: $25,000 – $45,000
[B] Tom Blake’s 1932 Catalina Paddleboard Crossing 1st Place Trophy
Before he was altering the future of surfboard design by slapping fins to the bottom of his hollow redwood boards, Blake was a world-beating paddleboarder, and in 1932 he became the first person to paddle the 26 miles from San Pedro to Catalina, winning the inaugural Catalina Paddleboarding Crossing contest. This 13” blue ceramic jug commemorates Blake’s feat.
Pre-auction estimate: $3,000 – $5,000
[C] The Butte Family Pacific System Homes Surfboard, circa mid-1930s
Built by Pacific System Homes, a pre-fab home construction company that gave the world its first taste of commercially produced surfboards, this model was made for Wilson Butte, grandson of the company’s founder. Pacific System Homes boards are scarce as it is; this one is even more unique after being customized by the Butte family over the years with a skeg and a distinctive big red “V” painted on the nose.
Pre-auction estimate: $8,500 – $20,000
[D] 1949 Pete Peterson Hollow Board
In the mid-1930s, nobody in California was surfing better or making finer surfboards than Peterson, a blonde, quiet Santa Monica lifeguard who had picked up where Tom Blake left off by torching all comers in surf and paddleboarding competitions, and in building fantastic hollow surfboards. This one, a plywood/balsa composite is offered for sale from a private collection for the very first time. To say it is rare is an understatement.
Pre-auction estimate: $25,000 – $35,000
[E] Bob Simmons 10’8” “Foam Sandwich” Model, circa 1949
Simmons’ designs helped bridge the redwood/balsa plank era of surfboard history with the modern, hydrodynamic period we enjoy today. In 1949, Simmons built dozens of these sandwich boards—a styrofoam core compressed with strips of wood veneer, lined with balsa rails, all wrapped in some of the surf world’s first use of fiberglass.
Pre-auction estimate: $20,000 – $30,000