Surf history purveyor Dick Metz to be honored with Lifetime Achievement Award at Waterman’s Ball

Dick Metz would see his surfing buddies hauling their old, 100-pound redwood boards to the dump, stopping into his Hobie retail shop in Dana Point on the way so they could buy newer, lighter balsa boards that were easier to ride and carry across the sand.

“Why don’t you leave them here, it will save you a trip,” he’d tell his surf buddies. “They just left them there. All these guys were friends, I knew the backgrounds of the boards and wrote it all up.”

Metz would hang the old, outdated surfboards up on the walls as décor. He did the same in Hawaii when he opened surf shops there, gathering wooden boards from friends like the famous Kahanamoku brothers. A good friend of surfboard maker Hobie Alter, Metz opened retail shops around the world bearing the inventor’s name.

As decades passed and fewer of the redwood boards existed, Metz found himself with a museum-worthy collection but with nowhere to share them.

So he created the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center, SHACC for short, in San Clemente, which on Aug. 7 is celebrating its belated 20th anniversary with a Founder’s Day event that was postponed last year by the pandemic.

The gathering will also be a pre-party to honor Metz’s Lifetime Achievement Award, which he will receive from the Surf Industry Manufactures Association a week later at the Waterman’s Ball. He’ll be honored at the ball alongside world champion and newly-crowned gold medal Olympian Carissa Moore, who is receiving Waterman of the Year. Environmentalists of the Year awards are going to musicians Ben, Joel and Peter Harper.

  • Dick Metz, a surfer who inspired the Endless Summer film, revolutionized surf retail and created the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center, will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Waterman’s Ball on Aug. 14, as well as a “Founder’s Day” event at SHACC on Aug. 7. (Photo courtesy of Metz)

  • Dick Metz, a surfer who inspired the Endless Summer film, revolutionized surf retail and created the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center, will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Waterman’s Ball on Aug. 14, as well as a “Founder’s Day” event at SHACC on Aug. 7. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen/SCNG)

  • Dick Metz, a surfer who inspired the Endless Summer film, revolutionized surf retail and created the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center, will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Waterman’s Ball on Aug. 14, as well as a “Founder’s Day” event at SHACC on Aug. 7. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen/SCNG)

  • Dick Metz, a surfer who inspired the Endless Summer film, revolutionized surf retail and created the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center, will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Waterman’s Ball on Aug. 14, as well as a “Founder’s Day” event at SHACC on Aug. 7. (Photo courtesy of Metz)

  • Dick Metz, a surfer who inspired the Endless Summer film, revolutionized surf retail and created the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center, will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Waterman’s Ball on Aug. 14, as well as a “Founder’s Day” event at SHACC on Aug. 7. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen/SCNG)

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Metz, 92, is one of the few still around to remember the infancy of modern-day surfing. He caught his first wave at age 7 at San Onofre during a time when there were fewer than 100 surfers along the California coast. He became friends with Laguna Beach watermen who spent their days on the sand and in the surf.

It was about 1958 when Metz decided to take a three-year-long adventure around the world, coming back to Laguna Beach to tell good friend Bruce Brown about his travels – the inspiration for Brown’s famous surfing film “The Endless Summer.”

When Metz returned, Hobie suggested he go back to Hawaii and expand the brand’s retail operations there.

“The Honolulu store was the first-ever retail store that had 80 to 100 surfboards, you could pick the shape, color, size and go out and use it that day,” he said.

As Metz opened up more Hobie shops, and later Surf Line along with Dave Rochlen that would carry other brands’ boards, he used the same concept for sprucing up the shop’s walls and ceilings by asking friends, many of them famed, for their old boards.

When Metz returned to California in the ’70s, he put all those old boards from his Hawaii shops into a container ship to bring to the new California surf shops.

“I really liked the history of all of it. I thought it was important to show people the evolution, how it changed and why it’s changed,” he said. “I realized every year they had a little more interest, people would ask about them.”

In 1985, he went to the first-ever surfboard auction, thinking to himself who would actually pay for “these old boards?”

Surfboards went for upwards of $1,500, some even fetching $3,000.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Metz said. “All of a sudden, my boards, which I got for free, had a value to them. I was in shock about the whole thing.”

In 1999, he officially created SHACC and filed for nonprofit status.

“I just rented a desk in Laguna, a friend had an office. I bought a computer, I was trying to figure out how to put my surfboards in a computer. I didn’t really accomplish anything,” he said with a chuckle. “It started in a very small way.”

Metz donated all his old boards, which also included many early-day Hobie surfboards, to the collection. Long-time surf buddies added some of their surfboards as well.

In the early days, Metz enlisted the help of friends who had become big names in the surf world to donate. Within weeks, 100 surfers had each donated $6,000 toward getting SHACC established, a $600,000 fund to kick start the foundation.

“That gave me a lot of courage that I was on the right path,” he said. “Hobie always said, ‘You can figure it out. We’ll help you.’ That gave me the courage and the fortitude to move forward.”

In 2015, SHACC put together the first-ever surf exhibit showcased at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., an inside look at “The Endless Summer” film.

SHACC’s collection now includes more than 800 surfboards and 9,000 photos, 3,000 magazines and 1,300 books, along with other surf memorabilia such as movies, equipment, clothing and more, Executive Director Steve Morris said.

Metz thinks about his own early start on his 109-pound redwood surfboard, he said, with only a handful of spots such as Doheny, San Onofre and Palos Verdes Cove where those boards could be ridden. Now people are riding 5-foot, 4-pound boards and many more breaks have opened up to them.

There are now millions of surfers around the globe and a multi-billion dollar surf industry to cater to them.

While SHACC is celebrating surfing’s past, it is also looking to the future. In the works are plans to move from the hills of San Clemente to be on the water in the Dana Point Harbor, which is undergoing a major renovation.

The Founder’s Day event will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on Aug. 7 at the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center, and is open to the public and free of charge.

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