History of NC Surfing Event Coming To Jennette’s Pier, Nags Head

Posted By on February 15, 2016

The North Carolina Maritime Museums and Jennette’s Pier will host an evening program on the history of surfing in North Carolina, a free event that will take place at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head on Wednesday, March 9 at 6pm.

Join Museum Curator John Hairr and Associate Curator Benjamin Wunderly from the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort as they take a look this sport of kings and share their research on North Carolina’s role in the history of surfing.

There will be several presentations and video footage that helps tell the story of wave riding, board shaping and why North Carolina’s coast is an East Coast surfing destination.

The presentation will focus on the early history of surfing along the Carolina coast, investigating influential figures such as Alexander Hume Ford, a South Carolinian and a major contributor to the spread of the sport from Hawaii.  The Surfing NC Timeline project and North Carolina’s place in the history of the sport of surfing will be examined.

A 1963 surfing contest in Kitty Hawk, NC. (photo by Aycock Brown / courtesy of Outer Banks History Center)

A 1963 surfing contest in Kitty Hawk, NC. (photo by Aycock Brown / courtesy of Outer Banks History Center)

At first glance, the North Carolina coast, its waters, and its weather may not seem as conducive to surfing as those of Hawaii or California, but in fact, the Outer Banks is one of the best spots for surfing on the East Coast. Since the 50’s and 60’s, multitudes of surfers have made pilgrimages to places like Rodanthe, Avon, and Buxton to take advantage of the notorious swells. Cape Hatteras juts out far into the Atlantic where the Labrador Current meets the Gulf Stream, making it a magnet for anyone who wants to catch a great wave.

In Dare County, surfing may have been brought over directly from Polynesia itself. Hawaiian Willie Kaiama and his team of performers gave surfing demonstrations at Roanoke Island and Virginia Dare Shores in 1928 as part of the events marking the celebration of Virginia Dare Day.

Later, in In the 1930’s, Thomas Fearing of Manteo was surfing with his hand made Hawaiian style board, which was big enough to hold two people

Other early surfing spots in North Carolina include Onslow County, where Marines from Camp Lejeune and their families have gone surfing while on leave, and Wrightsville Beach, where local Burke Bridgers and his friends were experimenting with surfing techniques in 1909.  Surfing was even noted as taking place around Morehead City and Beaufort in 1911. 

“As of now, we cannot say unequivocally that surfing along the East Coast of the United States started in North Carolina, any more than other locales in the region can make the same claim” says Hairr.

“We do know that surfing along the North Carolina coast was being practiced at least as far back as the first decade of the 20th century, which makes it coeval with the point in time when surfing, which had nearly died out, was undergoing a revival in Hawaii.  There are also some intriguing hints that surfing in North Carolina predates the famous surfing exhibitions of George Freeth in California in 1907, which many acknowledge as the birth of the sport along the West Coast of the United States,” he said. 

Today, surfing and the beach go hand in hand, but there was a time not too long ago where it was seen as an exotic novelty or a passing fad, but over time it has evolved into a worldwide pastime; a typical beach activity done in every country that borders an ocean.

The presentation will give visitors an opportunity to learn about the history of surfing in our own corner of the world.   There is no advance registration and walk-ins are welcome to attend the event. 

“We are excited about the opportunity to bring the History of Surfing to Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head,” stated David Cartier, Public Relations Coordinator for the North Carolina Maritime Museum system.  “Surfing is synonymous with the Outer Banks so we feel the program will draw a great crowd,’ he said. 

The North Carolina Maritime Museum system will also bring The History of Surfing in North Carolina program to the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport.  It will be part of their popular Third Tuesday Evening Adult Program on August 16.  For further details, contact the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport at 910-457-0003.

Jennette’s Pier is located at 7223 S. Virginia Dare Trails, Nags Head, NC (Milepost 16.5).  For more information, call 252-255-1501  or visitwww.jennettespier.net.  Admission to the event is free. Donations are appreciated.

History of North Carolina Surfing event at Jennette's Pier, Nags Head on March 9, 2016.


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Posted by Matt Artz

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