Catching waves at the museum


This photo of Lisa Andersen from the cover of Surfer magazine, featuring the Florida surfer as only the second woman shown on the magazine's cover, is part of the new “Surfing Florida” exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History. The exhibit runs with the accompanying exhibit, “Surf Science,” through Jan. 20, 2014, at the museum.

Courtesy of Tom Dugan
Published: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 10:17 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 10:17 a.m.

Gainesville residents can now take in the sights and sounds of a day at the beach without trekking to the Atlantic Coast.

Facts

'Surfing Florida: A Photographic History' and 'Surf Science: Waves and Wildlife'

What: Touring photography exhibit explores surfing's cultural history in Florida; accompanying science exhibit features museum specimens and interactive stations with details about animals that live at the beach
When: Both exhibits run through Jan. 20, 2014; hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 1-5 p.m. Sundays
Where: Florida Museum of Natural History, 3215 Hull Road
Cost: Admission to both “Surfing Florida” and “Surf Science” is $4 for adults, $3.50 for Florida residents and seniors, $3 for ages 3-17 and free to museum members and UF students with a Gator 1 card; special activities on Sept. 14 are free
Info: 846-2000, www.flmnh.ufl.edu

Surfing Celebration on Sept. 14
A day of free special activities celebrating the exhibits is planned from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Florida Museum. The celebration will feature a Robo Surfer surfing simulator sponsored by Pollo Tropical along with an interactive display showcasing bioluminescence and tables manned by such organizations as the UF Surf Team, the Cocoa Beach Surf Museum, Guano Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarian Research Reserve and the Save the Manatee Club. Also planned are a SeaGrant coastal plant display and a Florida lobster display from the School of Forest Resources and Conservation & Emerging Pathogens Institute.

Two new exhibits at the Florida Museum of Natural History — “Surfing Florida: A Photographic History” and “Surf Science: Waves and Wildlife” — explore the cultural history of surfing in Florida and the wildlife and ecosystems of beaches respectively.

The exhibits, which will continue through Jan. 20, 2014, feature vintage photographs and interpretive graphics from Florida Atlantic University, which created the “Surfing Florida” exhibit, along with hands-on displays from the Florida Museum that spotlight the interaction between man and the beach environment, exhibit developer Tina Choe said.

“Our job is to extend the beauty of the FAU exhibit by giving our visitors something to feel,” Choe said. “We want them to have the feeling that they're at the beach.”

While Florida Atlantic's “Surfing Florida” exhibit, which also features videos and oral histories along with vintage photos and graphics, showcases the history of surfing in Florida, the “Surf Science” exhibit, which examines the beach environment, makes a fitting companion exhibit because of the close connection between the two subjects. “If you ask any surfer, they will tell you about their interactions with the natural world,” Choe said.

Ryan Page, president of the University of Florida Surf Club agrees. “I would say that as far as riding a wave, it's pretty cool unlike other sports,” he said.

“It's natural — when you have to catch the wave you have to be at the right moment to harness its energy,” he said. “Besides that, I've been surrounded by dolphins, manatees, sharks and all kinds of wildlife.”

“It's just you versus nature,” he said. “There are no other people involved.”

A day of special events and activities celebrating the exhibits on Sept. 14 will feature a Robo Surfer surfing simulator sponsored by Pollo Tropical along with an interactive display showcasing bioluminescence.

Also planned are tables manned by such organizations as the UF Surf Team, the Cocoa Beach Surf Museum, Guano Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarian Research Reserve and the Save the Manatee Club as well as a SeaGrant coastal plant display and a Florida lobster display from the School of Forest Resources and Conservation & Emerging Pathogens Institute.

Inside the Florida Museum, the “Surfing Florida” and “Surf Science” exhibits are divided into several areas. The first two areas each have an island and the third area features the International Shark Attack File. The first island that people see has a bird nest, sea turtle tracks and a wrack line that shows the dried seaweed, marine vegetation and other organic debris that washes up on shore, Choe said.

After this first island, visitors will go on another island with nine surfboards that chronicle the physical changes of boards throughout surfing history, she said. This area will include a board shaping room and memorabilia from the University of Florida surf team.

The University of Florida Surf Club has donated a few surfboards, national and East Coast Surfing Championships trophies, shirts and other vintage items, said Brett Walker, UF Surf Club captain.

“When I surf, I am able to disconnect from the modern world today and reconnect with the natural vibrations of the universe,” Walker said.

She surfed during the recent shark migration with a few UF surf team members, which showed that sharks are not vicious if people respect them and their home, she said. Besides the wide variety of sharks, Walker has surfed with sea turtles, manta rays, sting rays, jellyfish, game fish and even sea horses, which like to live in the floating sargassum.

The final area will include information from the International Shark Attack File, a hanging sand tiger shark, sea turtle and a case called Animals that Surf among others, Choe said. Also featured is an interactive magnetic wall highlighting statistics on sharks.

Choe wants to dispel myths about sharks with the last area. People are more likely to die from being struck by lightning than being attacked by a shark, she said.

“We want people to try to connect that there might be a shark out there, but it's not a bad thing,” she said. “We know that some people might not want to share the beach but we want them to respect nature,” Choe said. “We are all part of the same world and we need to work together to keep it healthy.”

Admission to both exhibits is $4 for adults, $3.50 for Florida residents and seniors, $3 for ages 3 to 17 and free for museum members and UF students with a Gator 1 card.

Rod Faulds, director of University Galleries at Florida Atlantic University, said no decisions have been made on future locations of exhibit materials after Jan. 20, but proposals have been received from the Palm Beach County Surfing History Project in Lake Park and the Surfing Heritage Museum in Costa Mesa, Calif.

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