100 Years of ‘Surf’s Up’ in Huntington Beach

Posted June 20, 2014 by Chris Epting
Historical Image of Huntington Beach Pier - 1930s

June is a big month in Huntington Beach, a.k.a. Surf City. June 20 is International Surfing day and this weekend the city will be celebrating in two very special ways.

Saturday, June 21, the legendary Australian surf champ (and HB resident) Peter Townend will be overseeing an exhibition called “When Men Were Men and Boards Were Made of Wood” on the south side of the pier from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. If you have a surfboard made of wood, you are invited to come exhibit your skills. Townend will be judging the best performances of the day. But the event is not about competition, as Townend explained to me the other day – it's about celebration.

"I think people will be amazed to experience what it's like to watch riders on these classic wooden boards," he said. "We've got two categories, which include old wood boards made before 1964 and new wood boards ... made since then. You have to surf in trunks, no full suits allowed, but vests and jackets are acceptable."

There is a $20 registration fee for the event, payable that day or by emailing empire@aol.com.

The Birth of Surf City

On Sunday, June 22 a ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first concrete pier in Huntington Beach will be held at Pier Plaza. On the same day the pier opened in 1914, legendary surfer George Freeth paid a visit and gave the first surfing demonstration in town.

Carrying a heavy 8-foot surfboard made of redwood out into the ocean, Freeth performed dazzling feats of balance and dexterity that people had never seen before. His wave riding earned him a brief mention in the local paper, but as we know, that first demonstration made a lasting impression on Huntington Beach.

Judging HB by its Pier

And let us not forget the most defining architectural element in Huntington Beach: the pier. Sunday's celebration will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first concrete pier in HB. But there is some history before that. The very first pier was a 1,000-foot long wooden structure unveiled in 1904, a full five years before the city was even incorporated. It was destroyed in 1912 by ravaging winter storms, which resulted in a new concrete pier, which opened in 1914.

Huntington Beach Pier, circa 1914

Historical Image of Huntington Beach Pier - 1914

Photo courtesy of the City of Huntington Beach

In 1939, another storm destroyed the end of the peer and the café that was built there. The pier re-opened in 1940 but was once again washed away in January 1988.

Huntington Beach Pier, circa 1930

Historical Image of Huntington Beach Pier - 1930s

​Photo courtesy of the City of Huntington Beach

The pier that was built after that was designed to replicate the 1914 pier, but of course this time it was built to last.

June 20, 1914

100 years ago, this was the program for the day in Huntington Beach to unveil the brand-new pier:

  • 10 a.m. Band Concert, Donatelli's Famous Italian Band
  • 11 a.m. Dedication by Santa Ana Lodge No. 794 B.P.O. Elks; music by Long Beach Municipal Band; laying cornerstone; Inspection of the Pier
  • 1 p.m. Races and Events: 75-yd race (boys under 14) 1st prize $1.00, 2nd prize $0.50. 50-yd race (girls under 14) 1st prize $1.00, 2nd prize $0.50
  • 2:30 p.m. Ball Game, Garden Grove vs. Pacific Electric; admission $0.25. Swimming and diving expedition under auspices of Los Angeles Athletic Club: Champion Juvenile Diver Ray Kegeris, 11 years; Ex-champion Juvenile Diver, Tommie Whitt, 9 yrs; Los Angeles Athletic Club champion diver, Paul Lisle, 9 yrs 

This weekend, efforts will be made to replicate some of the charms of that day, 100 years ago. All are welcome to attend, and I will have the privilege of saying a few words at the ceremony on Sunday, at 11 a.m. I hope you can join us.

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