Harbour Chronicles Exhibit Opens at Orange Coast College
A Lifetime of Work including Art, Film and Surfboards is Celebrated in an Ambitious New Exhibition Chronicling a Shaping Giant of the Surf Culture
Harbour Chronicles – A Life in Surfboard Culture is an exhibition of Rich Harbour’s life work, 50 years of surfboard shaping and surf shop operation that spans the modern era of surfing’s history.
Opening February 13 and running until April 9 at the Frank M. Doyle Art Pavilion on the Orange Coast College campus in Costa Mesa, the exhibition will be one of the most ambitious presentations of surf culture ever mounted, featuring more than 40 significant surfboards and a myriad of vintage images and objects including rare photographs, vintage clothing and many of Harbour’s original shaping tools.
An opening reception Saturday February 13 from 5 to 9pm is open to the pubic offering food, refreshments and entertainment. Not only a celebration of surf shop culture, it will be a tribute to Rich Harbour – one of California’s seminal surf industry figures – and his contribution to the lifestyle.
“I consider Rich Harbour a master sculptor and engineer,” says Andrea Harris–McGee, Director of the Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion. “The exhibition will present a behind-the-scenes look into the shaping process,” says Harris-McGee. “Orange Coast College has an enrollment of more than 24,000 students most of whom live near the coast and many of whom are involved in surfing, or some other form of ocean activity. So this is an art, history and culture that have a specific, local meaning to the students and to the residents of Orange County.”
The inspiration for the exhibition is the book Rich Harbour has been compiling for most of his life. Aptly titled Harbour Chronicles, it traces his shaping career, artistic endeavors, and surf shop business from the beginning of the modern surfing era in the 1950’s, to the present day.
The Harbour Chronicles exhibit by the same name is the concept of the two curators -Greg Escalante and Mitchell DeJarnett – both longtime surfers and historians of the sport. DeJarnett was a Harbour team rider, factory worker and shop employee and he knows Harbour’s work intimately. Escalante has helped curate numerous art exhibitions including one on surf culture for the Laguna Art Museum.
DeJarnett brought the original concept to Escalante when Rich Harbour was trying to get a small book about his life published. As Escalante tells it, “I took one look at the array of material – from museum-quality surfboards to never-before-seen film footage of Honolua Bay in the sixties and said ‘Why don’t we do a big book with an exhibition to go with it?’”
Working together DeJarnett and Escalante took Harbour’s exceptional collection and fashioned it into a lavish presentation. De Jarnett helped Harbour pare down the books copy from 60,000 words to a more manageable 20,000 and wrote chapter intros. Escalante brought in surf historians Craig Stecyk, Mike Marshall and others to frame the material and give it context. From that they fashioned the exhibition with museum director Andrea Harris-McGee.
The curators also knew they would need a sponsor to underwrite such an ambitious project. “The natural fit was Honolua Surf Company,” says Escalante. “As an artist and photographer, Harbour captured some of the first images of Honolua Bay. So there was a symbiotic relationship between the Honolua brand and the exhibition. I give Honolua Surf Company a lot of credit for stepping up and making this possible.”
Pat Fraley, Brand Director of Honolua Surf Company and a lifelong surfer from the Seal Beach area, was only too happy to underwrite a project of this scope and style.
“The heart and soul of surfing begins in the back room shaping bay of the surf shop,” says Fraley, who was a young surf grommet during Harbour’s later heyday. “That’s where shaper and surfer can customize the equipment to create the magic that lasts a lifetime.”
The exhibition, which is also sponsored by Ocean Life/Harbour Surfboards, will run for more than two months and additional activities planned around the show will bring attention to the importance of the surf shop in shaping the California beach culture.
“Harbour is one of the most iconic surf shops in the world,” concludes Fraley. “We not only need to honor them, we need to keep them thriving.”
For more information:
Andrea Harris-McGee, Director of the Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion
Honolua Surf Co.
Pat Fraley, Brand Director
Harbour Surfboards (Ocean Life Inc)