Image credits: Lee Sutherland  


Surfing Florida: A Photographic History  comes at a time when surfers throughout the world are beginning to seriously document this vital sport and lifestyle through books,museums and surfing history organizations. While Florida is part of this movement, it is also challenged by its reputation for lackluster surf. Yet, because of the inconsistent surf, surfers from Florida share an insatiable hunger for waves and an aggressive approach to the sport that has resulted in an incredible number of world titles for Florida’s competitive surfers and a deep cultural history. Surfing Florida seeks to foster the movement to archive and document Florida surf history through collaboration, association and contributions from all corners of Florida’s statewide surfing community.This project is made possible in part by a grant from the Florida Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Konica Minolta is providing technical and production support for a Surfing Florida book.


Surfing Florida is an exhibition and book project that will present the history of Florida surfing and surf culture including its international dimensions. Florida surfers know that despite consistently marginal surf, the Sunshine State has produced an amazing talent pool that successfully competes globally and that the state has also contributed to the innovation and growth of the equally world-wide surf industry. It's time Florida got its props, including a book on the shelf next to the many California/Hawaii centered publications.


While it is important for the  Surfing Florida project to credibly represent the state’s core surfing community, the project also seeked to communicate to less informed audiences about core values and accomplishments of the state’s many surfing communities. The project also coincided with and contributed to preservation and academic efforts that are emerging in America and overseas as modern surfing history approaches it’s 100th year. For instance, students at FAU and UCF were receiving academic credit to assist in project research.


Surfing Florida: A Photographic History  was organized by the University Galleries at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton. Paul Aho, a lifelong Florida surfer and shaper who actively competed as a teenager was the project’s editor and curator. Aho is an artist and a world-traveled surfer. To achieve the initial research and gathering of materials, Aho divided Florida into seven geographic regions. 


As a traveling exhibition,  Surfing Florida: A Photographic History  will combine a thematically organized historical panel style exhibition combining digital reproductions of vintage photographs and interpretive texts along with many original photographic portfolios of the state’s best known surf photographers and most significant historic photo collections. Selected vintage photographs and media stations will round out the traveling portion of the exhibition. While the traveling exhibition will not include surfboards and other surfing related artifacts, each exhibition venue will be encouraged to work with surfboard collectors in their region to showcase surfboards and other materials appropriate to the size and resources of their exhibition facility. 




Daytona Beach, 1939. This early photo, shot during the first East Coast Surfing Championship includes Dudley and Bill Whitman, considered the State’s first surfers and board builders along with Gaulden Reed. Photo: courtesy Patti Light for the Gaulden Reed Archive. 

Florida has certainly produced a lion’s share of world class talent, including multiple world title holders Kelly Slater, Frieda Zamba and Lisa Andersen. Centered here is a young Slater, now nine-time world champ, with (l to r) Todd Holland, Scott McCranels, Rich Rudolph, Matt Kechle and Charlie Kuhn. Photo: Tony Aruzza, all rights reserved. 

The Smyrna Surfari Club, 1960s. Likely the oldest club in the state, New Smyrna’s Surfari Club remains vital by putting purpose into practice – providing scholarship support for local youth, mentoring its own and positioning Smyrna as a player in surfing’s hierarchy. Photo: courtesy, Smyrna Surfari Surf Club.

surf surf surf
surf surf surf



The  Surfing Florida project is supported by many community volunteers. The oral history component of the project, an effort to develop deep first hand content and preserve history, is a collaborative effort of the University Galleries, FAU; the FAU Department of History; the University of Central Florida History Department’s RICHES Program; and the Cocoa Beach Surf Museum. Other academic departments at FAU that are contributing to the program include the Department of Music and the School of Communication and Multi-Media Studies, Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters. 

Thank you to the Surfers Journal for a complete set of bound volumes of their acclaimed publication for the project’s research efforts and the FAU Libraries collection. Special Thanks to BigBuddhaBaba, Los Angeles and Crispin Porter + Bogusky, miami and Boulder for project development support. 

Funding for the  Surfing Florida  project was provided through a grant from the Florida Humanities Council with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication, program, exhibition, and/or website do not necessarily represent those of the Florida Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities
A Traveling Exhibition and Book Project

Florida Museum of Natural History
Gainesville, FL
August 31, 2013 - January 20, 2014
Click here for their website
Click here to see Surfing Florida & other upcoming exhibits


Surf Expo
Orlando, FL
January 10 - 12, 2013
Click here to visit their website.


Pensacola Museum of Art
Pensacola, FL
May 24 - September 1, 2012
Click here to visit the exhibition's page


Schmidt Center Gallery
Boca Raton, FL
March 17 - May 12, 2012




Images in grid (starting from top left): 

Row one : A day in the water is still a day in the water. Miami Beach shows its mid 1960s lets go surfin’ enthusiasm. Photo courtesy: Bill Whiddon. 

Gary Propper, Huntington Beach, 1965. Propper defeated west coast stars Dewey Weber and Tom Leonardo to win the 1966 East Coast Surfing Championships. Not only was he the East’s first champion, he was the first East Coaster with a named model. Photo: Steve Wilkings. 

Carlyn Park, Jupiter in late 1960s. Photo coutesy The Palm Beach County Surf History Project.

Row two : Mike Tabeling, Chuns Reef, Hawaii, 1968. Tabeling and other Florida standouts of his generation made their mark in Hawaii. Tabeling was the first Floridian to win an international contest during a visit to Peru in the mid-60’s. He later quit contests for decades in favor of a life of travel and adventure. Photo: Steve Wilkings. 

Jeff Crawford, 1984. The central coast of Florida has produced exceptional surfers from generation to generation, earning international recognition in the media and contest circuit. Among the standouts in the 1970s was Jeff Crawford, who along with Kelly Slater, was one of only two east coast surfers to ever win the prestigious Pipeline Masters. Crawford took the crown in 1974, after having placed third in the Duke Classic in 1973. Photo: Permission of Tony Arruza, all rights reserved. 

Jeff Crawford, winner of the 1974 Pipeline Masters. Crawford, along with Kelly Slater, is one of only two east coast surfers to ever win this prestigious contest. Photo: Jeff Divine. 

Row three : Mimi Munro, age 14, winning 3rd place in the 1966 San Diego World Contest. Mimi remains an advocate of the art of noseriding and runs a surf camp mentoring the next generation in her hometown of Ormond Beach. Right photo: Leroy Grannis, both photos courtesy Mimi Munro. 

Karina Petroni, from Atlantic Beach, sampling some Indo perfection. Petroni was the only female from North America on the 2008 World Championship Tour. Photo: courtesy karinapetroni.com. Bruce Clelland (r), Jax Pier, 1966. Clelland and others got things rolling in North Florida. Photo: David Silver, courtesy Mitch Kaufman. 

Photographers are at the heart of the Surfing Florida: A Photographic History project. In the 60s and 70s, M.E. Gruber took over 5,000 images, shooting mostly in the Palm Beaches. The archive is now entrusted to The Palm Beach County Surf History Project. Photo: Courtesy The Palm Beach County Surf History Project.


The University Galleries, FAU acknowledge that all of the images on this page have been provided with express written permission by photographers and collections who hold exclusive copyrights.



Surfing Florida Catalogue






Surfing Florida: A Photographic History

Exhibition Dates: 

Schmidt Center Gallery: March 17 – May 12, 2012


Paul Aho, Curator, Surfing Florida: A Photographic History

W. Rod Faulds, Director, University Galleries, FAU


PHOTOGRAPH – Amateur and professional photos that document any & all aspects of Florida surfing history and culture including:
GROM SHOTS, club shots, group shots, action shots; Portraits of stars and non-stars.

Size: 8.5 x 11" Brochure

Pages: 6 pages




Surfing Florida Book






Surfing Florida: A Photographic History by Paul Aho

© 2014 by Paul Aho

Paul Aho, Surfing Florida: A Photographic History

W. Rod Faulds, Director, University Galleries, FAU

Size: 7.25" x 10.25"

Pages: 264 pages