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15th Annual California Surf Museum Gala Fundraiser


With support from Cape Rey Carlsbad Beach, a Hilton Resort and Spa and Opper Films/The Surf Network.
Kelly Reid and Tifani Swink (Butch Van Artsdalen’s daughters). Not seen behind are Heather Hudson and Terri Eselun for Marge Calhoun, Fred Hemmings, Paul Strauch Jr. and Joey Cabell. photo courtesy of Tara Torburn

Duke Kahanamoku’s role to spread the joy of modern surfing around the world is well known, especially to those that comprise this reading audience. However, the Duke Surf Team of 1965 is perhaps less known, but no less significant for the global distribution of stoke, surf culture, and aloha. Real aloha. Not just bumper sticker ‘make nice’ aloha.

Click images to enlarge – photos courtesy of Becka Vance

Imagine then, as Duke pondered who to select for his team: to be ambassadors of surfing, of Hawaii, of predecessors of a future that would embrace wave riding from outcast past time to Olympic inclusion and mainstream acceptance. Imagine the vast choices and candidates available to him. In turn, Duke hand-picked four men as a farmer would carefully select the best seeds for his soil. Both with an eye for the time that would eventually yield a profound harvest from the seeds sown. Butch Van Artsdalen (RIP), Paul Strauch, Joey Cabell, and Fred Hemmings were the ones anointed by Duke.

Click images to enlarge – photos courtesy of Becka Vance
photos courtesy of Tara Torburn

On November 4, 2023, during the 15th Annual CSM Gala, those four surfers were celebrated along with woman pro surf pioneer Marge Calhoun (RIP) with the designation of Silver Surfers. Fast coming the ‘Oscar’ awards of the surf world, the CSM hosted a full house at the repeat venue of the Cape Rey resort in Carlsbad. This year’s Gala featured modern-era live roving web cast segments (by CSM staff Jeff Warner), event hosting and masters of ceremony by in-house talent (CSM President Jim Kempton and CSM board member Shea Roney).

photos courtesy of Lance Smith

Political representation and audience addresses were provided by the Honorable Laurie Davies – 74th Assembly District and Jim Desmond – District 5 San Diego County Supervisor. Proclamations were presented by both to California Surf Museum co-founder and Historian Jane Schmauss for her years of service and dedication to the California Surf Museum. Supervisor Desmond also declared November 4, 2023 to be “Jane Schmauss Day” throughout San Diego County!

A very popular live auction item was the offering of home-cooked dinners and drinks by CSM President Jim Kempton and CBS8 TV weatherman/surfer Shawn Styles. Each was a separate item and the dueling bids ended up being a fierce competition with the room being split in two, neither wanting to be out done by the other. The bidding was an added highlight to the evening that generated significant money for the museum thanks to the culinary talents and generosity of Jim and Shawn.

Another feature of this year’s Gala was the return of the extremely talented, prolific surf scape artist Wade Koniakowsky A longtime and valued supporter of the California Surf Museum, Wade calmly sat amongst the swirling Gala energy and produced in real-time a unique auction item, a beautiful painting of the Waimea Bay shore break to help us raise funds.

The live auction featured modern replicas of iconic boards ridden by the honorees. The boards, stories, and shapers warrant coverage centered on them alone, along with an art piece of all honorees painted onto a board as part of the auction, which annually raises money to finance CSM programs, exhibits and operations.

photo courtesy of Lance Smith

The focus of the evening then turned squarely to the honorees. Marge Calhoun was honored for being the first woman world champ crowned at the Makaha International event on Oah’u. From the sands of Venice Beach and Santa Monica, she was also a competitive swimmer with Olympic aspirations derailed by World War II. A true ‘golden girl’ she was a pioneering waterwoman and professional surfer.

Butch, hailing from La Jolla and the only Mainland surfer on Duke’s team, was hailed as the first Mr. Pipeline. A strong athlete with skills in baseball, basketball, and football, it was the un-structured playfields of powerful Hawaiian surf breaks that his surf talent and energy flourished. And therefore, caught the eye of Duke to join his team.

Denny Michael started the introduction and handed the honor to Gerry Lopez, always an event highlight anywhere in the world, introduced Paul Strauch and left no doubt to anyone in attendance of his respect and admiration of style-king Paul. A soft-spoken yet powerful public speaker, when Gerry speaks, I think air molecules behave in a special manner to carry his words and messages past the ears of listeners and into their hearts and souls. In his acceptance speech, Paul made a point to thank Gerry for finding a hollow left ‘down the road’ (Pipeline) so that the Mount Olympus of surf spots (Sunset Beach) could remain the domain of Paul, Barry Kaniapuni, Hemmings, Joey, Jeff Hakman, Tiger Espere, and their crew. Those who idolize Paul not just for his surfing ability, but for being an elegant human being, are apparently countless within the global surf community.

photos courtesy of Lance Smith

Fred Hemmings, multi-title holder for Island paddling and surfing, renowned ‘straight-shooter’, diplomat, Hawaiian senator, statesman and primary founder of modern pro-surfing had a commanding presence on stage. Implementing a vast ocean marine conservation reserve of northwest Hawaiian Islands, his civic and surfing-related contributions are stunning. He held the audience spell-bound recounting Duke’s legendary ride from an outer South Shore reef bluebird peak to the sands fronting the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

photo courtesy of Lance Smith

Joey Cabell, another over-achiever of the pedigree worthy of Duke’s hand pickings, was noted for his ‘swimming’ of the Hawaiian Islands; power surfing; innovation in cross-sport pursuits of single snow ski/pre-snowboard; and of course, astute business acumen for his Chart House chain of restaurants. As a result of the evening’s long awards program, Joey was limited on time during his acceptance speech. However, he was clearly unlimited with regards to class and elegance as he noted the late hour and then hoisted his Silver Surfer high in the air and shouted his appreciation to the crowd and the CSM crew.

We received a master class performance in the art of ‘talk story’ by those who helped craft the phrase. In summary, each California Surf Museum once-in-a-lifetime Silver Surfer honoree represented their rightful place in this growing lineage. As well, the men showed why they were hand-picked by Duke long ago, with relevance retained in place to this day. Each is firmly footed as cornerstones of surf culture icons. They enjoyed quality time with the Duke, and each other, that the rest of us can only imagine…

This year we celebrated Marge Calhoun, and the one and only Duke Kahanamoku: his vision, his gift, his power, his Harvest.

Eric Noel Muñoz
November, 2023

Click images to enlarge – photo courtesy of Lance Smith and Tara Torburn