Linda Michael’s position at Surfing Heritage Culture Center

Linda Michael’s in front of the timeline of surfboards at the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center | Alexa Amaya-Baylon

Why surfing has such an impact on our community.

Southern California is known for its surfing, it holds a significant amount of history. Linda Michael works at the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center located in San Clemente and has held an administrative title for 15 years. This culture center holds so much history and is known as the Smithsonian of surfing with the largest collection of surfboards in the world. This center was the reason for the movie ‘The Endless Sumer’ suggested by the founder Dick Metz.

Michael grew up in Pennsylvania, a little quaker town she says and made her way to California when she was 17-years old and has not left since. She went to California State University, Fullerton majoring in communications with an emphasis in public relations. Working at the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center was never the end goal but she fit perfectly in the position.

“I have always fallen into a job, I have never decided I was going to go into something,” Michael says talking about how her major helped her get to where she is now.

The world’s largest surf museum has a great impact on the people around it and especially people who are in the surfing community. There are years and years of boards, photography, books, magazines and also clothing. 

“Their mission is to preserve and present the history and culture of surfing,” she says. Michaels describes it as ground zero for surf history because of all this culture center holds. Anyone is able to walk into the culture center and walk around to take in all the history and embrace the lifestyle that is so known and loved.

“We have over 800 boards in our collection and the world’s largest collection of significant boards, 3 boards by Duke Kahanamoku, over probably 500,000 historic photos, and a lot of surf photographer’s private collection of photos,” Michael says.

Along with the immense amounts of history, there was more to add, Michael spoke about how “The Endless Summer” a film released in 1966 was because of Dick Metz who is a founder of SHCC. An event was held in Huntington Beach for one of the anniversaries of the movie and Michaels got to attend and be in a room with the original cast of “The Endless Summer”. Pointing out that she has had the opportunity to meet many surf legends “the one that gets me tongue-tied is Phil Edwards,” she says.

Phil Edwards is an American surfer from Oceanside and is credited to being one of the first to surf the Banzai pipeline in Hawaii. 

“I don’t consider it work, I just really love it and my kids surf and my husband has the real job and I have the fun job, and so just doing this I mean I’ve got to meet all these surf legends and they’re friends to me,” Michael says on how the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center has an impact on her.

She speaks on how after having her two kids Blake and Dean she took some time off from what she was doing before her fifteen-year position at the culture center. Michael says she took twelve years off after having them. After focusing on her kids after twelve years it was only after that she decided to volunteer at the SHCC and that is when she was offered a position from  her background in public relations.

A surfboard that Michael thought was more4 impactful is the Hawain chief board by Duke Kahanakout. This board was found under a house in Hawaii, “it came over here when I first started,” Michael says. The paint after all these years was peeling off but the center hired a woman who studied in Italy on restoring artwork and the board was gone for a year. It was returned looking good as new and was placed as one of the first boards on the timeline wall. The boards were positioned right outside her office in a timeline matter starting from wooden boards to the traditional ones you see today which she said was a must-see when coming to the SHCC.

Duke Kahanamoku’s surfboard | Alexa Amaya-Baylon

“Our whole timeline takes you from the early 1900’s all the way to the modern day. There are just so many cool things but the timeline is pretty spectacular,” Michael says.

Walking into the SHCC a wall of boards can be overwhelming to look at but Michaels was helpful and explained the use and the meaning behind the boards that were tall enough to hit the ceiling. Along with the cameras and editing tools used to make the movie “The Endless Summer” there is something here for surf lovers and film enthusiasts.

Michaels never purposely searched for this job and now she is making an impact in the surf community by continuing to preserve the culture and history at the SHCC. She also brings up having volunteer opportunities and how they are always looking for help when it comes to events in the area.