The Huntington Library’s current exhibit, “Blue Sky Metropolis: The Aerospace Century in Southern California,” includes a surprising element: a surfboard from Pepperdine’s own surfboard collection! This particular surfboard (pictured at left) represents the intersection between the development of surfboard technology and aircraft engineering in Southern California. The board was designed by Bob Simmons, a California surfer in the 1930s to 1950s who studied at the California Institute of Technology and worked as an engineer at Douglas Aircraft. Simmons experimented with both shape and materials in his surfboard design, based on his knowledge of engineering principles and newly developed aircraft materials. His innovation had significant impact on surfboard production and the surfing world.
Check out this short YouTube video for talk by the exhibit curator, Peter Westwick, which includes a glimpse of Pepperdine’s surfboard in the exhibit and more explanation about the connection between surfing and aerospace. If you haven’t seen the exhibit at the Huntington, there is still time to do so. The exhibit closes on January 9th, 2012. More information about the exhibit can be found on the Huntington Library website.
The Bob Simmons board that is on display at the Huntington is from the John Mazza Collection of Historic Surfboards, a collection that is on long-term loan to Pepperdine University Libraries and can be viewed in Payson Library (pictured at right). If you would like to see the collection, please contact Melissa Nykanen at email@example.com or at (310) 506-4434. The surfboards, including the Simmons board, have also been photographed and described and can be found in the Pepperdine Digital Collections.