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Home / Articles / Arts / The Short List /  Surf ...
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Monday, Jun 16, 2014

Surf Craft: Design and the Culture of Board Riding, Chefs & Shakers Mash-up and Paper Cities

Our top three picks of San Diego events this week

shortlistforweb From left: Board designs by George Greenough, Bob Simmons and Skip Frye
- Photo by Andrew Kidman

1. Surf’s up at the Mingei

Local surf historian Richard Kenvin picked up a copy of Yanagi Sōetsu's The Unknown Craftsman at the Mingei International Museum gift shop in Balboa Park. The book, he says, helped deepen his appreciation of the artistry and beauty found in ordinary utilitarian objects—like a surfboard. Kenvin, who's been riding waves for more than 40 years, has always thought that surfboards have an especially attractive, functional design; reading the book, he realized that handmade boards are examples of the type of craftsmanship Sōetsu praises.

"Surfboards are the purist form of craft," says Kenvin, who, by the time he came across Sōetsu's book, was already deep into a quest to research obscure board designs.

Serendipitously, Kenvin ran into the late Martha Longenecker, founder of the Mingei, at a market in La Jolla. He used the chance encounter to tout the significance of surfboards, describing them as overlooked but important craft objects. Longenecker took an interest.

"We started getting together about this stuff, and I started showing her how surfing and surfboards are this crazy expression of what they were putting in the museum," Kenvin says. "She really started to get it."

Those talks eventually resulted in Surf Craft: Design and the Culture of Board Riding, an exhibition that'll open at the Mingei on Saturday, June 21. The show, curated by Kenvin, is a visual history of surfboards that highlights the contributions of shapers like Bob Simmons and Steve Lis.

Visitors will see a heavy, handmade wooden board made in the early 1800s in Hawaii alongside examples of more contemporary, lightweight boards made of various synthetic materials. Surf Craft details the surfboard's early evolution, brief devolution (after the turn of the century, many boards were poorly designed and cheaply manufactured) and eventual return to its handcrafted roots.

"Today, surfboard design is being transformed, and there's a connection to older design techniques," Kenvin says. "The boards are looking and working better and better." 

Surf Craft will be on view through January 2015. Every Thursday from July 10 through Aug. 21, the museum will activate the exhibition with a series of surf-related events and extended evening hours. Admission to the exhibition is $8.

2. Smoke on the rooftop

This week's issue of CityBeat is all about drinking, from what local famous folks like to drink (and where) to delicious cocktail recipes you can try at home. And with special issues like this, we usually throw a party—because who doesn't love a party? On Thursday, June 19, head over to the SummerSalt Pool Lounge atop Hotel Palomar (1047 Fifth Ave., Downtown) for Chefs & Shakers Mash-up. The event, kicking off at 6:30 p.m., features nine teams of bartenders and chefs, including folks from spots like Sycamore Den, Carnitas Snack Shack, Seven Grand, Cowboy Star, Cusp, Barrio Star and JSix, who'll create a food-and-drink pairing using "smoke" as the theme. Your $25 ticket gets you a taste of all the teams' delicious creations.

3. Master of puppets 

Sometimes, describing conceptual art can be as painstaking as creating the art in the first place. We were intrigued by Paper Cities, a multimedia puppet-theater performance project that the group Animal Cracker Conspiracy will stage in a free workshop format at La Jolla Playhouse from Thursday, June 19, through Saturday, June 21, but we weren't sure how to describe it, so we asked Animal Cracker cofounder Iain Gunn for help. "The show," he said, "investigates through symbolism, sound and movement the complex relationship we have to our ideals as projected into the dream of the always and ever 'New' city and the uncertain relationship those projections have with the primordial wild that exists under everything we have built." Oh! Wait. Huh? Well, one thing we're sure of is that itíll be interesting.

Does your event deserve to be in our top three? Email Kinsee Morlan.