California Surf Museum

Written by’s Local Expert
Admission sign at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside, CA.
California Surf Museum's exhibit in Oceanside, CA.
Buoy exhibit at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside, California.
California Surf Museum's history exhibits in Oceanside, CA.
Glass exhibit at the California Surf Museum.
Girls surfing exhibit at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside.
Longboard exhibit at the California Surf Museum.
California Surf Museum's boogie board exhibit in Oceanside. o
California Surf Museum's gift shop.
Gift store items at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside.
Books and t-shirts in the gift shop at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside.
Map exhibit at the California Surf Museum.
California Surf Museum's social media sign.
Long view of an exhibit at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside.
California Surf Museum's weather mapping exhibit.
Multiple surfboard exhibit's at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside.
California Surf Museum's longboards in Oceanside, CA.


The California Surf Museum in downtown Oceanside, California is a must-visit whether you’re a surfer or not. 

This museum is located just a few blocks from the beach and houses a wealth of artifacts, archives, displays, information, history, and culture that will fascinate absolutely anyone and everyone. And its stewards are not only lovers of the ocean and surfers themselves but are thrilled to share their knowledge with you. 

I decided to visit the California Surf Museum on a rainy SoCal day and boy I’m glad that I did. 

Not only did I score a parking spot right in front of the museum, but I met two of the most wonderful people in Oceanside—Tom and Camille who volunteer at the museum. 

Tom is a lifetime surfer and lover of O’side not to mention an extremely kind and very interesting man to chat with. He literally has an entire history of surfing knowledge stored in his brain and I’m pretty sure there is nothing he doesn’t know. 

During my day visit to the museum I shared the space with a group of college kids that took the train up from Point Loma, many of whom were surfers themselves and knew a lot about surfers, surfing, and the history of it all. 

It was very interesting and enlightening to eavesdrop on their questions and discussions. 

And then in popped in a few people, one of which had zero interest in surfing, but she was a woodworker and was very interested in the types of wood used in the early surfboards. 

Tom breezily went from one group to another answering questions, providing information, and not skipping a beat.

As for California Surf Museum’s exhibits, they range form ceiling to floor and everywhere inbetween this incredible surf utopia. 

On display is a 1923 Waikiki-Style Board “Makai” which is a 67-lb., 9’8” varnished redwood board made by Duke Kahanamoku. This was his personal board which he used to save eight lives in Corona del Mar in 1925. Can you imagine hauling a 67-pound wooden board down to the beach? My paddleboard is only 24 lbs. and it’s a struggle for me…gee-whiz! 

Most of the boards displayed in the exhibits are on loan from their owners and this Makai has been made available by its owner Dale Smith.

Also on display is a 1912 Early California Alaia board. This vintage board is varnished sugar pine with oak tailblock and weighs in at 37.7 lbs., measurimg 7’1”. It was built by Ralph Noisat and donated to CSM by the Grace Arnold Family. 

Even though it was crafted in 1912 this board isn’t event the oldest on display! 

The craftsmanship of these boards is absolutely gorgeous and if you stroll by the Science of Surf display area (currently being expanded) and read some of the storyboards you will come to realize that there is a real art in the manufacturing and shaping of these board—here you can actually see them all displayed from the earliest wood to the most modern high-tech boards. 

Next  toward the back of the first row is a display that features a fantastically funky street-style graffiti 10’ longboard built by Daniel Takayama. It’s currently owned and on loan to CSM from NFL alum Junior Seau. Oh, how I would love that board! 

Definitely one of the coolest ones I’ve seen. Not only is Junior’s board there, but they also have some of his trophies and signed helmets on display—how cool is that?

Another awesome display is Bethany Hamilton’s board, bathing suit, and story. What a phenomenal human being. 

For those of you that don’t know, Bethany was and still is a champion surfer. She was attacked by a 15 ft. Tiger Shark on October 31st, 2003 while lying on her board at Tunnels near her home in Kauai. 

On display is her board with a huge bite taken out of it. OMG! The attack resulted in her almost losing her life from the loss of blood and losing her arm from the shoulder down. Amazingly she still surfs and competes to this day.  

In fact, she was out of the water for only three weeks before diving back in teaching herself how to surf with only one arm and came back to win the 2005 NSSA National Championship. 

She is an absolutely incredible, brave, and wonderful human and mom!

In addition to their displays, the California Surf Museum also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including film screenings, book signings, and lectures by surf industry insiders and cultural icons. These events offer visitors a chance to engage with the surf community and learn more about the history and culture of surfing.

The California Surf Museum is a wonderful and educational experience for the entire family and who knows—it might inspire you to catch a wave while you’re in O’side.

Fun Facts & Cool History 

The California Surf Musem came to fruition in 1986 when several people decided to come together at George’s Restaurant on Coast Highway in Encinitas to discuss forming a surf museum. 

They wanted to collect, preserve, display, capture, and chronicle the surfing lifestyle, its history, and pretty much everything in-between—with the mission to preserve the heritage and memorabilia for future generations and provide education. 

Fast forward to today and the California Surf Museum has over 3,000 items which include magazines, books, archives including a non-circulation library, comic books, postcards, photographs, scrapbooks, wetsuits, record albums, CDs, cassette tapes, bathing suits, VHS tapes, and DVDs, as well as 200 surfboards as well as trophies, clothing, board games, wax, and other artifacts. 

Not only do they cover surfing, but they also display local talent, the first swim fins and their evolution, belly boards, the history of the Boogie Board, ocean buoys,  tide information, and so much more. 

In fact, the Scripps Institute tracks 2 buoys in real-time and feeds them the data, which is displayed on a screen in the first exhibit.

Not only are there floor exhibits in this educational museum, but the walls are covered with memorabilia, artifacts, and information which spills over into nooks, crannies, and even the restrooms.

And don’t forget to take a look overhead—you’ll see 14 surfboards suspended from the ceiling as well as some in the gift shop and others hanging around.

Getting There

Located off of Pier View Wy and N Tremont St, you’ll find the California Surf Museum nestled among some of North County San Diego’s incredible dining. 

If you’re heading down Pier View Wy toward the ocean, look to the right after you pass N Tremont St and you won’t miss it!

Local Tips

  • Camille told me that the proceeds from the gift shop go to a great cause so make sure to grab some swag on your way out.
  • There is street parking in front and all around with a 2-hour limit, but you can go up a few blocks and find pay and free parking lots, garages and on-street parking.
  • Pay attention to signs that indicate time limits, street sweeping and trash collection days—Oceanside Parking Force is out and about and you don’t want a ticket!
  • Don’t plan on parking near the museum on Thursdays as the entire street is closed off for O’side’s very popular and fun daytime Farmer’s Market and Sunset Market at night.


0/5 (0)
No Reviews

Leave a Review