History of Surfing in North Carolina

By Nancy Gadzuk

Ben Wunderly, museum curator at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort and co-collaborator with John Hairr on the Surfing NC Project, spoke at the October 15, 2018 meeting of the Federal Point Historical Preservation Society. Ben spoke on the History of Surfing in North Carolina.

While the title slide of Ben’s talk featured a 1966 photographic image, surfing in the state far predated the 1960’s. Ben moved outside North Carolina and traced the earliest recorded awareness of the sport to the late 1700’s. Captain James Cook’s expeditions to the Pacific reported Tahitians riding the waves on a board they described as “the stern of an old canoe.”

By the late 1800’s, awareness of surfing in the Pacific had spread to the East Coast. A “surfing party” was held at the Atlantic Hotel in Morehead City in 1885. A Watauga County man wrote about an excursion he took to Wrightsville Beach in 1894, where “All sorts and sizes were riding the waves during the entire day.”

After the turn of the century, reports of surfing in North Carolina became more widespread. A 1907 postcard from Wrightsville Beach appeared to show surfers in the water, though an ancient precursor to Photoshop may have been used to doctor the photo.

The earliest well-documented surfing activity in North Carolina was Virginia Dare Day in 1928, which featured surfing demonstrations by NC surfing pioneer Willie Kaiama.

By the 1950’s and 1960’s, surfing in North Carolina had spread – even inland to the original Bert’s Surf Shop in Kinston. Given the lack of beaches in Kinston, Bert had to sell clothes and shoes along with surfboards before opening a series of surf shops along the coast.

In 1964, Harold Petty and Lank Lancaster founded East Coast Surfboards in Carolina Beach, shaping their own brand of surfboards. In 1965, the Atlantic Surf Shop opened in Kure Beach, despite the town leaders banning surfing that summer due to complaints from fishermen who blamed the surfers for their bad luck. The Spring Surf Festival was held at Lumina in Wrightsville Beach in 1966.

By 1974, the North Carolina coast was recognized for having the best surfing on the East Coast, and the United States Surfing Championship was held in Buxton, the first time since the competition started that it was held on the East Coast. In 1997, the East Coast Wahine Championship of Surfing was established at Wrightsville Beach.

Due to time constraints, Ben was not able to talk in much detail about more recent history in this presentation. However, the Surfing NC Project included the development of Surfing NC: A Timeline of the History of the Sport of Surfing in North Carolina, a book Ben co-authored with John Hairr.

PDF copies of the book are available for free download from the Maritime Museum website:

https://ncmaritimemuseumbeaufort.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/North-Carolina-Surfing-NC-Timeline-2nd-Edition-HAIRR-WUNDERLY.pdf    [PDF]

What struck me most was the amount of work involved to ferret out the history presented during the evening, and in much greater detail in the book. When our focus is on war or politics or other more institutionalized subjects, there are often good written records to follow.

Surfing, however is more informal, with its proponents generally more interested in finding the next good wave than chronicling their activities in writing. Fortunately, Wunderly and Hairr have done much of that hard work and provided a fascinating history of the sport in North Carolina.

 

November Meeting – Brenda Coffey – Kure Beach

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, November 19, 2018 at 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our speaker this month is a lifelong resident and member of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society, Brenda Fry Coffey.

In 1943, Brenda, her mother and father (Fundy and Mary Lee Fry), along with her grandfather and grandmother (Charlie “Pa” and Ada “Ma” Fry), moved to Kure Beach from Lumberton, North Carolina.  Her father and grandfather worked in the shipyard during World War II in Wilmington building Liberty ships. After the war, they opened a restaurant at Kure Beach called “Fundy’s”.

Brenda is retired from the New Hanover County Department of Emergency Management.  She currently serves on the Board of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society and is actively involved in her church, Kure Beach First Baptist.

The concept of recording the history of Kure Beach was sparked over a lunch conversation with Punky and Jean Kure over ten years ago,  Thanks to the generosity of many, it has been her honor to make this history a reality.

 

President’s Letter – November, 2018

By Elaine Henson

Boardwalk, Part VII

Even though the future looked bleak during the dark days of 1993, our boardwalk story does have a happy ending.  From the mid-1990s into the new twenty-first century, many successful building blocks for boardwalk revitalization were laid.  All of the mayors and council members we’ve had since then have been dedicated to restoring it to its former glory.

Some used our building and fire codes to clean up buildings in need of repair.  There were committees like the Carolina Beach Citizens for Progress, Carolina Beach Boardwalk Preservation Association, Pleasure Island Merchant’s Association and Paint the Town Group formed with government and citizens working for the goal.

Perhaps the biggest shot in the arm was the announcement of a new Courtyard by Marriott Hotel to be built on the boardwalk.  The ten story 144 room hotel, which opened in 2003, came at the perfect time and provided a catalyst for further development.

The next few years saw several big projects planned, some of which materialized and others that went belly up in the recession of 2008.  But, there were new boardwalk businesses such as Wheel Fun Rentals, the Fudgeboat, the Blackhorn Restaurant and the Island Ice Factory added to the old standbys like Frank’s Pizza and Britt’s Donuts whose opening in 1939 holds the record of being the longest continuous business and mainstay, constantly drawing visitors to the boardwalk.  With its long lines of devoted fans coming back year after year and being the recipient of many awards, Britt’s remains a number one boardwalk destination.

In the Fall of 2007, the Boardwalk Makeover Group was formed by then councilman, Dan Wilcox, and business owner, Duke Hagestrom, and others which really got the ball rolling.

Council kicked in $53,000 to fund the improvements in 2008, which included new landscaping, public bathroom upgrades, colorful planter boxes, trash cans, ashtrays, benches and bike racks.  There were attractive directional signs and banners hanging from new lamp posts.

They extended the Chamber of Commerce’s Thursday night fireworks shows, begun two years earlier, with live music at the Gazebo.  The excitement was real as others joined in to help and contribute monetarily like the Chamber and private individuals.  Then in 2009, when the carnival rides returned to the boardwalk, it was the icing on the cake.  The family friendly atmosphere was back.

Elaine Henson leads FPHPS Historic Boardwalk Tour

But there was more to come!  In the fall of 2013, a $1.5 million-dollar boardwalk makeover was announced to be funded by grants and tourist revenue.  It opened in 2014, with an all new 750-foot-long, 16-foot wide boardwalk along with swings, gazebos, shade sails, showers and five ADA accessible walkways combined with available beach wheelchairs.

Then in 2016, the new Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton opened at 1 Harper Avenue, in the same spot as the Ocean Plaza which was torn down in 2006.

The 106 room, 8 story hotel is located at the beginning of the 875-foot boardwalk extension going all the way to Pelican Lane.

The new and improved family friendly boardwalk prompted FPHPS to launch a Historic Boardwalk Tour in 2018 every Tuesday, during the summer, at 10 am.  It was a huge success and will be back next summer.

 

 

FPHPS Awards Price Cottage Plaque

On Saturday, November 3, 2018, Federal Point Historic Preservation Society had a ceremony to award a plaque for the Price Cottage built in 1939 by Grover Cleveland Price and his wife, Tessie Price, of Rocky Mount.

It is located at 405 Carolina Beach Avenue North.  The cottage is now owned by Mrs. Price’s grandchildren, Susan Harris Gibbs, Danny Harris and Roney Harris.  Susan Gibbs and her daughter, Lauren Gibbs, completed the application for the plaque and wrote a story of the cottage.  Ned Barnes, a business member of FPHPS, provided the deed research which is required.

The ceremony was attended by members of the Price family, President, Board and Members of FPHPS, Mayor Joe Benson, Council Members LeAnn Pierce and Tom Bridges.  The family had a reception in the dining room on a table built by the builder of the cottage, Mr. Ira Hines.

Anyone with a house in the Federal Point area that is at least 50 years old is eligible for a plaque.  Houses 50 to 74 years old have a black band around the plaque, 75 years or older has a gold band.  Call or stop by the History Center and we can give you a packet with an application and directions.  The fee is $100 which is the cost of the plaque.

 

Storm of 1899

[Editor’s Notes:  Since most of us are recovering this month from the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, we thought it might be interesting to you to read about one of the most disastrous storms on record on this coast.]

It was the Caribbean Storm of November 1, 1899, which reached Wilmington in full force Monday night at 10 o’clock.  Telephone connections had been cut off and no details could be secured from Carolina Beach, but the ocean made almost a clean wreck of the cottages.  Mr. Tom McGee, who is in charge of the beach, wrote to Captain John. W. Harper, general manager of the New Hanover Transit Company, that nearly every cottage was washed away.

It is said that in all eighteen cottages were either washed clean away or totally wrecked.  The hotel, Sedgeley Hall Club House, Hanover Seaside Club House, Mr. D. McEachern’s cottage, and Mr. Hans A. Kure’s cottages were about the only houses left standing on the beach.  The railroad track was also washed away in places.  The damage at Carolina Beach is estimated at about $12,000.  Carolina Beach pier sustained very little damage.

New Hanover Transit Co.’s pump house turned over and water tank undermined and tilted.  New Hanover Transit Co.’s pump house turned over and water works destroyed.

The bridges and gangways on the beach are all gone.  The New Hanover Transit Co.’s railroad track from the Kure Cottage No 2, up the beach to Sedgeley Hall Club, totally destroyed and washed over into the sound.  The track from the Curve near Mr. Kure’s club house to the beach is ruined.

Telephone connection had been cut off and as the beach could not be reached, nothing definite could be secured for publication yesterday morning.

The most intense anxiety was felt by the cottage owners, and many of them went to the beach yesterday, expecting, however, to find little to give them hope.  A party went down in a wagonette, others went in buggies, and some went on the steamer Wilmington and reached the beach from the pier by means of a hand-car.  Among those who went down were Major D. O’Connor, and Messrs. J. A. Springer, H. C. McQueen, J. C. Stevenson, D. McEachern; Major Croom, G. W. Linder, J. J. Fowler, A. D. Brown, R. C. Stolter, J. G. L. Gieschen, Dr. Webster, and others.  They returned to the city in the afternoon.

Capt. J. W. Brock, who with his party of fishermen consisting of three other men, were thought to have been lost during the recent storm on Zeke’s Island, arrived in the city yesterday afternoon from Federal Point all safe and sound.

It will be remembered that on Tuesday his trunk was found floating with the tide up the river by J. W. Howard, janitor at the Custom House, and this gave rise to apprehensions for his safety.  The trunk was restored to him upon his arrival yesterday and this with a small boat in which he and party escaped to Federal Point, constituted all his earthly possessions, the waves having demolished his houses on the island and swept all his household goods, fishing tackle and other property up the river, on the occasion of last Tuesday morning’s storm.

On the island were two cottages in which he and companions lived.  The tide began rising at 8 o’clock Monday night, he said, and reached a climax at 4 o’clock Tuesday morning, when the entire island was covered and the breakers were rolling high over their heads.

He and companions managed to hold a boat between them by steadying themselves with a few bushes, which were above water.  They were then standing in water waist deep and remained so until Tuesday afternoon, when they managed to bail the water from the canoe, clear it of sand and by desperate effort reach the land at Federal Point.

Besides houses and household belongings, Capt. Brock lost two fishing shacks, five nets, and a large interest in between twenty and twenty-five barrels salt mullets.  He said it was the roughest experience of his life and he had given up hope at one time of escaping alive.

Capt. Brock says that the jetties built from the island to Federal Point to throw the current in Cape Fear channel are cut in twain in nearly a dozen places.  Zeke’s Island is now a sand bar, not enough soil being left, as a member of the crew expressed it “to raise a row on.”  Formerly vegetation grew upon the land and gardens were cultivated by fishermen.

The other fishermen on the island are reported safe and there is known to have been no loss of life at this point.

 

The above excerpts were taken from an article published in the Wilmington Star News, November 1899.

 

Society Notes – November, 2108

By Darlene Bright, History Center Director

  • The History Center recorded 62 visitors in October. There were 37 people in attendance at the October meeting. The History Center was used by the Got-Em-On Live Bait Fishing Club and the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC).
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  • Please keep Rebecca Taylor in your thoughts and prayers. She fell right after our September meeting and broke her leg.  She is recovering nicely at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.  She will be staying in the hospital, but in the rehab part of the hospital.
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  • And don’t forget!! If you take a trip with Wilmington Water Tours, please tell them you are a member of the FPHPS!  If you do, we get a portion of your ticket price.  Call us at 910-458-0502 or them at 910-338-3134.  wilmingtonwatertours.net
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  • A great big thanks goes out to Steve Arthur and Pam and Eddie Capel for providing refreshments at the October meeting.
  • The Friends of Fort Fisher are sponsoring Fort Fisher’s Christmas Open House on December 1, 2018, from 10:00 AM till 4 PM. Cookies will be provided by the UDC.
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  • Welcome to new members, Paul D. Buehler and Elaine G. Farias, Polly Burtelow and Victoria J. F. Palmer, all of Carolina Beach.
  • By special request, Steve Arthur will be doing a Historic Boardwalk Tour for the Island Women on November 27 at 10:00 AM.
  • Thanks to our volunteers in October, James Kohler, Steve Arthur, Darlene Bright and Leslie Bright.
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  • Christmas season is upon us! When making out your Christmas list, think of all the really good books, especially our Cookbook, and other nice gifts in the History Center Gift Shop to give to friends and family members.