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.

 

October Meeting – Ben Wunderly, Surfing History in North Carolina

Monday, October 15, 2018   7:30 pm

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, October 15, 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 will be Benjamin Wunderly from the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Beaufort. He will be speaking on the history of surfing in North Carolina.

When one thinks about the words history and surfing together, the mind may conjure up images of surfers challenging the big waves off Hawaii, or perhaps even of Samoans or Australians riding a lonely beach in the remote Pacific. Then, when one considers the famous surfing locations along the East Coast of the United States, one might dream up images of Cocoa Beach, Florida or Atlantic City, New Jersey.

One might not be inclined to include North Carolina among such hallowed surfing locales, but that would be a mistake. Although it is impossible to determine who rode the first wave or made the first surfboard at any of these places, we do know that surfing has been taking place in the Old North State for more than a century.

Benjamin Wunderly is originally from southern Virginia. He had his introduction to North Carolina on the Outer Banks. His fascination with the ocean has led him to spend the past 30 years exploring the beaches, sand bars, tidal creeks and waterways of coastal North Carolina from Currituck to Brunswick County.

He takes pride in researching and sharing all things maritime from Tar Heel country. Having spent 20 years working under the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources at educational centers in Dare, Onslow and Carteret Counties, he has learned extensively about the rich history, culture and environment of eastern North Carolina.

Currently, a Museum Curator at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, Wunderly’s latest project has been a collaboration with fellow curator, John Hairr, to uncover the history of the sport of surfing in North Carolina. They have received help from numerous folks along the way, including the Cape Fear region’s own surfing history experts Joseph Funderburg and Peter Fritzler.

Surfing NC – A Timeline of the History of the Sport of Surfing in North Carolina (pdf)
by John Hairr and Ben Wunderly
North Carolina Maritime Museum – Beaufort

 

August Meeting – Memories of Summer – Panel Discussion

 

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, August 20, 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our program this month is entitled “Memories of Summer; Growing Up on the Boardwalk.” 

Elaine Henson will run the projector and moderate stories from our long time members as they remember their teenage years.  Dancing, eating, playing, and working.

Join us for this unique oral history program which will include innumerable stories from the 1940s to the 1960s.

 

 

Federal Point History through Artifacts from the Cape Fear Museum

by Nancy Gadzuk

Jan Davidson, Historian at the Cape Fear Museum, was the featured speaker at the May 21, 2018 meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society.

Jan talked about the history of Federal Point and Fort Fisher as depicted by some of the artifacts housed at the Cape Fear Museum.

Pictures of these early artifacts included a number of different styles of Civil War Confederate flags as well as General Whiting’s uniform and sword: Whiting switched sides and joined the Confederacy, taking the time to re-carve and alter the “U.S.” on his sword handle to read “C.S.” for the Confederate States.

She talked about the evolution of the four phases of Fort Fisher: as a battle site, a memorial site, a World War II site, and a state historic site.

As a state historic site, the 150th anniversary and re-enactment of the Battle for Fort Fisher in 2015 acknowledged sacrifices on both sides while focusing on the notion that there was “glory enough for all” in this attack. By focusing on glory, the real issues could be glossed over: that slavery was a real cause of the war and that slaves did not have happy lives.

Many of the artifacts Jan shared from more recent times overlapped or duplicated the excellent collection of beach memorabilia that Elaine Henson has shared with the History Center. The Museum even houses a urinal from Carolina Beach’s Ocean Plaza. (Leslie Bright would be able to speak to the origin of that donation.)

To me, the most interesting part of Jan’s presentation was her account of the transformation of the Cape Fear Museum over time. The Cape Fear Museum is the oldest history museum in North Carolina. It was founded in 1898 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to venerate and honor the Confederacy, and operated out of one room in the Light Infantry’s building.

Until the 1930’s, the museum moved all around Wilmington and even found its collection stored in Raleigh for a while when it couldn’t find a home in Wilmington. When the museum re-opened in the 1930’s, it took a much broader historical focus than it had in 1898. In the 1970’s, the focus broadened again to incorporate the region’s history, science, arts, and cultures to tell more balanced and inclusive stories about the area. This broader focus is reflected in its current name, the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science.

The majority of its collections are in storage as there is not room to display everything. This led to a discussion of Project Grace, a potential collaborative effort between New Hanover County, the public library, Cape Fear Museum, and private investors.

Through this project, the Museum would evolve yet again and become part of a cultural-commercial hub in downtown Wilmington, where the main library is located now. How Project Grace shakes out and shapes up is still to be determined and it will be interesting to follow its progress as it moves forward.

Sharing our histories and stories involves not only looking backward, but looking forward—and being willing and able to change with the times. There was much to learn from Jan’s presentation on how an institution can do that well.

 

The Maple Leaf: A Civil War Shipwreck

By Nancy Gadzuk

Keith Holland spoke on The Maple Leaf: A Civil War Shipwreck at the January 15, 2018 meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society. The transport ship Maple Leaf sank in Florida’s St. Johns River in 1864, carrying over 400 tons of cargo. Keith spoke on the efforts to find and preserve some of the artifacts from that shipwreck.

The first thing that struck me about Keith’s presentation was his obsession with shipwrecks. After scuba diving in Myrtle Beach and finding a brass spigot from a shipwreck there, he was determined to find a shipwreck near his home in Florida. He’d rather find, he said, a square cut hand-hewn nail than a 10-carat diamond in his search. His research showed that there was probably a yet-unidentified wreck in the St. Johns River, and he spent close to 10 years and an undisclosed, but large, amount of money to form St. Johns Archeological Expeditions and find it.

This led to the discovery of the Maple Leaf, a Civil War cargo ship sunk in 20 feet of muddy sludge and carrying 400 tons of stores. The muck provided an oxygen-free environment and excellent preservation of the ship’s artifacts. Keith and his dive team brought up many artifacts in 1989, which are now under the jurisdiction of the state of Florida. The Maple Leaf Site became a National Historic Landmark in 1994.

The Maple Leaf was a transport carrier and carried the ordinary baggage of at least three regiments. It’s the most important repository of Civil War artifacts in existence and, to me at least, a fascinating window into the minds and lives of the men whose possessions were preserved. What does a soldier carry with him when going to war? What personal reminders of home and life does he bring?

Keith shared pictures of some of the finds: teacups, diaries, letters, chess pieces, a pocket watch, seashells. This collection of the ordinary pieces of lives lived and lost serves as a powerful reminder that there is no such thing as a “civil” war. Keith observed that while the war affected the North, it destroyed the South. He dedicated a montage of photographic images and song to the women left behind in war.

At the end of the formal presentation, Gil Burnett and Skippy Winner, both long-time History Center members, shared briefly a few of their own experiences finding underwater artifacts.

 

Keith prepared a video presentation to accompany his talk. Several of these resources were used in the presentation:

The Maple Leaf: A Civil War Shipwreck
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbQw6eJg59o

The Tide: The Thrill of Discovery
https://firstcoastmagazine.com/news/the-tide-the-thrill-of-discovery/

The Mandarin Museum: Maple Leaf
http://www.mandarinmuseum.net/mandarin-history/maple-leaf

Florida Frontiers: The Maple Leaf
https://myfloridahistory.org/frontiers/article/65

Tanya Binford: Crossing the Wake

By Nancy Gadzuk

Tanya Binford, author of Crossing the Wake: One woman’s Great Loop Adventure spoke at the August 21, 2017 meeting of the History Center. She talked about her experiences traveling the 5,000 mile Great Loop Cruise Route around the eastern United States in a 25-foot Ranger tug motor boat. Alone.

Usually I take copious notes during our History Center meetings, but Tanya’s presentation was so spellbinding all I could do was listen with my mouth open in awe. Fortunately, Tanya also wrote a fascinating memoir to provide backup for the notes I didn’t take, and I recommend reading Crossing the Wake for an in-depth look at her trip.

Tanya dreamed of learning to sail, even though she spent most of her life in Arizona. She didn’t want to wait until she was able to retire to pursue her dream.

“Sometimes we have to make the adventure,” she said. At the age of 45, she decided to take a year off when she turned 50 to pursue the dream. Fortunately, she had a job she could do from anywhere that had a good Internet connection. She drew a line on a map from her home in Arizona due east and it led to Southport, North Carolina.

Once in Southport, she made every mistake a beginning boater could make, bought several boats that weren’t right for her, realized sailing was too difficult to do solo, and finally ended up with a 25 foot ranger tug motor boat.

She decided to travel America’s Great Loop Cruise Route, through the Intracoastal Waterways, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Approximately 100 boats make the loop each year, but most of them are much, much larger than hers, and very few people make the trip solo.

One of the frightening parts of her presentation was her description of going through close to 100 locks on the canal system along the route, where she was surrounded by much larger commercial vessels in a tight-fitting trough of moving water. She frequently needed to be in two places at the same time, holding a line on one side of the boat while doing something on the other.

Any long boat trip requires time, money, and energy for boat repairs. At one point, Tanya limped into a marina for a needed engine repair. (An impeller, whatever that is.) Tanya was working with Bob, the marina owner, on the repair and she was trying to get a bolt attached somewhere on the engine.

Bob asked what was taking her so long, and she yelled from under the engine, “I’m screwing as hard as I can! Can’t you feel it?”

There was silence until Bob said, “I’ve never had a woman say that to me before,” and they both burst out laughing.

A sense of humor is also useful for any adventure.

 

August Meeting, Crossing the Wake

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, August 21, 7:30 p.m. at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.  

This month our speaker is author Tanya Binford. Her book Crossing the Wake is the story of how she walked away from her stable life into a voyage unknown – a solo six-month boating excursion circumnavigating the Eastern United States in a 25 foot Ranger Tug Boat.

As a single mom and a psychiatric nurse practitioner, Binford seemingly had little time for chasing dreams, but couldn’t shake her fiery urge to sail the Great Loop (a 5,000 mile journey looping through Atlantic Ocean waters, Great Lakes, rivers, and the Gulf of Mexico).

When her boat falls behind the group, she quickly finds herself out of her element, but not out for the count. Now as the first lone woman on the Great Loop expedition, Tanya’s journey becomes internal as she discovers her strength and independence.

Crossing the Wake: One Woman’s Great Loop Adventure is both beacon of hope and an emotionally transformative tale anyone eager to test their own strength will enjoy. A motivating read guaranteed to energize readers into pursuing their passions.

Author Tanya Binford grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She got married in her second year of college and dropped out when she was pregnant with her daughter at 19. Her son was born two years later. When her children were young, she lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. After a difficult ten year marriage, she divorced and went to nursing school to earn her associates degree in nursing.

After becoming a nurse, she moved to Tucson, Arizona, where she lived for the next 14 years. During that time, she obtained her advanced degree and became a psychiatric nurse practitioner, working in public mental health. For ten years, she practiced as a nurse practitioner in Nogales, AZ, the later years through tele-psychiatry, out of her home in North Carolina.

At 51, she took a year off work to fulfill her dream of circumnavigating the Great Loop cruise route.


StarNews:  Southport resident travels 5,000 miles solo in 25-foot boat

 

 

Your Genetic Heritage: DNA Testing

By Nancy Gadzuk

Jennifer Daugherty, Special Collections Librarian for the New Hanover County Public Library, spoke on Your Genetic Heritage at the July 17, 2017 meeting of the History Center.

Jennifer explained that while some DNA testing can determine paternal lineage (y-DNA testing) and some maternal lineage (mitochondrial DNA testing), most DNA testing is autosomal. Autosomes are the chromosomes that do not determine sex, but determine the rest of a person’s genetic make-up.

She talked about three genealogical testing companies she has used. The companies – AncestryDNA, 23andMe, and Family Tree DNA – all are creating databases using the DNA of people who purchase their companies’ DNA tests. These people may self-identify with an ethnicity based on their personal history.

This identification by ethnicity, while not strictly DNA-based, becomes part of a larger geographical and historical component of the overall genealogical profile.

The more people these companies can attract to DNA testing, the larger their databases will become. This leads to providing, among other things, more robust family trees for participating clients. AncestryDNA has the largest database of client DNA, with more than 1 million genetic samples.

Both AncestryDNA and 23andMe sell their clients’ data to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Family Tree DNA has said it will not sell client data.

Jennifer listed briefly some of the characteristics of the three companies she discussed as a summary to her presentation.

 

 

 

 

 

Chefs of the Coast: Restaurants and Recipes from the North Carolina Coast

By Nancy Gadzuk

John Batchelor, food critic and author of Chefs of the Coast, Restaurants and Recipes from the North Carolina Coast was the featured speaker at the May 2017 History Center meeting.

He spoke on his experiences as a restaurant reviewer for newspapers in both Winston-Salem and Greensboro and as a judge of restaurant cooking competitions throughout Western North Carolina.

These experiences led him to write first , Chefs of the Mountains with recipes and stories from some of the restaurants he’d visited there.

To some people (like me), John’s would be a dream job: sampling delicious food, hearing the chefs’ and restaurateurs’ stories of how they got into the business, learning at least some of their secrets and recipes, finding out where their ingredients come from, and compiling these experiences into a beautifully photographed collection to be shared with others.

Apparently John thought so too, and he began work on Chefs of the Coast. One of the things he learned in his first book was that refining recipes that are meant to serve fifty down to recipes that serve four is not so easy.

Based on feedback he’d gotten on his earlier book, he also knew readers wanted simpler recipes and that some relatively inexpensive restaurants needed to be included. Seventeen Wilmington and Southport restaurants are represented in the book, which leans heavily toward the Outer Banks.

He said the key to pulling everything together came from his interviews, where a line or two would stand out and inform the focus of the entire segment. For example, “If it’s white – rice, flour, sugar – don’t eat it,” is John’s own food mantra.

He acknowledged that many home cooks can prepare a meal that’s every bit as tasty as what a top chef prepares, but for two or four people rather than a restaurant full of people all wanting different meals.

John’s line that stood out for me was this: The traditional chef’s hat has one hundred folds in it, signifying that a good chef should be able to cook an egg one hundred different ways, from memory.

Bon appetit!