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THE HUNTINGTON BEACH INTERNATIONAL SURFING MUSEUM FACT SHEET

For a downloadable one page summary click here.

What is the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum’s (HBISM) foundation and what is their mission?

The HBISM is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Per the HBISM bylaws:

The primary objectives of the Foundation are: To collect, register, preserve, and display the designated permanent collection; to develop and coordinate temporary exhibitions and educational programs of scientific, historical, and cultural objects representative of the sport of surfing; and to accomplish the mission by acting as a liaison among businesses, industries, educational institutions, government agencies and the community. 

Who owns the HBISM? 

The HBISM resides in a building owned by the City of Huntington Beach. The building is on lease to Visit Huntington Beach, and is sub-leased to the HBISM, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. The lease from the City of Huntington Beach to VHB states the building is being leased “for the purpose of the operation of a surf museum”. The HBISM Board of Directors is the governing body of the assets of the organization.

Can the HBISM be moved out of Huntington Beach?

No. The HBISM was founded in 1987 by Natalie Kotsch, who moved to Huntington Beach from Canada and discovered her love of surf culture. Per the HBISM bylaws: 

The name of this organization, incorporated as a nonprofit organization under the laws of the State of California, shall be The Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum Foundation, hereinafter referred to as “the Foundation”. The principal offices of the Foundation business are located in Huntington Beach, California. 

Can the HBISM be sold? 

No, the HBISM is a non-profit organization so it cannot be sold.

Who is Visit Huntington Beach?

Visit Huntington Beach (VHB) is the official Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) for Huntington Beach, California. VHB is a local, private non-profit 501(c)(6) organization. VHB has been marketing the Surf City USA® brand experience globally to potential Huntington Beach visitors for over 30 years. VHB is a fully accredited and annually audited DMO. VHB’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee meetings are open to the public. 

What is the mission of Visit Huntington Beach? 

To market and sell Huntington Beach's Surf City USA brand experience as the preferred quintessential California beach destination, leading to increased visitor spending and enhancing the quality of life for local residents. 

What is the past and current relationship between HBISM, the City of HB and VHB? 

  • Natalie Kotsch, who moved to HB in 1976, started the HBISM at its original location on Walnut Street in 1987.

  • The HBISM moved to its current location on Olive Street in 1990. 2020 marks the 30th Anniversary of the HBISM. 

  • VHB (previously known as Huntington Beach Marketing and Visitors Bureau) was created in 1989 as a 501(c)(6) organization as the official marketing organization for Huntington Beach.

  • For 30 years, VHB has marketed the Surf City USA destination brand experience around the world. These marketing efforts have always included the HBISM. 

  • VHB has financially supported the HBISM more than any other single organization. 

  • VHB’s support was critical in 2012 when the City of HB was in jeopardy of losing the building on Olive Street to the State of California.

  • VHB stepped up and signed a 5-year lease with the City and assumed legal responsibilities for the property. 

  • The HBISM Board of Directors then signed a 5-year sublease with VHB to operate the Museum. Without VHB’s support and willingness the HBISM could have closed. 

  • Beginning in 2012, the HBISM needed major renovations. VHB provided a grant for up to $50,000 to fund required maintenance at the Museum.  Members of the community also provided materials and labor free of cost.

  • In 2013, VHB paid for the installation of an official Welcome Center component in the HBISM lobby. Visitors and residents alike could now visit the HBISM and pick up free visitor guides and other community brochures. This new Welcome Center component helped drive attendance to the HBISM and still exists today.    

  • In 2013, VHB began providing staff support three out of six days per week, or 50% of operating time. 

  • In 2014, VHB led the 100 Years of Surfing Celebration in partnership with the HBISM. As part of this celebration, VHB provided initial funding and produced The Green Room Golf Tournament, raising thousands of dollars for the HBISM.

  • Concurrent to the 100 Years of Surfing campaign, VHB built the world’s largest surfboard. After setting two Guinness World Records®, VHB decided to permanently install the Big Board at the HBISM location to ensure future visitation. The Big Board attraction has proven to be a significant reason why people visit the Museum and has become a popular photo spot.

  • In 2015, VHB produced a 15-minute documentary, The Biggest Board: Surf City USA’s Epic Ride. Following the premiere in Huntington Beach, the film was chosen for the Newport Beach Film Festival. The documentary film can be viewed on demand at the HBISM, free of charge. 

  • In 2016, the HBISM Board of Directors approached VHB for additional support in order to keep the Museum in operation:

    • VHB paid for a sizable portion of the HBISM’s expenses including outstanding utility and operational bills in excess of $10,000. 

    • VHB continued to provide VHB employees to work at the HBISM three days per week, or 50% of operating time.

    • These trained VHB Ambassadors were, and still are, critical to the operations of the HBISM, including consistent and dependable open hours, hospitality to guests, and providing docent services. 

    • VHB paid for other operational needs including a new computer, air conditioning unit and installation, flooring, and office and cleaning supplies.

    • VHB paid nearly $34,000 in salary to the former HBISM Executive Director.

  • VHB established a comprehensive community-wide wayfinding system to supplement the lack of pedestrian and vehicular traffic signage throughout Huntington Beach. Now, there are prominent signs throughout the Downtown footprint and surrounding HB neighborhoods directing visitors to area attractions, including the HBISM. VHB managed 100% of the wayfinding system’s design, fabrication and installation costs.

  • Currently, VHB continues to provide financial support for the HBISM office computer, required building maintenance, office and cleaning supplies, and 50% of all staffing.

These are just several examples over many years of VHB’s well documented commitments to supporting the HBISM. Without VHB’s support, the HBISM doors would have closed.

How has VHB supported surf culture and heritage in Huntington Beach?

  • HBISM financial, staff, and in-kind support over the decades 

  • Ownership and stewardship of VHB website (www.surfcityusa.com) which sees 1.2M yearly visitors, social media, and surf related content

  • Trademark ownership of Surf City USA

  • Consistent brand voice of Surf City USA through paid, owned, earned and trade channels

    • Official HB Visitor Guide

    • Visit Huntington Beach social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube)

    • Surf City Women

    • Surf City USA Destination Video 

  • Creators and producers of Surfboards in the Sand  

  • 100 Years of Surfing - creation of website with surfing history timeline and collaborator in celebration

  • Epic Big Board Ride

    • Two Guinness World Records

    • “The Biggest Board: Surf City USA’s Epic Ride” documentary

    • Funding and installation of the World’s Largest Surfboard at the HBISM

  • Circle of Honor Major Sponsor, which also set a Guinness World Record

  • Sponsorship for the Surfing Walk of Fame and promotion of Surfing Sundays

  • Kiosk – driving visitors and residents to HBISM

  • Wayfinding system that directs people to HBISM 

  • Hosted hundreds of domestic and international journalists and trade clients to experience the best attractions in HB, including the HBISM. This resulted in exposure and earned media placements in print, broadcast, and online publications.

  • Proposed HB-Biarritz Sister City relationship

  • Presenting Sponsor of VISSLA ISA World Junior Surfing Championship (2018, 2019)

Who is the Surfing Heritage & Culture Center (SHACC)?

Internationally recognized, the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center (SHACC) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) museum dedicated to preserving, presenting and promoting surfing's heritage. The organization owns the largest collection of Surfing Artifacts in the world. Over 800 surfboards, thousands of historical photos, hundreds of hours of film and video, thousands of trunks, wetsuits, fins, posters and a complete research library of almost everything ever written on the subject of surf culture. For these reasons, SHACC has been nicknamed “The Smithsonian of Surfing.”

Dick Metz, Board Member and Founder of SHACC, supplied the vision for the Surfing Heritage Foundation (SHF) and initial funding. Central to the mission, Metz has donated his extensive surfboard collection and bequeathed his estate to SHF. Metz, who grew up in Laguna Beach with such notables as Hobie Alter, Reynolds Yater, and Hevs McClelland, is a pioneering figure for the surfing sport and industry. As the driving force behind Surfline Hawaii and the Hobie Sports retail chain, Metz suggested that Bruce Brown film The Endless Summer in South Africa. Since, Metz has changed the course of surf history and now his goal is to preserve it. Dick Metz was also one of HB’s original 1955 Boys of Summer, who were inducted into the International Surfing Walk of Fame in 2007.

SHACC’s vision is to “share the stoke” of surfing with the world.

When did the discussion begin to have a possible collaborative partnership between the HBISM, the City of Huntington Beach, VHB and the Surfing Heritage & Culture Center (SHACC)?  

Beginning in the late 2000s, Huntington Beach leadership, including HBISM and VHB Board members, past Mayors, City Council members, City Managers, and Dick Metz have considered a variety of options for the HBISM. Having struggled financially, several different locations and a more sustainable funding model were considered. Some of these options included SHACC relocated to Huntington Beach. None of the location options or expansions ever came to fruition:

  • 10,000 square foot building at Pier Plaza (1980s -1990s)

  • Triangle Park (2008–2010)

  • The old Rogers Senior Center on 17th Street (2016-2017)

  • Adding a second HBISM footprint on 5th Street (2015-2017)

  • Expanding upwards at the existing site 

Worth noting, many of the aforementioned locations included discussions between Dick Metz and local community leaders.

What are the main goals in pursuing a partnership between the HBISM, the City of Huntington Beach, VHB and SHACC?

The collaborative partnership would provide residents and visitors with world-class surf museum experiences, professionally curated exhibits and engaging educational programming that showcase surfing history, culture and heritage at the quality that Surf City USA expects and deserves. The storytelling of HB’s rich local surfing history, culture and heritage would be enhanced and expanded for generations to enjoy. A partnership bringing together such high level of resources and experience will secure HBISM's financially stability and give access to the world’s greatest surfing culture and heritage collection, allowing for exciting museum growth.

What is the estimated value of the donated HBISM artifacts?

In 2019, it was valued at $250,000.

What is going to happen to the existing artifacts that were donated to the HBISM Foundation? 

They remain the property of the HBISM. Donated items are irrevocably the property of the HBISM per the donation agreement between the donor and the HBISM.

Is SHACC taking over the HBISM?

No. It is a continued collaboration between the HBISM, City of Huntington Beach, Visit Huntington Beach, and SHACC. For example, two of the last three exhibits (Surf 2 Skate and Origins of Surf) were on loan and curated by SHACC.

Would the HBISM change its name if the collaborative partnership with SHACC moves forward? 

No. The official name would be Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum, a partner of the SHACC Ohana.  

Will there be a permanent exhibit dedicated to Huntington Beach surf heritage if the collective partnership moves forward?

Yes, including future plans to potentially expand the HBISM square footage. A local committee would be created to enrich the curation of Huntington Beach local surf culture and history. Additionally, it is part of the bylaws to always maintain a permanent collection:

The primary objectives of the Foundation are: To collect, register, preserve, and display the designated permanent collection…

What investment is SHACC going to make in Huntington Beach?

SHACC is committed to investing its curatorial, professionally managed museum and educationally focused programs to the proposed collaborative partnership between the HBISM Board of Directors, the City of Huntington Beach and VHB.

How is VHB going to partially fund the proposed collaborative partnership between the HBISM, the City of HB, VHB and SHACC?

Any major collaborative partnerships that VHB considers is part of a detailed strategic planning process.  A facilitated planning session is held every three years and is open to the public per the open meeting laws of California’s Brown Act. VHB’s last three strategic plans (2011-2014, 2014-2017 and 2017-2020) identified the need to help champion efforts to reimagine the existing HBISM into a world-class surfing museum. 

The lack of consistent, professional museum management with curation and dedicated HBISM funding have limited the HBISM’s stability and long-term growth.

Recently, several important decisions were made to move the HB community closer to this vision:

  • The HBISM Board of Directors officially voted in 2018 to pursue a collaborative partnership with SHACC. Dick Metz, SHACC founder, was one of HB’s original 1955 Boys of Summer, who were inducted into the International Surfing Walk of Fame in 2007.

  • The HBISM Board of Directors view this collaborative opportunity as taking the Museum to a new level, as well as a much-needed infusion for a struggling downtown. A SHACC-professionally managed HBISM would unquestionably help downtown merchants by attracting more downtown visitors.

  • VHB voted on October 17, 2018 (as part of a larger FY budget approval) to conditionally approve a total of $375,000 to be used as much needed seed money to help fund the collaborative partnership between the City of Huntington Beach, HBISM and SHACC.

  • VHB’s funding model for the collaborative partnership including SHACC spans the next three years beginning in 2020: $150,000 in Year One, $125,000 in Year Two, and $100,000 in Year Three. The long-term goal is for the HBISM to be financially self-sustaining.

  • All annual VHB funds for any project, including the HBISM, are predicated on said partners providing a fully vetted business plan, which may include planned curated exhibits, youth educational programs, financial projections, fundraising, marketing, operations, membership benefits, retail and merchandising, programming, special events and staffing. Any potential VHB partner must demonstrate full accountability in order to receive any funding. VHB is audited annually and adheres to the highest professional standards, as defined by Destinations International accreditation program (DMAP), as well as federal, state and local laws.

  • In the summer of 2018, the Office of Huntington Beach’s City Manager and Department of Economic Development worked with the HBISM and VHB on the collaborative partnership concept with SHACC, including developing a three-year operating budget.

  • The initial funding for the collaborative partnership concept for the HBISM was presented to City Council in a study session on September 4, 2018 and in a public hearing on December 17, 2018.

  • A resolution was approved by City Council on January 22, 2019 to authorize the use of VHB’s budget for the initial funding of the collaborative partnership concept.

Is VHB still committed to finding a sustainable solution for the HBISM?

VHB is a local, non-profit, results-oriented organization that collaborates on strategic solutions with trusted partners that jointly seek to solve difficult problems. VHB remains committed to being part of the grand solution to elevate the HBISM into a distinguished museum. 

VHB believes that the vision expressed by HBISM Founder Natalie Kotsch to Brett Barnes, HBISM Chair for over a decade, is still within reach. 

‘“Surfing is part of our heritage,” said Natalie Kotsch, who is the founder and director of the museum. “This is going to be the best surf museum in the world.”’

Los Angeles Times article circa 1987

Visit Huntington Beach has stood by and supported the HBISM despite the many challenges it has faced. VHB’s substantial financial and staff commitments over many years were made for one primary reason: Huntington Beach deserves a world-class museum that showcases surfing history, culture and heritage as part of the Surf City USA community.

To summarize, SHACC would manage, not own, the HBISM for 3 to 5 years. The HBISM Board of Directors remains intact. The HBISM remains in Downtown HB. The City of Huntington Beach would remain the official owner of the building as designated by the State of California, and VHB would continue to provide global marketing support. VHB has never owned the HBISM, nor has it attempted to sell or relocate it.

IN CONCLUSION.

The decades long funding and management challenges facing the HBISM are real, but not insurmountable. Since 2012, VHB’s unwavering commitment in both monetary and operational support is documented to be well over $200,000, making VHB, a local organization, the single largest donor to the HBISM over the past decade.

However, this business model for the HBISM’s future is not sustainable. The competition to attract visitors to HB, or even to the SoCal region and state of California, is equally challenging. New compelling reasons for visitors and residents alike to visit other cities in Orange County are increasing. 

Not wanting to give up hope, VHB has stepped up once again with initial funding for three years to continue partnering with the HBISM, the City of Huntington Beach, and now with a recognized surf museum partner, SHACC, for management of the HBISM.

As SHACC strategically brings their curatorial and museum expertise to other well-known surfing destinations, Huntington Beach has a golden opportunity to be part of an impactful global Ohana. Professionally curated exhibits that tell the HB surfing story will go on the road to other incredible museums not just in California, but worldwide.

A potential economic slowdown and future impacts of online retailers will continue to have a chilling effect on economic growth in Downtown HB. This collaborative partnership, and the dedicated dollars associated with it, fulfills the vision of Natalie Kotsch. Having a professionally managed surfing museum in Downtown HB lays a solid foundational brick for making the case that Surf City USA, Huntington Beach, should be in the LA 2028 Summer Olympic Games surfing venue discussion.