Keep the small wave jokes to yourself. Miami has some serious history when it comes to surfing. And if you don't believe it, ride on over to the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens on March 24 and check it out for yourself. The Miami Surf Archive Project is holding its launch party and bringing together all sectors of the city's surprisingly rich surf culture and history.
On tap is a slide show, surf movies with rare and vintage video of Miami's surf scene, live music by Mike Maytin, grub, booze, and more. It's not a bonfire with the Dead Presidents from Point Break, but pretty damn close. Michael Laas founded the project after putting together a successful "Surf the Webster" pop up shop/exhibit during last year's Fashion Week. Apparently, the exhibit unearthed a real passion for wave riding and Lass is trying to parlay the popularity into a permanent exhibit or even a small surfing museum on Miami Beach in the future. Read on for our Q&A with Laas.
New Times: What is it that the Miami Surf Project is trying to accomplish?
Michael Laas: We want to create an archive of the surf history of Miami and the
beaches for future use. We want to create a repository of surf archives
so that we can create a living exhibit - something like the Art Deco
Museum on Miami Beach. Eventually we want to be absorbed by a larger
institution and be part of a permanent collection.
The surf culture flourished back in the day.
Courtesy of the Miami Surf Archive Project
Is there enough of a surf culture in Miami to support such an exhibit?
Definitely. There's a misconception that there isn't but something we
learned after setting up the surf pop up shop during last year's Fashion
Week that there is a deep culture. We had such a powerful response
-everybody loved it so much - that many people asked me to keep it
going. So we created a non-profit dedicated to preserving our surf
Even though there isn't the typical high volume of surfing that you have
in other parts, we have a large city and a large population and there
is a strong surf culture. I was shocked when I kept uncovering layers of
Have there been any famous surfers come out of Miami?
More like infamous. Murf the Surf who stole
the Star of India in the biggest jewel heist ever in the country was
leader of a pretty well established surfing crew--the Enforcers. [Murf
was born in Los Angeles, but did most his crime in Miami].
The Whitman family who founded Bal Harbour had several avid surfers. In
fact, Tom Blake
who traveled throughout the country after he learned from Hawaii
surfing icon Duke Kahanamoku in the 1920s, stopped in Miami and taught the Whitmans about surfing and the surf culture.
The Miami Crew, circa 1970. (Check Blondie blowing smoke one in from bottom left. That's cool!)
Courtesy of Miami Surf Project
What are the best surfing spots in Miami?
The very tip of South Beach and Harbour House near Haulover Inlet.
That's where most of the project focuses - the two real hubs of surfing
and culture in Miami.
What's cool about the launch event?
We have several hundred archived pictures of the surf scene in Miami on a
slide show, 8 mm film that's been digitized of surfing from the 1960s,
1970s, and 1980s and footage from the Whitman family that's never been
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The launch event for the Miami Surf Archive Project takes place March 24 at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens (2000 Convention Center Drive, Miami Beach) at 7 p.m. RSVP at email@example.com.