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New Surfboard Exhibit Opens in East Village

The genius of Bob Simmons comes together in Hydrodynamica


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Legendary surfer Bob Simmons was a lot of things: a Caltech dropout, moody, eccentric, and most of all, a genius. He fast-tracked surfing’s evolution by making surfboards lighter and more responsive before tragically drowning at Windansea Beach in 1954. But surf historian Richard Kenvin wants people to know that Simmons is more than a historical footnote.

Kenvin’s Hydrodynamica: Remember the Future, an exhibit that opened this past weekend at Space 4 Art/Loft 9 Gallery (325 15th St. San Diego), showed that Simmons continues to push surfboard design forward.

The exhibit is part of Pacific Standard Time, a collaboration between more than 60 cultural organizations coming together to celebrate art in Southern California.

Surfers and artists filed into the gallery to admire Simmons’ unique balsa-wood surfboards.

Why was Simmons so ahead of his time? His understanding of physics gave him license to experiment with surfboard materials, shapes and fins long before other shapers. He was also famously reclusive. Free from the court of public opinion, he pursued radical designs that foreshadowed the shortboard and fish designs, crucial developments in the surfboard. 

Attendees at the opening on Saturday also gazed at cutting-edge designs from current San Diego shapers like Carl Ekstrom and Ryan Burch (who were at the reception), among others. Some of Burch’s designs, in particular, looked influenced by Simmons’ plank-like surfboards. Six decades later, Simmons remains relevant.

Hydrodynamica: Remember the Future will be on display until March 9.

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