Other districts may have their steeped-in-history coalfields or goldfields museums but Raglan now has a permanent exhibition of an activity that is credited with epitomising the town even though no-one did it here until the late 1950s and 1960s.
The bold assessment of surfing’s importance here came from Raglan & District Museum Society president Pat Day, who told the 80 or so who turned out for the exhibition’s opening on Saturday that surfing was now critical to the local economy.
“The Raglan surfing story started in the 1960s and by the start of this century had become the financial lynchpin, the premier part, in a tourism experience that has brought the visitors to Raglan and has defined the nature of Raglan, indeed all Whaingaroa,” he said.
“We see this exhibition as being permanent but also changing over time as we focus on different aspects of that story.”
Pat said Raglan had great mana in world surfing and “we have been fortunate to have great records of it. You see it here especially in photography, still and moving … The culture of surfing as we have it here is certainly boards and their design but is much else from music and bikinis to board wax and the development of wave prediction.”
Those at the opening included early Raglan surfer and part-time Whale Bay resident Mike Court, who’s recently turned 70, and Chas Lake who first surfed in the 1950s in Wellington. Also in attendance up on the mezzanine floor, where the exhibition is housed, were local legend Daniel Kereopa and various other more recent identities from the Raglan surfing scene.
Bob Comer, an early Raglan surfer and professional surf photographer, was too ill to front but his son Matt represented the family and heard his father singled out as being instrumental in ensuring the exhibition was a “goer”. The Gallagher Group, which Pat described as having come to the exhibition’s financial rescue with a “generous” sponsorship, was to have been represented by Bob’s wife Margaret but she was also unable to make it.
Raglan ward councillor Clint Baddeley — who declared the exhibition open — was also thanked for his staunch support of the museum. “Once he accepted there should be a museum Clint has been a ‘go-to’ man for us,” said Pat.
The exhibition now has a full rack of old surfboards, with well-known makes of early New Zealand longboards joined more recently by a Skellerup foamie and a 1930s wooden board used at Manu Bay by the late Jack Poole.