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California Culture to the Max

May 12, 1994|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN | Benjamin Epstein is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition

When people elsewhere in the country think of Southern California, they probably imagine something like Main Street, Huntington Beach, where culture runs from surf history to Native American art, where counterculture can mean body piercing or micro-brewed ales on tap.

3 to 4: No place captures the spirit of Surf City U.S.A. like the International Surfing Museum, the only museum, its ads say, "where it's OK to call the curator 'dude.' "

The current show, "Boards of Distinction," includes half a dozen post-World War II Bob Simmons boards; a collapsible three-piece surfboard-in-a-suitcase from 1965; the "funeral board," a black coffin-like board found awash at Hermosa Beach in 1951, its owner never found; and a board deemed distinctive "because it's never been rode."

Artifacts aren't limited to surfboards. There's a bust of Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern surfing, and the first electric guitar owned by Dick Dale, "King of the Surf Guitar." In glass cases are a surfer hood ornament from Kahanamoku's Lincoln convertible, Jams swim shorts and the Huntington Beach Pier's 1914 cornerstone.

There's also a tribute to Hawaiian George Freeth, who introduced the sport to the Mainland in 1907. Freeth was awarded the Medal of Valor for "a daring single-handed storm surf rescue of . . . the entire crew of a sinking Japanese fishing vessel." The museum sells surf books, surf POGs and posters.

4 to 4:30: Native Waves offers art of the Native American nations. On the walls are paintings representing the different nations and, more intriguing, dream catchers. "The spider webbing holds the bad dreams and only allows the good ones to go through," said owner Lowell Tvlako, a Creek-Seminole. "Attached to the dream catchers might be horsehair for endurance, animal claws for protection, human hair to keep enemies away."

Sticks are big at Native Waves, and Tvlako commented on each.

* Stickball sets: "In the old days there could be 500 people playing this game, all after this one little ball. Several people would get killed. It was a dangerous game. It's still a dangerous game."

* Ghost dance sticks, one with a coyote skull: "These keep away the ghosts of your enemies. The spirit of the coyote protects us all. Hold it, walk with it, dance with it."

* Talking sticks: "Democratic society did not start with Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. They based their ideas on Native Americans. In council houses, whoever held the stick talked. The skull is raccoon."

Implements of war include breastplates, chokers and clubs made from buffalo jaws.

"Janet Jackson wears these now," Tvlako said of the chokers. "Before, a suit of armor kept a guy from getting his throat slit; it stopped spears and arrows. When the white man came with bullets, of course, it didn't help that much."

4:30 to 5: Check out the severely trendy clothes at Sunline Electric Chair. Skulls and crossbones are apparently in these days, even on tennis shoes, and the fashion rule of thumb seems to be the more the merrier.

One belt sported seven large skulls, the buckle two dozen itty-bitty skulls. More to the point, another buckle spelled out "stoopid." In all fairness, perhaps, the store also carries Mary and Jesus buckles. "It sort of balances out," saleswoman Shirley Memon noted.

Among the figurines is a man in an electric chair. Swimwear is extremely provocative, but a sign shows that the store is nothing if not discreet: "For Special Orders on Bondage-Wear, Please Inquire at Front Counter."

Only "mainstream" body piercings are contracted through the shop, according to Steve Hoelscher: "You know, navels, noses, nipples," he said, with Stony the iguana perched on his shoulder and jewelry coming out of his nostrils and through his tongue.

Nearly all the salespeople have tattoos or body piercing or both; Memon seemed the exception. "I used to have a tongue piercing," she said, "but I took it out."

5 to 6: At this point, you might want to settle into any of a half-dozen micro-brewed ales at the Huntington Beach Beer Co. In fact, you might want to try them all: It's only $1 per five-ounce taste (or $3 per pint).

They include delicately hopped Huntington Beach Blonde; more hoppy Pier Pale Ale; Main St. Wheat, nice with a lemon slice; malty Brickshot Red; Black Gold Porter, even more malty, like chocolate or coffee; and specialty beers such as Crowley's Cream Ale and seasonal berry beers.

A variety of burgers, pastas and brick oven pizzas ($5 to $10) are available. Armadillo eggs, fried jalapenos with Cheddar cheese, are worth a try, and the wood-fired garlic bread is downright addictive. When deciding which ales to order with food, brewmeister Alex Puchner recommends guidelines similar to those for wine: "Light with fish and chicken, red with beef, porter with dessert."


1. Inernational Surfing Museum.

411 Olive St., (714) 960-3483. Open Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

2. Native Waves

221 Main St., Suite E, (714) 374-9545. Open Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

3. Sunline Electric Chair

410 Main St., (714) 536-0784. Open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

4. Huntington Beach Beer Co.

201 Main St., (714) 960-5343. Open Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday until 2 a.m.

Parking / Buses

Parking: There is metered parking on Main Street and a parking structure ($2 a day, validation possible) that can be entered from Walnut Avenue or Olive Avenue just east of Main Street.

Buses: OCTA bus 1 runs along Pacific Coast Highway and stops at Main Street.

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