Museum Seeks Pieces of Ocean City Surfing History

Museum Seeks Pieces of Ocean City Surfing History

Sam Ballam was 19 when this photo was taken in the summer of 1969. He holds a board purchased for $100 at the Surf n’ Sand Shop, which was at Eighth Street and Atlantic Avenue. The board is now on display at the Ocean City Historical Museum.


The Ocean City Historical Museum has plans for a summer 2016 exhibit that will detail the history of surfing in Ocean City.

Surfing has been an integral part of life in Ocean City for more than a half-century.

The Ocean City Historical Society is looking for photographs, surfboards, wetsuits, posters, advertisements, interviews, newspaper articles and videos to contribute to the upcoming exhibit. Community members willing to loan surf memorabilia can contact Jeff McGranahan by email at, by phone at 609-399-1801 or by Facebook message on the Ocean City Historical Museum page.

The exhibit could be a precursor to a future full-time Ocean City surfing museum, though a 2014 proposal to integrate the Ocean City Historical Museum, Ocean City Beach Patrol historical exhibit (currently housed at the Bayside Center on the bay between Fifth and Sixth streets) and a collection of surfboards and surf memorabilia from the Matera family at a single location in the downtown Stainton’s building will not move forward.

Surfing in Ocean City took off in the 1960s. Ocean City Recreation Director Don Pileggi embraced surfing as a sport and started the Spring Fling surf contest. Around this time the Ocean City Surfing Association was formed and the Turkey Trot surf contest began.

George Gerlach and Dan Heritage opened two of the first surf shops in the area: Surfers Supplies and Heritage, respectively. Both community members were inducted to the first class of the New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame and to the 1996 class of the East Coast Hall of Fame. The surfing tradition lives on with each new generation of students competing on Ocean City High School’s surf team, and with some even moving on to the professional ranks.