Saturday, March 8, 2014

Farewell, for now: International Surfing Museum founder Natalie Kotsch

ABOVE: Flowers petals along the edge of the Huntington Beach pier, scattered to the sea during the paddle out for Surf Museum founder, Natalie Kotsch. (Photo, March 8, 2014) All rights reserved. ©
"...smell the sea, and feel the sky
let your soul & spirit fly, into the mystic...”  
                                                                                                               ~Van Morrison

   In New Orleans, the passing of a loved one is remembered with jazz.  Along the Southern California coast, it is a paddle out.  Surfers with flowers paddle out past the waves, others gather along the shore, and the memories of a life well spent are laid to rest.

   Today, there was a paddle out for the founder of Huntington Beach's International Surfing Museum, Natalie Kotsch, who passed away from cancer, February 20, 2014.

ABOVE: A crowd gathers at the edge of the pier on Saturday, March 8, 2014.  Rough water prevented the traditional paddle out from forming as surfers gathered in the water below. (Photo, M. Urashima, March 8, 2014) All rights reserved. ©

Left: Pastor Sumo Sato of Huntington Beach offered a prayer, then sang a Hawaiian song a cappella, in memory of Natalie. (Photo, M. Urashima, March 8, 2014) All rights reserved. ©

   The Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame tells Natalie's story:

   "The International Surfing Museum of Huntington Beach began as the vision of local realtor Natalie Kotsch. Realizing that surfing was a major part of life for the residents of Huntington Beach, she was stunned to find there was no real local attraction (recognizing) the Surfing Capital of the World."*

  Through Natalie's efforts, the first International Surfing Museum opened in 1982 on Walnut Street and in 1987, the Museum moved to its present location in a historic building at 411 Olive Avenue, just two blocks up Main Street from the beach and pier.

   The Museum's website explains Natalie's devotion to local surf culture: 

"Natalie Kotsch came from a spot in Canada where there really wasn't any surfing.   She recognized this incredible beach vibe and a welcoming spirit that made her feel happy in Huntington Beach, and she got caught in a fever that snags many who live in beach areas around the globe. You don't have to surf to love watching the sport, said Kotsch."**

ABOVE: Surfers heading out underneath the pier--including mother and son surfers--before the ceremony for Natalie Kotsch. (Photo, M. Urashima, March 8, 2014) All rights reserved. ©

ABOVE: Rick Fignetti, AKA "Rockin Fig," before the paddle out, wearing a flower lei to leave in the water.  Fignetti, owner of the Rockin Fig Surf Headquarters on Main Street, is a nine-time West Coast champion and for 26 years was the voice of the morning surf report for KROQ-FM. (Photo, March 8 2014) All rights reserved. ©

   If you hear live surf music in historic downtown Huntington Beach on a Sunday afternoon, April through October, that's mostly due to NatalieSurfin' Sundays free live music in the parking lot of the Museum are now de rigueur.  If you want to see the century-old cornerstone of the 1914 Huntington Beach pier, it's in the Museum that Natalie created.   If you want to see vintage surfboards, the bust of Duke Kahanamoku, posters and paraphernalia near and dear to local surf culture, you'll find it in the little Museum that would not be here without Natalie.

   Thank you, Natalie, for recognizing the value of local history, the beauty of our distinct surf culture, and for devoting so much of your life to save it.  Respect.

ABOVE: Flower petals in the water beneath the pier. (Photo, March 8, 2014.) All rights reserved. ©

ABOVE: Surfers pause in a moment of calm, waiting for the next wave.  (Photo, March 8, 2014) All rights reserved. ©

ABOVE: A surfer walks the sand near the Huntington Beach pier. (Photo, March 8, 2014) All rights reserved. ©

*See Surfing Walk of Fame post and photos of Natalie Kotsch at

**Learn about the International Surfing Museum at

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Huntington Beach blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.

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