Surfer's Paradise: Northwest Coast Surfboards

Surfer's Extended masthead

Alcheringa Gallery Contemporary Indigenous Art



(NOTE: Several boards have been sold and no longer on exhibition. Please click on each board to check its availability.)

Developed and curated by Alcheringa Gallery, and one of the first exhibitions ever of its kind, Surfer’s Paradise: Northwest Coast Surfboards, brings together 19 Northwest Coast artists for their interventions on, and interpretations of, the surfboard. All crafted out of Vancouver Island cedar, these boards allow the artists to explore this new cedar panel ‘canvas’; their own relationship to the contemporary culture of surfing; and a connection to the ocean and land of their own territories of Canada’s west coast. These fine art surfboards will be on exhibition both at Alcheringa Gallery - on the traditional land of the Lekwungen Peoples, and at Brentwood Bay Resort & Spa - on the traditional land of the WSÁNEĆ Peoples.

In 2016, Anishinaabe artist and curator Jaimie Isaac opened the exhibition Boarder X at the Winnipeg Art Gallery featuring indigenous artists who surf, skate and snowboard. "I think there is a direct relationship to the land," explains Isaac, "whether it's skateboarding and responding to the environment of the urban terrain or snowboarding responding to those immovable mountains." (CBC RADIO)

This exhibition is a diverse cross-cultural exploration - showcasing an important intersection between the relationship to the land and water of our First Peoples for Millennia, and the contemporary colonization of surfing, the sport. This exhibition may return a ‘new contemporary indigenous view’ from the current generation of artists and their personal relationship with the ocean. This view parallels the evolution of Northwest Coast art, as the artists bring contemporary modalities, new styles and individuality. The artists remind us of the power of surfing - the cultural, meditative, and practical significance of the indigenous invention of ‘riding and travelling the waves’. Indigenous people around the world have been travelling the water in dugout canoes since time immemorial.

Surfing proper was invented by Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures as far back as 1500. The sport spread rapidly in the late 1800s as travel and access to Hawaiian culture became easier. The popularity caught on and Australian settlers quickly found the best locations. But surfing in Tofino, here on Vancouver Island (Canada’s surfing mecca), however, wasn’t really introduced until the 1960s when logging roads started to make travel more accessible. Advancements in wetsuits in the 1990s, making the cold water more tolerable, created an established surfing culture.

Nuu-Chah-Nulth people of the west coast of Vancouver Island have since partnered with many Tofino/Ucluelet based organizations that embrace and promote a new surfing culture (one which respects and understands traditional territory), which dominates the area. Long beach and Jordan River are also hot spots on Vancouver Island (nearer to Greater Victoria), and stand up paddle boarding (an extension of surfing) has become an immensely popular and accessible way to enjoy the water here and worldwide.

The boards in this exhibition represent the idea of coming as close to water as possible - to be carried by the waves as if to float on Earth - and the medium is the artist’s expression of that relationship. More directly, water, clean water, is as important than ever before. Surfing, or being on the water, brings us closer to understanding both the harmony of our intricate ecosystem, as well as the negative effects we have had on our oceans. Through our recent global negligence, we are experiencing never before seen environmental threats like micro-plastics and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, leading to loss of species. This exhibition, and these artists, may act as a bridge to seeing the ocean from a decolonized, indigenous perspective, one that has had as its priority in environmental conservation and sustainability as protectors of creatures big and small, water, land and air for time immemorial.

- Mark Loria, Director

Full list of artists includes:

Margaret August

Corey Bulpitt

Andrew Dexel

Francis Dick

Chazz Elliott

KC Hall

Dean Heron

Bear Horne

Jason Hunt

Trevor Hunt

Trevor Husband

Maynard Johnny

Chris Lines

NUSMATA (Jarrod Saunders)

Chris Paul

Roger Smith

Ernest Swanson

Dylan Thomas

WUUHLU (Bracken Hanuse Corlett)

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20 Item(s)

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