On Sunday, October 18, an enthusiastic group of historians, surfers, town officials and descendants of early East Coast surfer Burke Haywood Bridgers, gathered at the corner of Waynick Blvd. and Bridgers Street at Wrightsville Beach. Everyone was there to celebrate surfing with the official unveiling of a state Highway Historical Marker that honors Wrightsville Beach as the birthplace of surfing in North Carolina.
The Pioneer East Coast Surfing marker recognizes that early surfing activity was organized by Burke Haywood Bridgers and others in 1909 in Wrightsville Beach. Bridgers was among the earliest to bring surfing to the Atlantic side of the mainland United States.
The marker ceremony was led by John Sideris, vice-president of the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History Board of Directors. NC Ukulele Academy owner Kent Knorr performed a stirring ukulele rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” as waves appropriately splashed in the background.
Guest speakers included Wrightsville Beach Alderman Lisa Weeks; Rep. Rick Catlin (NC House of Representatives); Ansley Wegner (N.C. Historical Marker Program), n J. Skipper Funderburg (author/surf historian who submitted the marker application); Dr. Chris Fonvielle (UNCW history professor); Amy Rose (District Director for the Southern N.C. District of the Eastern Surfing Assn.); and Kim Hufham (New Hanover County TDA president/CEO). Each spoke about the importance of the ocean and surfing to the economy of Wrightsville Beach, along with personal anecdotes about the local surf culture.
Ms. Hufham read the Proclamation signed by NC Governor Pat McCrory that proclaims September as Surfing Month in North Carolina. She presented the Proclamation to the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History for inclusion in its Waterman Hall of Fame exhibit.
The ceremony concluded with applause as the new NC Highway Historical Marker was unveiled by J. Skipper Funderburg and descendants of East Coast pioneer surfer Burke Haywood Bridgers. A reception followed at The Blockade Runner Resort where the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History honored its 2015 inductees in the Waterman Hall of Fame.
The new historical highway marker to honor Pioneer East Coast Surfing helps further establish Wrightsville Beach as a premier surfing destination and follows in the wake of national surfing recognitions for Wrightsville Beach, including National Geographic magazine’s roundups of the World’s 20 Best Surf Towns and Last Best American Beach Towns. Other accolades include Outside Magazine’s list of Stateside SUP Hubs and Men’s Health list of Summer Hot Spots.