By DARLA MCCAMMON
Lakeland Art Association
This week we are taking a detour from our normal column. My husband and I left Warsaw in terrible cold and snow recently and grabbed a window of clear weather to head to Florida for a break and some sun. It was a lovely trip to Cape Canaveral but I was especially taken by the sculptures in front of the Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach. There are many of them, mostly done by John Underwood a respected sculptor and artist who resides in Australia.
The photo pictured is of Kelly Slater, considered by many as the greatest surfer of all time. His life like recreation by Underwood is uncanny and incredible to view. Underwood, who grew up on a farm and went to art school where he obtained a sculpture fellowship now operates an art “factory” in Phuket and has migrated to kinetic art as well as recycled art in addition to sculpting.
The Ron Jon is a surfer style retail store chain founded in 1959 in Ship Bottom, New Jersey by Ron DiMenna. The store specializes in surfing and body boarding equipment, and their Cocoa Beach, Fla., store is currently the largest surfing shop in the world.
The flagship store in Cocoa Beach operates 365 days a year 24 hours a day and has over 52,000 square feet of shopping space. The Ron Jon Surf Shop also houses the Cocoa Beach Surf Museum at the Cocoa Beach location. This museum contains exhibits highlighting surfing in the East Coast of the United States. It preserves and documents the unique history and culture of East Coast surfing through exhibits and educational events, community outreach programs for all ages, digital archiving activities, and its new oral history project. It highlights surfing history and culture from Cocoa Beach, nationally and internationally, and from differing perspectives, including exhibits that feature the history and lore that defines Cocoa Beach as one of the premier surf towns in the world. Talk about art. The creation of a well-crafted surfboard is an art itself.
Ron Jon’s Surf shop receives two million visitors a year. Cocoa Beach is just a short distance from all the Disney resorts, the Jetty Park area on the water, where we stayed and watched a rocket launch by NASA, and is home to the Florida Surf Museum and the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame.