Mural captures beach life in Laguna
When artist Randy Morgan first started thinking about what a day in the life in Laguna Beach meant, his mind immediately went to the pristine coast – and the calm that sets the day after Labor Day when the tourists have gone home and the locals come back out to enjoy their beach.
There are the skimboarders, surfers, stand-up paddlers, and the lifeguards who watch over the water. Then there are the wildlife, the sea gulls cruising by and the sea lions lounging around on the rocks.
That vision is taking shape in the form of a 40-foot long mural sculpture on the side of the Hobie surf shop in downtown Laguna Beach, a privately funded project that uses well-known locals as inspiration.
"We have some of the most pristine, beautiful beaches in the world," Morgan said. "This is where a lot of water sports stem from, everything comes through Laguna one way or another – I wanted to celebrate that in a work of art."
The process started a few years back when Morgan came up with the idea after seeing a wall mural in Upland showcasing that town's history.
It was just a sketch when Morgan brought the idea to Hobie shop owner Mark Christy, who at first said he thought the idea was far-fetched, but still gave authorization for the use of the wall. After two and a half years – and going through many meetings and approval processes through the city – the installation started last week.
"I think it's a bigger, more ambitious project than any of us realized," Christy said. "I have to say, I can't stop looking at it. It's cooler than I ever anticipated. I'm blown away by the scope of the thing, and the integrity of what it says of the town. To me, it's a gift to Laguna, and we're thankful it's on our building."
In doing research about what should be on the mural, Morgan decided to use Alisa Schwarzstein-Cairns as inspiration for the woman surfer getting ready to hit the waves. Schwarzstein-Cairns was inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame last year, is a former national champion and still competes on the USA surf team. The Laguna native has been actively involved in advancing women's surfing for more than two decades.
"It's really an honor; it's just cool," she said. "It's really neat to have a piece that is going to be here in town, and be part of that beach scene."
Her husband Ian Cairns became the inspiration for one of the surfers taking a wave on the sculpture. Cairns, also a Walk of Fame inductee and former world champion, is originally from Australia but has been a part of the Laguna surf scene for more than two decades.
"I'm a closet art lover, and this is just really fun," Cairns said. "The whole vision of everything is bigger and better than I ever imagined. This is the true talent of an artist, we peons have a certain vision – but artists just bring a certain vision to it that is surprising and refreshing. That's what is cool," Cairns said.
Cairns said the idea is to take this same Waterman's Wall concept to various beach towns around the world, with each depicting the unique icons and history of those coastal cities.
Morgan said he wanted to use a classic, old-world style of art in the realism sculpture. Since last February, the Pacific Edge Hotel has put him up to work on the pieces in their establishment, where he also is filming a documentary of the entire process of pulling the mural together.
He said about 20-30 donors and supporters helped make the project happen, and when it is done, it will be dedicated to the people of Laguna Beach. Morgan said he expects it to be valued at about a quarter of a million dollars when it is finished.
Clay Berryhill is one of those donors who contributed to the project.
He agreed to be a part of it because of the nostalgia it brought from him growing up in Laguna, when famous surfers like Mike Parsons and Jeff Booth – who also serve as inspirations for pieces yet to be installed – ruled the waters. A likeness of Hobie Alter is also depicted, along with his tandem surfing partner from the '60s, Laurie Hoover.
"It's a really tight-nit community," Berryhill said. "It's just a waterman community. It's in our DNA, that's why it's cool."
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