Montauk Surf Museum Reaches Its Kickstarter Goal

Montauk Lighthouse.
Montauk Lighthouse. Photo credit: John Bourquin

The surfing mecca of the East Coast will soon have a museum to celebrate the East End’s most valuable resource. With 128 backers, the Montauk Surf Museum surpassed its Kickstarter goal this week, enabling the history of Montauk surfing and the impact the ocean has had on the area to live on at The End.

“We knew it was going to be supported, but we were really thrilled by the amount of donors,” says Russell Drumm, the museum’s acting curator and a member of the museum’s board.

Nicknamed the Montauk Surf Museum, the formal name of the project is the Ocean’s Institute of the Montauk Lighthouse Museum. “The whole concept is to use surfing as an entry into oceanography, weather, coastal phenomenon. In other words, the sciences that lies behind surfing,” Drumm explains.

Also on the museum board is Montauk surfer Jimmy Buffett. “The guy has a good idea about every 10 minutes,” Drumm says. “He’s been very influential in getting us to think outside the box as far as what the museum could be, technologically speaking.” For example, the museum plans on doing a lot with projections, including a virtual aquarium that shows the kind of fish and marine mammals local surfers encounter. They’re also hoping to develop an app that will allow people to take self-guided tours of the museum, and to learn additional information about each exhibit.

 “Montauk is a special place, and it sits in a very unique geographical location. [We’re going to] explain to people where waves comes from, [the impact of] tropical storms, what the bottom of the ocean looks like,” Drumm says. The museum will cater to avid surfers, but also to the tourists who visit the lighthouse each year who may not be as familiar with the ocean as people who grew up in a coastal community. While some installations will be permanent, there will be a number of rotating exhibitions.

The Kickstarter campaign set a goal of $25,000 by November 26. As of the closing date, it had amassed $29,939. The museum will be located in an existing building on the lighthouse grounds, initially constructed in 1896, and funds will be used to create an ocean-blue floor and restore the building’s doors and windows. Drumm is hoping for a mid-June opening date.

The roughly 1,000-square-foot building was originally constructed to hold the lighthouse’s siren (foghorn), but has been used for storage for the past four or five decades, Drumm says. Architect Stephen Alesch has been tapped to restore the building to its original design, aided by the help of the original plans.

Drumm came to Montauk about 50 years ago for the surfing, “and I’ve pretty much been there ever since,” he says. A yearround surfer, he notes that the museum will display the unique differences between summer surfing and winter surfing, as well as the evolution of wetsuits. His favorite surf spot? “On a good day, Turtle Cove, right beneath the museum,” he says, allowing landlubbers enchanted by the magic of surfing to subsequently enjoy a show in real time.

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