The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (SBMM) first opened its doors on July 29, 2000, with the mission to present and interpret the rich and diverse maritime history of the Santa Barbara Channel, including important environmental issues.

Now, SBMM is turning 20 and sailing on to new horizons, expanding and improving its many exhibits and educational activities for all ages.

Traditionally known for its fun-filled celebrations — a Night on the Titanic, a USO tour, and Passport to the Caribbean — the museum had planned a surfing-themed fundraiser for this year, honoring surf legends Shaun Thomson and Renny Yater, with Gregory Harrison as the emcee, Hawaiian attire, hula dancing, music and classic surfing videos.

Due to limits on public gatherings, however, and to do its part for the health of the community, SBMM will be replacing its traditional in-person annual fundraiser with its first week-long gala and online auction.

On May 29, the public will be able to log in to celebration at and hear from speakers, view exciting surfing moments in history, and bid on auction items including artwork, vacation stays, vintage surfing memorabilia and clothing.

The event also gives participants the opportunity to help support and sponsor specific museum activities and exhibits by “raising a virtual paddle” for SBMM children’s educational programs, lectures, new exhibits, and other special events throughout the year.

Contributions also make it possible for SBMM to provide free and low-cost programming for children enrolled in Title I schools and after-school programs.

Speakers and Honorees

Shaun Tomson, a former World Surf Champion, was named one of the 10 Greatest Surfers of All Time.

With a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master of science in leadership from Northeastern University, Tomson has created two apparel brands, Instinct and Solitude, and shared his academically tested Code Leadership Method around the world.

He is an author of two best sellers “Surfer’s Code” and “The Code — Power of  ‘I Will,’” produced and co-wrote the documentary film “Bustin’ Down the Door ” (2006), and is a past board member of Surfrider Foundation and the Santa Barbara Boys & Girls Club.

Tomson’s iphone app Surf Creatures is featured in SBMM’s Surf’s Up! Santa Barbara Exhibit.

Reynolds “Renny” Yater was one of the first commercial surfboard builders of the 1950s, a generation that put surfing on the map. As the sport of surfing has continued to grow and flourish, so too has Yater’s reputation as a leading contributor to the surfing industry and producer of innovative new boards.

Yater’s two most popular surfboard models were conceived in the 1960s. From 1965-66, he shaped the Yater Spoon, one of the most innovative surfboard designs of the time; he produced this model until longboard-style surfing went through an evolution in 1968.

From 1969-72, Yater produced the Pocket Rocket, a surfboard designed with Hawaiian surfing in mind, riding the crest of the short board era. In the 1960s, Yater’s customers included surfing legends Joey Cabell, Gordon Clark, Mickey Dora, Felipe Pomar, Kemp Aaberg, Bob Cooper, Bruce Brown and John Severson.

Emcee Gregory Harrison, an actor, surfer, and close friend to Tomson, was born on Catalina Island and was one of the original members of the Surfrider Foundation. He played the role of Chandler in the 1987 surf film “North Shore,” among other films and will be recognized by many for his role as Dr. George Alonzo “Gonzo” Gates on Trapper John MD.

“I’m so pleased to be able to be a part of honoring those two legendary fellows,” Harrison said of his role as emcee of the SBMM online gala.

Benefactors and Keystone Donors whose have donated to the event are: George and Judy Writer, Don Barthelmess and Carol Kallman, Ed and Ann Brady, Roger and Sarah Chrisman, Andy and Mary Jane Cooper, Lynda Fairly, Mimi Michaelis, Montecito Bank & Trust, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Chuck and Mary Wilson.

Arlington Financial Advisors, Boone Graphics, Emmett Foundation, Hutton Parker Foundation, Jack ‘N Tool Box, Santa Barbara City College Foundation, Tim and Louise Casey, Ed and Mary Lu Edick, Teresa Newton-Terres, Robertson Travel, Maryan S. Schal, Peter Schuyler and Lisa Stratton, Judith and Jack Stapelmann, Linda and Clark Stirling.

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is at the Santa Barbara Harbor, 113 Harbor Way, Ste. 190. For more about SBMM’s 20th anniversary, history and events planned as part of the museum’s celebration, visit or call 805-962-8404.