Wednesday, February 26, 2014

In Memory of Natalie Kotsch – International Surfing Museum Founder

A Last Wave to Natalie

Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel hold the exclusive rights to the following copyrighted material. For permission to reprint or excerpt it and/or link it to another website, contact them at

Natalie Kotsch wasn’t a surfing champion, famed board shaper or surf artist. Nor did she have a line of surf wear named after her. She didn’t even surf. But, she was a giant in the world of surfing, who left a lasting legacy for surfers and all who love the beach and ocean - the International Surfing Museum.

Located in Huntington Beach (411 Olive Avenue) in the heart of “Surf City,” the International Surfing Museum, established in 1987, is the labor of love that Natalie created with grass roots support from the surfing community. 

The museum was needed, she thought, as a way to honor and remember surfing’s evolution and achievements and the surfing legends who made the sport what it is today. Now Natalie, who passed away on February 20, 2014, is a surfing legend herself.

A Canadian who moved to Huntington Beach in 1976 and became a realtor, Natalie was enamored with the beach and surfing culture from the start, relishing the warm SoCal weather and welcoming vibe.

Finding out that the city didn’t have a place to showcase surfing memorabilia or to safeguard its heritage, she set about to make the surfing museum a reality, explaining, “I founded this museum to preserve what used to be.” 

Visitors to the museum can see rare photos of legendary surfer Duke Kahanamoku. 

Dick Dale’s 1954 California electric guitar is here and a Jan and Dean gold record, along with countless mementos, surf trophies, historic surfboards…

and the Bolex camera that Bruce Brown used to film The Endless Summer, the 1966 surf movie that put surfing on the map.

Over the years the museum has staged exhibits showcasing surfers, board shapers, artists, musicians, and even board wax itself – the exhibit “Wax On! History of Surfboard Wax” featured over 1,000 bars of surfboard wax.

All of this is thanks to Natalie’s tireless efforts.   

SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel remember Natalie as one of those people who could light up a room with their smile. This was certainly true of Natalie, who never seemed to run out of energy and was always ready to lend her support to civic projects in her beloved adopted city.

In recognition of her work, Huntington Beach named Natalie Citizen of the Year in 1991 and in 1998 she was inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame. Then, in 2013, Huntington Beach gave Natalie its highest honor, a Key to City. In presenting the award, Mayor Connie Boardman said, “This is a very special woman who has donated thousands and thousands of hours to the City.”

Surf artist Dave Reynolds, who has served as the surfing museum’s artistic director, knew Natalie well and told SurfWriter Girls about how he first met her.

“I had heard about the new surfing museum in 1988 and had this wild thought that the museum might like to display some of my work. I called and soon after met with Natalie. She really liked what I was doing and put my art on public display for the first time.”

Museum Director Cindy Cross said, “Natalie’s passion drives me and the memory of her wonderful, throaty laugh and dazzling smile sustains me. I will love and miss her every day of my life.”  

Even when health issues conspired to slow Natalie down in recent years, she still kept going and attended as many surfing museum and community events as she could.  

When Natalie received the Key to the City she said, “This is really something to cherish.” The same can be said about her.

Natalie Kotsch will be cherished by all who were fortunate enough to know her and by anyone who steps inside the International Surfing Museum to celebrate the spirit of surfing.

Mahalo, Natalie

A memorial service honoring Natalie’s life is being held March 8, 2014, at noon at the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort. There will be a “paddle out” at 10 a.m. at the Huntington Beach Pier.

You may also send cards to Natalie’s family at: Family of Natalie Kotsch, 218 7th Street, Huntington Beach, CA 92648. In lieu of flowers, it is requested that donations be made to the International Surfing museum. 

If you would like to post your comment or memory of Natalie below, it will appear in our SurfWriter Girls blog the next day.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Schooner at Sunset Entertains Beach-Goers

Drop Anchor at Schooner at Sunset

A Surfrider Foundation Sponsor Story

Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel hold the exclusive rights to the following copyrighted material. For permission to reprint or excerpt it and/or link it to another website, contact them at  

Schooner at Sunset (16821 Pacific Coast Highway, Sunset Beach, CA 90742) is the kind of local beach restaurant where you can stop by and see friends already gathering at the bar or out front, sharing stories and catching up on the day. 

Driving down PCH, SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel spotted the restaurant immediately, noting its ship design and blue-and-white-striped awnings. By the time we reached the entrance we were ready to be piped aboard.

The restaurant’s nautical d├ęcor, wooden-plank tables, leather booths, and well-appointed bar made it clear that this was a place to relax and hang out.


The first person to greet us was hostess Brianna Owens, who was wearing a Surfrider Huntington/Seal Beach Chapter T-shirt. This made us feel welcome from the start.

Whether you’re there for an order of fish and chips after a day of surfing, want to sample the tacos on Taco Tuesday, or are in the mood to dine with friends and listen to music, Schooner at Sunset has it all. And no shortage of locally-produced craft beers to try! 

Some of the California craft beers on tap include: Strand Beach House Amber, Noble Ale Works Rosalita, The Bruery Mischief, Ritual Wits End, Beachwood BBQ Rubia, and Alesmith X.

Manager David Pruchnic told SurfWriter Girls, “The restaurant is a gastropub specializing in craft beer and craft cocktails. There are 20 different kinds of draft. And the craft cocktails are made with the best ingredients and fresh-squeezed juices. The Margaritas are made with agave. We make our own sweet and sour mix, too.”  

Focusing on American classics – hamburgers, sandwiches, “market melts” made with the fish of the day, rib eye and flatiron steaks, and Atlantic salmon – plus extensive taco and bar snacks menus, Schooner’s emphasizes comfort and camaraderie.

Chef Vasili Tavernakis, draws on his Greek roots for some of the dishes and a mix of French, Italian, and Mexican influences, as well. 

“We serve traditional, diner-style food with elements of fine dining. Everything is brought in fresh and in season. The pasta is homemade from scratch.” Depending on the season, the fish on the menu might be Yellow Tail, Atlantic Cod, or Northern Pacific Halibut. One of Tavernakis’ specialties is calamari, breaded in the Greek style, with his own blend of seasonings. 

The bar snacks alone could make up a meal…and Schooner’s puts its own spin on everything. Take that staple mac and cheese. Here it’s lobster mac – a blend of lobster, pasta shells, cheese fondue and chives. And the chicken drummettes with a spicy dipping sauce are hard to put down.
Schooner at Sunset’s Vinyl Taco Tuesdays offer more than just value-priced tacos. You get an assortment of favorites – ground beef, grilled chicken and grilled shrimp – along with ceviche, lamb tacos, and others, priced at $1.50 or $2.00. Plus it’s a BYO vinyl party with everyone bringing their favorite records to spin.

Bartender Jeff Busse is right in the middle of all the action. “It’s amazing here. We get to bring something different to the neighborhood and turn people on to the craft scene.” With all the different beers to pull and drinks to mix, he’s busy non-stop.

There’s always something going on at Schooner’s. Monday night is football or comedy night. On Wednesday local bands show up and Thursday is country night. Friday and Saturday are dance music nights. Sunday focuses on new talent.

Pruchnic explained, “One of our goals is to be a destination entertainment venue. We want people to come from outside the area to see our acts.” Along with lining up top talent, Schooner’s has created a showcase for the performers in its state-of-the art lounge. 

Launched in January 2013, Schooner at Sunset is the new sibling to the popular Schooner or Later restaurant in Long Beach.

As part of its commitment to the beach community, it is a sponsor of the non-profit Surfrider Foundation, which works to preserve our oceans and beaches. Schooner's fundraiser for the H/SB chapter last August was a big hit, with party-goers bused in for the festivities and the proceeds going to help Surfrider achieve its environmental mission.

Schooner’s is open Monday – Wednesday from 2 p.m. – 11 p.m.; Thursday from 2 p.m. “till the cowgirls go home;” Friday 2 p.m. – 2 a.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m – 2 a.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. For more information, phone 562-592-2121 or check the website. 

Then the next time you’re looking for a neighborhood eatery at the beach where you can kick back with friends, why not drop an anchor at Schooner at Sunset – the “schooner,” the better!

 Please post your comment below. Comments will appear the next day.