A treasured surfboard belonging to Grammy-winning musician Bruce Johnston— best known as a member of one of the most beloved rock groups of all time, the Beach Boys— is up for sale in Malibu. The vintage Rusty surfboard went through an incredible journey before being turned into an art piece that will now help one of the music superstar’s favorite nonprofits.
In January 2018, Montecito was devastated by a massive mudslide. Twenty-three people were killed and 130 homes washed away, leaving survivors’ lives upended and hundreds homeless. Johnston, who won the 1977 song of the year Grammy for composing the words and music to the Barry Manilow megahit “I Write the Songs,” narrowly escaped disaster. But his garage, filled with music memorabilia, was hit hard.
“Stuff doesn’t matter,” he mused when asked about the loss. “It was a tough time for a lot of people. They had a lot more damage than I did,” adding “It’s OK. I’d rather be living.” One thing the music superstar lost was a longboard, the same one he is perched upon while riding a wave in a photograph taken at Little Dume in 1967, two years after joining one of the biggest musical acts ever— the Beach Boys.
In a twist, Johnston was eventually reunited with the board.
“A year goes by and I see it up on the street and I realized that’s my surfboard come back to life. I could not believe it.” The board had taken a beating. It was left in an area for mudslide victims to reclaim lost property that had washed back ashore.
Grateful to have the board back, Johnston turned to artist Bobbi Bennett to “do something special.” Bennett transformed his stick into a functional art piece.
“They are made for display, but are fully rideable,” Bennett of Stoked Surfboards clarified. She met Johnston at her former gallery in Montecito when he was thumbing through a rock and roll photography book and said, “that’s me,” when he landed on a shot of the Beach Boys at Capitol Records recording “Good Vibrations.”
Johnston’s reaction to seeing the board stripped and newly covered in an elongated version of that 1967 surfing photo— alongside two newer photos of surfers at Rincon— was, “Wow. Fantastic.” Johnston did standup paddling on the board, too. “Sometimes, the surf would be so big I would go and take this big board out and surf it.”
It’s now for sale in Malibu, with 15 percent of the proceeds going to the Surfrider Foundation. Johnston was a charter member of the foundation and on its advisory board at its founding in 1984.
“Now,” he said with a smile, “I’m passing it on to whoever gets it and the Surfrider Foundation will get a little more to keep them going, and I’m excited about that.”
At 78, Johnston still surfs when he can. The musician/producer praised the Surfrider Foundation and its educational programs, especially those tailored for children.
“We talk about the condition of the ocean,” the musician said. “We point out to kids— a bottle of spring water— the plastic’s going to last up to 500 years. The foundation opens beaches where private owners totally block the legal public access. We teach kids about what’s going on environmentally. Somehow, we have a lot of members and a lot of chapters and we spend a lot fighting for beaches to stay open around the world.”
The Beach Boy said it would be fun to meet the buyer and talk about the board and his many years growing up in Malibu.
“The surfboard is a beautiful, simplistic way to have the earth and your own energy move you through the water,” he described. “It’s a wonderful thing to be able to donate anything to the Surfrider Foundation. I get to take a board that was given back to me by nature and now it’s an art piece.”
Johnston’s board is now for sale at the Malibu Contemporary Art Gallery at the Lumber Yard— available for private viewings.