Surfhenge and the surfboard benches of Imperial Beach

How Malcolm Jones ended up using plexiglass in front of the pier

Imperial Beach's Surfhenge — influenced by Josef Albers and Vasa Mihich.
  • Imperial Beach's Surfhenge — influenced by Josef Albers and Vasa Mihich.

Surfhenge is the name of the art piece that sits in front of the Imperial Beach Pier. The project was commissioned by the Port of San Diego in 1997. The artist, Malcolm Jones, now from Imperial Beach, was living in La Jolla at the time.

Malcolm Jones bid on five projects for the Port's airport expansion, but the project he won was put on hold.

Malcolm Jones bid on five projects for the Port's airport expansion, but the project he won was put on hold.

Jones entered Harvard University in 1969 as a physics major, but while taking an art class at Harvard, he met a student of Josef Albers who was teaching an art class at Harvard at the time. Albers' demonstrations with colored squares impressed Jones.

Jones graduated in visual studies from Harvard, and went to UCLA to study with Vasa Mihich. Mihich worked with colored acrylic plastic (plexiglas).

After stints in Venice, California and Boston, Jones ended up in La Jolla.

Tourist from Indiana on surfboard bench. Attached to each bench there is a plaque telling the history of big wave surfing in Imperial Beach Sloughs.

Tourist from Indiana on surfboard bench. Attached to each bench there is a plaque telling the history of big wave surfing in Imperial Beach Sloughs.

In 1996, the Port of San Diego requested proposals for their airport expansion project. Jones bid on 17 projects, but the project he won was put on hold. Later he was told by the Port they and Imperial Beach were looking for an art piece for the Pier Plaza and the last proposal, a rock with an old man sitting on it, was going nowhere.

Jones' proposal for the Pier Plaza, Surfhenge, was chosen. After that was completed, Jones proposed benches designed after historic surfboards. Attached to each of the ten surfboard benches there is a plaque telling the history of big wave surfing in the Imperial Beach Sloughs.

Over near the pier entrance, you’ll find a bench dedicated to Dempsey Holder, a design of his Red Dot Surfboard, and the plaque telling of Dempsey first riding the Sloughs in 1937.

Other benches contain the names of big wave surfers at the Sloughs in the 1940s and 1950s — Buzzy Bent, Phil Edwards, John Elwell, and Jeff “Spiderman” Knox. Another containing local legends that surfed the Sloughs during that same period. Names like Jack “Woody” Ekstrom, Jim Voit , Buddy Hull, and more.

Jones later went on to do the Green Flash on the 3100 block of Ocean Front Walk in Mission Beach. Today he is working on surfboard benches at the new Imperial Beach Library.

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