(April 24, 2015) The surfing community reacted with surprise when the “Dance of the Dolphins” statue was unveiled at the foot of the Route 90 bridge last week, because they had thought, and possibly donated money to support, an effort to memorialize one of their own.
Michael Chester died in the early 1990s of cancer, and local surfers rallied around the idea of a statue placed on the site where the dolphin statue has been installed. The plan hit its first snag in 1994, when it was widely reported that the prototype statue included everything the surfers wanted to see: an homage to Chester, a wave, a board; and a couple of things they didn’t — since the surfer was depicted au naturel.
“We’re not going to have a naked surfer in Ocean City,” Mayor Roland “Fish” Powell was quoted in the May 6, 1994 edition of the Washington Post.
The anatomically correct prototype statue required some changes before the city would allow it to greet visitors.
“Other than Senior Week, spring break, the end of the summer — I’ve never seen anybody surfing naked in Ocean City,” then-City Councilman Jim Mathias was quoted in the May 4, 1994 Baltimore Sun. “We’ve been scorned sometimes as being a town where anything goes, and that’s not the case … We’re not comfortable with that on public property.”
The artist, Edmond Shumpert, installed a similar statue on Huntington Beach, Calif. in the 1970s. Known locally as the “nude dude,” the statue is actually titled “The Ultimate Challenge,” according to published reports. Shumpert initially resisted efforts to neuter his work.
“It’s like the body’s a story: Who’s going to take out the middle chapters? It breaks up the flow … You put the damn shorts in there, it’s like saying to Beethoven, ‘Oboe, you’re out’ and splicing in some elevator music in his symphony,” Shumpert was quoted in the May 4, 1994 Baltimore Sun, but “If it comes right down to it, I’ll have to put some shorts on it.”
Initially estimated to cost $60,000, organizer Martin Furst said in the July 28, 2008 Washington Times the effort to bring the statue to the resort needed only another $4,000.
“It almost got off the ground,” Lee Gerachis of Malibu’s Surf Shop said, “but then it lost momentum.”
Chauncey Rhodes, of Chauncey’s Surf Shop, said he remembered the fundraising but was never certain what became of the money.
Furst said earlier this week that the effort to bring the statue to Ocean City was alive and well, the statue was completed and “it’s waiting for us in Mississippi,” where Shumpert resides.
Although the “Dance of the Dolphins” now resides where the statue of Chester had been planned to be installed for so long, Furst said he made promises he intends to keep by eventually bringing the statue to Ocean City.