The Windansea Surf Shack is one of the oldest and most prominent beach landmarks in San Diego. The palm-covered hut, which has been historically designated as Historical Landmark 358, was built in 1947 by returning World War II soldiers including Woody Ekstrom, Fred Kenyon and Don Okey, who were also surfers, for shade and aloha. According to the Historical Landmarks Designated by the San Diego Historical Resources Board, the Surf Shack at WindanSea Beach (6800 Neptune Place) is the “oldest continuously used shelter of its kind on the West Coast.”
Melinda Merryweather, one of those responsible for the designation and later the plaque, said The Shack needed the protection that comes with designation, in case it were ever destroyed. “It was built by surfers, not a formal construction company, and we thought, ‘we need some assurance in case it comes down.’ Lo and behold, it did come down during a storm and we were able to rebuild it as it was,” she said.
Merryweather said, “When these guys would go surfing, their wives would say they needed to take the children with them. Then they would get here and realize there was no shady, protected place for their kids.” Tony Ciani, also part of the team that got the Shack designated, said he heard it was because their board wax would melt, and a shady place was needed to keep their equipment cool. “Maybe it’s both — the kids needed shade and their boards needed shade,” he said. Regardless of the impetus, The Shack’s synonymy with surfing at WindanSea makes it arguably relevant to the history of La Jolla. Ciani added, “It’s just legendary, part of the legend of surfing. It’s one of those landmarks you want to be able to touch over time.
The Shack has been moved twice. Both times, its orientation was kept the same — a crucial factor in maintaining its connection to surfing. The first time, at a date unknown, The Shack was moved directly inland because its sandstone base was deteriorating. In 2015, a storm destroyed The Shack and it was rebuilt by Friends of WindanSea. For more background see https://www.lajollalight.com/news/local-news/sd-windansea-shack-plaque-installed-20170301-story.html