Christmas might be still a few weeks away, but Laguna Beach artist Randy Morgan got his present last week.
After three years of not knowing if he would ever be able to complete his work, Morgan unveiled his latest piece that tells the story of Laguna's waterman culture.
"As an artist, these kinds of things happen once in a lifetime," said Morgan, 62.
Morgan was feted on Nov. 29 at the unveiling of his latest work, "Waterman's Wall," a 40-foot-wide, 12-foot-tall bronze sculptured mural. More than 200 people, including some featured in his work, gathered at the corner of Beach Street and Forest Avenue to celebrate the sculpture on the wall of the Hobie Surf Shop.
The sculpture features watermen — surfers, skim boarders, stand-up paddleboaders, lifeguards and more — both past and present. Some are world famous, like surfer Mike Parsons, while others are local legends, Morgan said.
On the far right hand side, John Cunningham can be seen on the vessel "Pinniped," while Jim Stauffer, unseen, is "down below getting a beer," Morgan said. Chief of Marine Safety Mark Klosterman guards the beach from a lifeguard tower and filmmaker Jim Freeman shoots the scene.
It's inspired by the day after Labor Day when the tourists are gone and the locals are out on the beach doing what they love.
"This is our community," Morgan said. "This is our life. This is our culture and our beach and our friends."
Morgan came up with the idea three years ago and got the approval of Hobie store co-owner Mark Christy to use the wall, but it wasn't until long-time Laguna resident Clayton Berryhill stepped in that the money was secured to bring the mural to life.
The piece is completely funded by private donors — Berryhill being the largest — most of who grew up in Laguna.
"I immediately saw his passion," Berryhill said, adding he got what Morgan wanted to create, despite the fact that all he had to go off of was a sketch on a napkin.
Morgan spent thousands of hours on the piece, working while as an artist in residence at the Pacific Edge Hotel, which also became a donor. Morgan also credits local architect Dave Frith and project producer Greg Chastain for helping to bring the piece to fruition.
Morgan might soon be bringing his artistic talents to other cities, which have contacted him about creating their own personal Waterman's Wall, Berryhill said.
Morgan is also in the works to create a documentary and coffee table book about Waterman's Wall and the stories of the residents featured in it.
"For every one of these guys on the wall, there is an amazing story of how they became a waterman," Berryhill said.
For more information on these projects, go to http://www.watermanswall.com, or for more on Morgan and his work, go to http://www.randymorgancollection.com.