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Edmond Shumpert - Ultimate Challenge Sculpture

Huntington Beach Public Art Program


The City of Huntington Beach Public Art Program began in 1976 with the acquisition of the 'Ultimate Challenge' Surfer by Artist Edmond Shumpert. It is located at the entry to Huntington City Beach at Huntington Street and Pacific Coast Highway. Over 20 years later, Shumpert made another contribution to the local sculpture/art scene with his life-size bronze of Duke Kahanamoku located in front of Huntington Surf at the Surfers' Hall of Fame on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street.

Born in West Point, Mississippi in 1943, Edmond Shumpert spent most of his career in California. An award-winning artist, his work is displayed at Disney World among many other notable public venues. Shumpert studied at Art Center in Pasadena and spent four years as a medical illustrator at the Brain Research Institute at UCLA. There he studied muscle structure to familiarize himself with the human anatomy in preparation for his profession as a sculptor.

Life in California was not all work and for Shumpert. He loved to surf in Huntington Beach and Orange County with friends such as the OP founder. Shumpert said that his inspiration for Ultimate Challenge came one day while surfing. He looked over at his friend riding a wave and the moment in time stayed in his mind, eventually becoming the subject of the bronze statue that has been photographed hundreds of thousands of times in Huntington Beach.


Ultimate Challenge statue has lived an interesting life. The surfer's hairstyle is clearly 1970's.  If Ultimate Challenge wore clothing, they would be dated, no doubt. At one time it was suggested that a pair of pants be placed on the statue to cover natural body parts that are visible when you crank your head under the statue to take a peak. Thanks to common sense, the idea passed like so many waves. Ultimate Challenge has lived through beach redevelopment, has been surrounded by flowers, overgrown bushes and now enjoys concrete slab placement and a step up mounting providing enhanced visibility for thousands of people in cars passing by daily on Pacific Coast Highway. If Ultimate Challenge could speak, would he discuss the weather, the people and the waves seen during his nearly 30-year existence' Having survived longer than most fixtures surrounding him, Ultimate Challenge is a timeless tribute to surfing worth visiting.


Edmond Shumpert left California in 2000, returning to his native Mississippi and a more relaxed lifestyle. He purchased a country home near family members in Eupora and lives there with his Russian-born wife. Once settled, he built a 20-by-40 metal building to serve as his sculpting studio and foundry where he would create the Duke Kahanamoku statue. The 16-foot ceiling enables Shumpert to produce life-sized sculpture along with smaller pieces he turns out at the rate of 15-20 a year.

Though Shumpert makes his living as a sculptor, he crafts bows for archery from bodark trees and restores vintage automobiles as hobbies. The process of creating a life-size sculpture is a painstaking proposition, requiring many steps, and great patience, according to the former surfer.

"I make a steel skeleton that looks like a stick figure in the desired pose, then wrap it completely with burlap and plaster. It will be built up with clay, and all the details sculpted and finished," explained Shumpert. "This is called the sculpture model."

The molding is done by sectioning this model into parts and making silicon rubber molds. Melted wax is poured both in and out until a one-eighth-inch hollow copy is formed in the molds.

He said the wax copies are removed, and wax tubes and a wax funnel are put on each. They are in turn covered inside and out with ceramic mold material.

"The result is that bronze turns out hollow too. The bronze casting is done by baking the ceramic molds in a kiln at 1,650 degrees for an hour and thirty minutes ... just before the bronze is melted in a furnace and poured into the molds.

To finish the bronze, all parts are removed from the ceramic molds, cleaned and sandblasted. Finally, all the parts are welded together, filed, sanded and finished. This is not for the inpatient.

Shumpert's sculptures include native American Sitting Bull, Johnny Weissmuller, the two-time Olympic swimming champion who later played Tarzan in 12 movies, and Olympic swimmer and gold medal winner Duke Kahanamoku. Recent works include Green Pay Packers All-Pro quarterback Brett Favre.

Other art around town includes:
-Civic Center Sculpture
-Civic Center Bird Murals
-Norma Brandell Gibbs Park Butterfly Mural
-Duke Kahanamoku statue in front of Huntington Surf and Sport
-Gallery at Central Library on 7111 Talbert Ave. exhibits change monthly
-Poet's Table at Pier Plaza by Terry Schoonhoven
-Sculptures at Central Library
-Ultimate Challenge by Edmond Shumpert