Skip to site content
The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Get to know Virginia Beach’s surfmen

Courtesy Virginia Beach CVB

Kathryn Fisher has the best office in Virginia Beach. It’s not ornate, nor is it particularly spacious. But I could spend my workdays there. Fisher’s office is in the Old Coast Guard Station Museum, an immaculately kept white frame structure with a lookout tower and a porch that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. If anyone in this town can take a break during a long day and gaze out the window to regain perspective, it’s Fisher. This old building sits right on the beach at 24th Street and Atlantic Avenue. It is a collection of wondrous photographs and memorabilia from a truly heroic enterprise: the U.S. Life-Saving Service. Old black-and-white photos of sea rescue operations and the men who performed them in the 1800s and early 1900s tell the story there. Surfmen, as these men were known, were among the first residents of Virginia Beach. Their job was to leave the comfort of their homes and that station to stage rescues off the coast, oftentimes in treacherous weather or the dark of night. It’s easy to stare into those faces and ask yourself if you could have done the same. Shipwrecks are charted and recorded to the finest detail, telling visitors the ship’s origin, what was on board, whether the ship was saved or lost, and the number of lives saved — or lost. In all, more than 600 ships were wrecked off Virginia’s coastline. The men in that station saw their share.