Ultimate Challenge bronze sculpture by Edmond Shumpert. This life-size statue,
which has symbolized the Surf City California lifestyle for
decades has been photographed hundreds of thousands. Seen on
Pacific Coast Highway at Huntington Street, it includes a
bare surfer riding a board and wave. The unique sculpture is
one of two creations from Edmond Shumpert, formerly a
California artist who lives in Mississippi now.
Ultimate Challenge was sculpted in Italy in 1970,
according to Shumpert, who said it was bronze cast and
installed in 1973. Shumpert previously had cast a bronze
bust of Duke Kahanamoku that sat at the Huntington Beach
Pier. The bust was later placed in the International Surfing
Museum where it is on permanent exhibit now. "They have the
head tilted too far back, Shumpert believes, after seeing a
photo of its Surf Museum placement.
"It required 400 pounds of bronze
ingots and took more than 1,000 hours to complete," said
the Mississippi native, who spent most of his career in
An award-winning artist, his work is
displayed at Disney World among many other notable
public venues. His signature is a fearless, yet fluid
quality, and he has a propensity for depicting his
subjects engaged in some athletic activity.
Born in West Point, Shumpert, 61,
returned to Mississippi four years ago after tiring of
the mounting traffic and congestion on the West Coast.
"It was actually a lot more than just
the traffic," he clarified.
"It had gotten to the point you
couldn't move! You go the beach and there are two
million people already there."
He purchased a country home near
family members in Eupora, including his mother, Opal
Baldwin, and built a 20-by-40 metal building to serve as
his sculpting studio and foundry. 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
Though sculpture is his bread and
butter, he has a few hobbies to turn to when he feels
the need for a break. As a hobby, he crafts bows for
archery from bodark trees, and restores a few vintage
automobiles from time to time.
The only traffic he fights today is
the herd of deer that traverse his property in rural
Shumpert and his Russian-born wife,
Alisa, say the slower pace of life in the South is
agreeing with them and there seems to be more time to
devote to his projects.
The process of creating a full-blown
sculpture is a painstaking proposition, requiring many
steps, and great patience. He detailed the process that
sounds daunting to those unacquainted with the art form.
"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
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
"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 studied at the prestigious
Art Center School in Los Angeles 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.
The effort paid off and today he has
become an expert of sorts on sculpting subjects with an
Among his subjects in the past were
Johnny Weissmuller, the two-time Olympic swimming
champion who later played Tarzan in 12 movies, and
Olympic swimmer and gold medal winner Duke Kahanamoku.
Shumpert has sculpted native Americans
including Sitting Bull and a bronze surfing scene that
is now a landmark on California's Huntington Beach.
Shumpert's current project is another
water scene that will be erected along the East Coast in
While he works with other materials,
including marble and plaster, bronze has become
Shumpert's forte. He can be reached at 662-258-8518.