The Orange County Retail Tour: Inside Twelve Shops

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The financial world has New York. The fashion world tips its coiffeured chapeau to Paris. In the surf business, however, it’s not a single city that serves as the industry’s hub, but an entire county, and nearly every major surf brand is located within the confines of Orange County, California. While the Orange Curtain is frequently written off as the plastic land of the lotus eaters, its surf shops cover the gamut and elude blanket generalizations — almost.

By virtue of their location, almost every Orange County surf shop enjoys both the benefits and headaches of constantly being under the industry’s scrutiny. Brands are launched and trends tracked using O.C. retailers as guinea pigs. And what’s hot in Brunswick County, North Carolina is likely to be last month’s news in O.C.

The general affluence of the county also puts O.C. retailers on point in the current sluggish economy — a bellwether for the rest of California and the entire country.

In mid July TransWorld SURF Business spent two days visiting some of the better-known shops in Orange County, talking to shop owners and manager, finding out what was selling, and generally raising a moist finger to see which way the wind was blowing. Not surprisingly, we weren’t able to visit every shop worthy of mention. The following, however, is a good cross section of shops and an indicator of things to come. Because love it or hate it, Orange County shapes the surf industry and the surf industry shapes the county. Let’s take a drive and see what’s up.

Ron Jon
Orange

Step inside the self-described “largest surf shop on the West Coast.”

Inflight
Seal Beach
Inflight’s reputation for good customer service has helped it establish a strong local following.

Jack’s
Huntington Beach
What’s set Jack’s apart is the sheer volume of product and depth of lines found in the 8,500-square-foot primary location.

HSS
Huntington Beach
If location is everything, then Huntington Surf and Sport has it all. Its pier-side shop is on the corner of Surf City, U.S.A’s busiest intersection: Main Street and PCH.

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The Frog House
Newport Beach
The Frog House has been around before there even was a surf industry. It opened in 1962 on the premise that a surf shop was just that: a maker and purveyor of surfboards.

Surfside Sports
Newport Beach
The revolution will not be televised, but Surfside Sports has a pretty good view nevertheless. Located on the trend-o-matic Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, the shop has seen the mercurial rise of several brands.

Laguna Surf And Sport
Laguna Beach
The salt-of-the-earth location in Laguna is smaller and rougher around the edges, but remains the more coveted location for brands for the market influence it wields.

Becker Fifty-Fifty
Mission Viejo
With three additional shops scattered in Los Angeles and Orange County, another one on its way in Huntington, and a profitable e-commerce component, Becker is chugging along just fine.

Infinity
Dana Point
Infinity has become one of Dana Point’s finest surf, skate, and snowboard shops.

San Clemente Surf Co.
San Clemente
“We get all the parolees, jailbirds, and M.I.L.s in here,” jokes President Jim Nudo. “There’s nobody in town who competes with our customers, and vice versa.”

Stewart Surfboards
San Clemente
Stewart Surfboards is one of the best-known longboard labels in the world. Tons of out-of-towners flock to the shop in search of the perfect board.

Rip Curl Surf Center
San Clemente
The Rip Curl Surf Center has just completed a major overhaul. The new shop is smaller in size but bigger in personality.

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The San Diego County Retail Tour
June, 2001

Emerald City
Coronado, California
Two-million people visit Coronado each year, and many of them stop by Emerald City before they soak up the sun and hit the sand.

South Coast Surf Shop
Ocean Beach, California
Three months of dreary weather has left its mark on South Coast in Ocean Beach, but it hasn’t hung the surf shop out to dry.

Liquid Foundation
Mission Beach, California
What sets Liquid Foundation apart is a team roster that speaks volumes about its local support.

Edge Coastal Outfitters
Pacific Beach, California
Edge Coastal Outfitters is clean and wide-open 5,000-square-foot shop that’s well merchandised with good sight lines.

South Coast Wahine
Pacific Beach, California
South Coast Wahine has successfully dialed in on the stellar growth of the women’s market.

Pacific Drive
Pacific Beach, California
Pac Drive is the place to go in San Diego for skate shoes. The shop carries virtually every skate shoe out there, offering more than 200 different styles.

South Coast Windansea
Pacific Beach, California
The racks at South Coast Windansea bulge with walkshorts, wovens, trunks, and T-shirts. Manager Chris Salvatierra says there can be 30,000 pieces of product on the floor at any given time.

Clairemont Surf Shop
Clairemont, California
For the past 24 years, Clairemont has also been home to one of the leading surf retailers in San Diego County. This is a shop surfers will head out of their way to visit.

Wave Lines
Carmel Mountain, California
Wave Lines is parked right next to mega-sporting-goods-retailer Sportmart, but Manager Jimmy Schulte couldn’t be happier.

Hansen’s Boardroom
Encinitas, California
The grand dame of North County surf shops, Hansen’s began in 1961 as a small one-room operation on O’ahu’s North Shore. Today, Hansen’s is broken up into two separate-yet-related storefronts: the main Hansen’s Ski Surf Sportswear store, and the smaller Hansen’s Boardroom found next door.

Encinitas Surfboards
Encinitas, California
If you drive along the San Diego coast on any given day, you’re likely to see an Encinitas Surfboards logo — thanks to the shop’s private-label surf-rack pads which flaunt the “Encinitas Surfboards” logo.

Performance Board Center
Leucadia, California
Last year the 1,800-square-foot Performance Board Center sold more than 350 boards — not bad for a shop that’s only been in business for two years.

Surf Ride
Oceanside, California
As one of the biggest shops in San Diego, Surf Ride in Oceanside has the advantage of carrying just about everything under the sun.

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The Central Coast Retail Tour
February, 2001

TransWorld Surf Business ducked out of the office, loaded up the Vanagon, and headed to O’Neill’s Cold Water Classic in Santa Cruz. But we wanted our bosses to think we’re working, so we decided to visit some of the key shops from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz. Here’s what we found.

The Beach House
Santa Barbara, California
Meet the guys who can watch the Santa Barbara Sandspit break as they stand at their cash register.

Channel Island Surfboards
Santa Barbara, California
All your favorite surfers ride CI boards, so what’s the Merrick’s surf shop like?

Isla Vista Surf Co.
Isla Vista, California
Smack dab in College Town USA, IV Surf Co. is looking for some elbow room to grow.

Pancho’s
Pismo Beach, California
Come inside “the” surf shop in Pismo Beach where funky memorbilia and hot brands reign.

Moondoggies
San Luis Obispo, California
When Moondoggies needed room to grow, Owner Randy Adler got a little creative. Now with one shop in two locations, business is looking strong.

Central Coast Surfboards
San Luis Obispo, California
Central Coast Surfboards and CCS Mail Order have split — allowing the retail store to focus on the hordes of shoppers clogging Higuera Street, says Buyer John Whisenand.

Pacific Coast Surf And Street
Atascadero, California
Almost a year after taking ownership, Pacific Coast’s Larry Parks is making the moves necessary to crank up his sales.

Pacific Wave
Santa Cruz, California
You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your neighbors. Pacific Wave in downtown Santa Cruz has beeb living this axiom for the past several months.

O’Neill Surf Shop (Downtown)
Santa Cruz, California
The latest addition to the O’Neill empire is a sleek and well-merchadised store in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz — so why did it stir up waves when it opened?

Arrow Surf
Santa Cruz, California
This long-time mainstay of West Side surfers is a bit unique in the world of surf retailing: surfboards are still the most important category.

Santa Cruz Surf Shop
Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Surf Shop has kept on growing — despite being on one of the most competative pieces of real estate in the surf-retailing world. So, what’s their secret?

Paradise Surf Shop
Santa Cruz, California
Paradise Surf Shop has carved out a niche in Santa Cruz by appealing to the communirmance Board Center
Leucadia, California
Last year the 1,800-square-foot Performance Board Center sold more than 350 boards — not bad for a shop that’s only been in business for two years.

Surf Ride
Oceanside, California
As one of the biggest shops in San Diego, Surf Ride in Oceanside has the advantage of carrying just about everything under the sun.

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The Central Coast Retail Tour
February, 2001

TransWorld Surf Business ducked out of the office, loaded up the Vanagon, and headed to O’Neill’s Cold Water Classic in Santa Cruz. But we wanted our bosses to think we’re working, so we decided to visit some of the key shops from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz. Here’s what we found.

The Beach House
Santa Barbara, California
Meet the guys who can watch the Santa Barbara Sandspit break as they stand at their cash register.

Channel Island Surfboards
Santa Barbara, California
All your favorite surfers ride CI boards, so what’s the Merrick’s surf shop like?

Isla Vista Surf Co.
Isla Vista, California
Smack dab in College Town USA, IV Surf Co. is looking for some elbow room to grow.

Pancho’s
Pismo Beach, California
Come inside “the” surf shop in Pismo Beach where funky memorbilia and hot brands reign.

Moondoggies
San Luis Obispo, California
When Moondoggies needed room to grow, Owner Randy Adler got a little creative. Now with one shop in two locations, business is looking strong.

Central Coast Surfboards
San Luis Obispo, California
Central Coast Surfboards and CCS Mail Order have split — allowing the retail store to focus on the hordes of shoppers clogging Higuera Street, says Buyer John Whisenand.

Pacific Coast Surf And Street
Atascadero, California
Almost a year after taking ownership, Pacific Coast’s Larry Parks is making the moves necessary to crank up his sales.

Pacific Wave
Santa Cruz, California
You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your neighbors. Pacific Wave in downtown Santa Cruz has beeb living this axiom for the past several months.

O’Neill Surf Shop (Downtown)
Santa Cruz, California
The latest addition to the O’Neill empire is a sleek and well-merchadised store in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz — so why did it stir up waves when it opened?

Arrow Surf
Santa Cruz, California
This long-time mainstay of West Side surfers is a bit unique in the world of surf retailing: surfboards are still the most important category.

Santa Cruz Surf Shop
Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Surf Shop has kept on growing — despite being on one of the most competative pieces of real estate in the surf-retailing world. So, what’s their secret?

Paradise Surf Shop
Santa Cruz, California
Paradise Surf Shop has carved out a niche in Santa Cruz by appealing to the community — and has helped fuel a huge increase in the number of women surfers in Santa Cruz.

Freeline Design
Santa Cruz, California
Freeline Design in Santa Cruz recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. We ask Manager Tara Mel about what makes this shop tick.

O’Neill Surf Shop (41st Street)
Santa Cruz, California
If it has to do with surfing, you’re likely to find it at O’Neill’s 41st Surf Shop — the cornerstone of the Santa Cruz retail surf scene.

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COMING SOON: The Outer Banks Retail Tour

COMING SPRING 2002: The Australia Retail Tour
munity — and has helped fuel a huge increase in the number of women surfers in Santa Cruz.

Freeline Design
Santa Cruz, California
Freeline Design in Santa Cruz recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. We ask Manager Tara Mel about what makes this shop tick.

O’Neill Surf Shop (41st Street)
Santa Cruz, California
If it has to do with surfing, you’re likely to find it at O’Neill’s 41st Surf Shop — the cornerstone of the Santa Cruz retail surf scene.

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COMING SOON: The Outer Banks Retail Tour

COMING SPRING 2002: The Australia Retail Tour