It’s estimated that in 1954 there were only 1,500 surfers along the California coast. Back then, if two crews drove past each other while checking the surf, they would sometimes stop and exchange info on surf conditions at the surrounding breaks. At least that’s the mythology.
Those times are long gone — especially in California — but a faint echo of what it may have like can still be heard on the Outer Banks and among friendly surfers like Steve Head.
Head is the main shaper at Wave Shack, the newest addition to the horde of surf shops along the Outer Banks. Open since the second week of June, Wave Shack is still getting up to speed. Head’s in-store shaping bay remains under construction (when done it will look like a tubing wave), and there’re plans to create a mini skatepark on the small patch of land next to the store.
But Wave Shack’s location is good. Located on the sound near then end of Highway 64, most OBX visitors from North Carolina’s mainland drive right by the shop. And once the causeway for U.S. Highway 64 is completed, Head predicts that sales will really grow. “This is going to be huge,” says Head, pointing to the highway just outside the shop’s front doors. “They are building a bridge across to the mainland that will cut 30 minutes from the current drive.”
Wave Shack is also the closest shop to Manteo, a town of 6,000 people on Roanoke Island that’s a few miles to the west. “We have a whole island over here that we’re servicing,” says Head. “We’re super visible, we have a local fan base, and once we gear up for next year, we think we’ll have a good year.”
Like many surf shops, Wave Shack is partially relying on skateboarding to expand its customer base and sales volume. In the first four months of sales, skate shoes were the shop’s strongest category. “When I was growing up down here, it was super hard to find good skate products,” says Head. “Everything I got I had to mail order. So we really take care of the kids. We got all the good skate gear in stock, and now the kids are hanging out here and skating in the parking lot. We have plans to pave in the rest of the lot and build some ramps.”
But the strength of the skate market can’t carry the shop on its own, says Head. “The challenge is to be creative. We’ll make sure the kids keep coming by to skate, but most importantly we need to keep fresh ideas, because around here it becomes a challenge during the off season. The cool thing that keeps us optimistic is that even through the summer, a large part of our customer base was local. Next spring we’ll hit all the little tourist periodicals with store coupons. We’re definitely optimistic — it’s going to be a good thing.”
Window Brands: O’Neill, Zero, Pig
Major Display Brands: O’Neill, Split, Planet Earth, Counter Culture, Gallaz, Globe, Etnies
Strongest Categories: Shoes, or “anything to do with skateboarding.”
Weakest Category: “I had hoped board sales would have been better,” says Head.
Strongest Brands: Planet Earth, Split, Matix
Best Reps: Sean Ollice (Electric, FCS, Xcel), Kevin Upton (Planet Earth, Adio), Bernie Wheeler (Globe, Gallaz).