Regional Report: Eye On L.A. County


Los Angeles County is a lesson in diversity. With more than 9.8-million residents, it’s the most populated county in the nation. Heck, only eight states have bigger populations. And at times it seems like every resident is on the web of steel and asphalt that links the green hills of Malibu in the north to the endless plain of buildings stretching east and south. But that’s L.A.: crowded, congested, diverse.

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Not surprising, L.A. county is also home to some of the best surf shops in the nation, shops with sales strategies that mirror their customer’s diversity. Surf product is a key component, but in L.A. oftentimes snowboard and skate gear share equal prominence. Style is definitely not a four-letter word in some Southland communities, and the right product mix in L.A. might leave shops in other regions scratching their heads in wonder.

In mid November TransWorld SURF Business waded into this retail stew, hoping to find nine shops that captured the flavor of the region. Needless to say, we couldn’t visit every store worthy of mention. We hope, however, that the following shops give you a rough guide to the state of retailing in the post September 11 envirnoment. Times have been tough, but most retailers are predicting a rebound by next summer. With more than 200 years of retailing experience among them, these retailers seem to think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

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Val Surf
North Hollywood
For 40 years Val Surf has been a pioneer in the action-sports industry. The first surf shop to do mail-order, Val Surf was also Quiksilver’s, Hobie’s, and O’Neill’s first dealer.

IG Boarding Shop
Agoura Hills
For sixteen years IG Boarding Shop has been one of the San Fernando Valley’s leading surf-skate-snow retailers. As the shop heads into 2002, it’s doing everything it can to stay on top.

Green Sector
Tarzana
Since the mid 1980s, Green Sector has been servicing the Tarzana surf, skate, and snowboard contingent. And as the clientele’s taste has evolved so has the look within the shop.

Zuma Jay’s
Malibu
Zuma Jay’s is a surf shop in the traditional sense: surfboards, wetsuits, accessories, and some private-label clothing — that’s about it. That’s how Owner Jefferson Wagner wants it: “It’s simpler that way.

Active Rideshop
San Dimas
One of the most recognizable surf-skate-snow retailers in the Inland Empire, the desert area east of Los Angeles, is Active Rideshop.

ZJ Boarding House
Santa Monica
ZJ Boarding House has been a leading store in the L.A. surf, snowboard, and skate market almost from the year it opened in 1988. So how has the current economic situation affected the store?

Spyder
Hermosa Beach
As one of the South Bay’s leading shops, Spyder surfboards has had a front-row seat to the surf industry’s ebbs, flows, and steady growth since 1978. And while the current economic situation isn’t ideal, Coowner Dickie O’Reilly is still optimistic

Becker Surf And Sport
Hermosa Beach
Becker Surf and Sport has spread beyond its South Bay roots. Its Web site gathers in more than 200,000 unique visitors a month and is an industry standard. When the Huntington Beach store opens in February, the Becker empire will include five stores and will stretch from Mailbu to Mission Viejo.

ET Surfboards
Hermosa Beach
ET Surfboards has a rough-around-the-edges vibe. Floorspace is at a premium and navigating the store can be a chore. But ask around. ET Surfboards has the type of loyal clientele that’s rare in this over retailed world.

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The Outer Banks Retail Tour
September, 2001

Natural Art
Buxton, North Carolina

Natural Art Owner Scott Busbey still finds time to shape boards. It’s his passion.

Wave Shack
Nags Head, North Carolina

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.

Kitty Hawk Sports
Nags Head, North Carolina

Kitty Hawk Sports doesn’t fit the mold of the traditional hardcore surf shop, and that’s fine with Owner Ralph Buxton

Secret Spot Surf Shop
Nags Head, North Carolina

Secret Spot Surf Shop is the Frog House of the Outer Banks. This grassroots, homegrown shop is dripping with flavor and personality — just like its West Coast counterpart.

Whalebone Surf Shop
Nags Head, North Carolina

As one of the foundation stones of Outer Banks surf retailing, Whalebone Surf Shop’s secret to success is all about dedication.

Bert’s Surf Shop
Nags Head, North Carolina

Bert’s is a eleven-shop chain that stretches from Myrtle Beach in the south to its Kitty Hawk location in the north.

The Pit
Nags Head, North Carolina

Who said you can’t mix business with pleasure? At The Pit in Nags Head you can have your cake and eat it too — literally.

Seventeenth Street Surf Shop
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina

Part of the advantage the Kill Devil Hills Seventeenth Street has is that it can draw inventory from any of the nine stores in the Seventeenth Street chain.

Vitamin Sea
Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

With one of the better names in surf retailing, Vitamin Sea has been open for business on the Outer Banks for 23 years.

WRV
Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

Wave Riding Vehicles has been a standout surf shop on the Outer Banks for more than twenty years. And not only is it one of the original shops in town, it’s also one of the biggest.

Duck Village Outfitters
Duck, North Carolina

Although the tiny Duck Village Outfitters surf shop has also steadily grown during those years, it really hit its stride this year.

Corolla Surf Shop
Corolla, North Carolina

Corolla Surf Shop Owner Gary Smith has been surfing the Outer Banks since 1968, but it wasn’t until 1996 that he finally settled in Corolla, a sleepy town 30 miles north of Kitty Hawk, and found his own slice of heaven.

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The Orange County Retail Tour
June, 2001

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.F.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.

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.F.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.