Ask anyone on the East Side — or throughout Santa Cruz, for that matter — of what the most ‘core surf shop in town is, and you’ll likely be pointed to Freeline Design on 41st Avenue.
It’s one of the longest-lasting shops in town — it recently celebrated its 30-year anniversary — and it remains focused on surfboards (an rarity in the surf-retail business, which has generally shifted to apparel in lieu of hardgoods). The shop’s direction can be attributed to Founder John Mel (father of Peter Mel), who still shapes Freeline surfboards.
Manager Tara Mel (wife of Peter) says the shop moves a ton of SurfTech boards — mostly to the Silicon Valley crowd, who like the boards for their weight savings and improved durability (those practical dotcommers). But Tara notes the shop’s strongest category is wetsuits.
A third of the shop is dedicated to racks and racks of well-displayed wetsuits, all sorted by brands: Quiksilver, Hotline, Hurley, and Body Glove. Quiksilver is the top-selling wetsuit brand in the shop (thanks to Peter?), and fullsuits move year round.
While hardgoods are still the focal point in the shop, Tara notes that Freeline has dedicated more floor space to apparel in recent years, which meant moving the sales counters from an island in the middle of the shop, to the left front corner of the store. Volcom, Quiksilver, and Freeline (private label) are the noteworthy brands in the shop, and on the Junior’s side, Billabong, Aaron Chang, and Rusty are big sellers.
When asked to characterize the shop’s clientele, Tara calls it a local shop in the winter, and a popular shop for tourists in the summer (Freeline rents out a ton of surboards and wetsuits). Tara singles out Jackie (Reef), Mike (Quiksilver), Ken “Skindog” Collins (Volcom), and Jimmy (Black Flys) as the shop’s best reps.
**** Just The Facts Ma’am ****
Window Brands: Body Glove, Reef, Quiksilver
Major Display Brands: Quiksilver, Hotline, Hurley, Body Glove, Volcom
Strongest Category: Wetsuits
Bests Rep(s): Jackie (Reef), Mike (Quiksilver), Skindog (Volcom), and Jimmy (Black Flys)
Hottest Brand(s): Quiksilver, Volcom, Hotline
On A Scale Of 1 to 10, Rate:
Health of the surf sales: 10 (in the summer)
Health of girls sales: 9
Health of men’s apparel sales: 10 (boy’s: 5)
Health of wetsuit sales: 10
Health of footwear sales: 10
Health of surfboard sales: 10