Locally owned surf shops are getting scarce, but there are still a few brave owners willing to go the extra mile to sell you surfboards, boardshorts, and give you some surf stoke. As the surf industry grows, just like any retail industry, the little guys have stiffer competition in the form of big brands and corporate shops. To survive, shops like these have evolved into something truly unique. There are things that set them apart and either hold onto their roots in their local communities or add a special twist to the always broadening culture of surf. Here are my personal picks from North to South.
1. Aqua Surf Shop, Ocean Beach
Recently relocated to the up-and-coming Judah Street a few blocks away from Ocean Beach, Aqua Surf Shop is my favorite spot. Owner Alex Petrovic is one of the coolest guys around, will give you great advice and even lends his boards to regulars. Aqua is one the epicenter of the Ocean beach low key surf community. Come there a on a rare big and perfect winter day and you will find locals gathering before and after sessions raving about that double overhead barrel only OB can produce. Beyond that, they have a yoga class twice a week aimed at exercising surfers’ physical, mental, emotional and spiritual capacities as it relates to their time in the ocean.
And if you didn’t notice, they have a talking dog who is really pumped on their “broga class.”
2. Haut Surf Shop, Santa Cruz
Haut Surf Shop may be one of the oldest surf shops around. Started by Santa Cruz legend Doug Haut in 1965 to sell the boards he would handshape, the shop revolves around selling Haut’s beautiful boards that are still hand shaped in the backyard. In fact, contrary to every other shop on this list, part of Haut’s charm is that it’s kept things old school here. You won’t find any GoPros, fancy shoes, or Indo Boards here; only the strict necessities you’ll need to go surfing (wetsuits, fins, wax). And that works for the Santa Cruz crowd.
3. Sawyer Land & Sea Supply, Santa Cruz
Surf may be the tie that binds, but Sawyer Land & Sea Supply has successfully gone where most surf shops have not … beyond surf and beyond the usual surfwear brands. Here you will find a tightly curated selection of modern outdoor gear and apparel that embodies the casual cool NorCal lifestyle of its proprietor, Stacy Forrester. That said, this is still the place to pick up a one-of-a-kind custom board from local shapers Ashley Lloyd or Travis Reynolds, or a Japanese-made Nineplus Wetsuit. Sawyer also organizes events like movies nights, concerts and art showing to support Save the Waves and The SurfRider Foundation.
4. Mollusk Surf Shop, Venice
Started in San Francisco and with another location in Silver Lake, Mollusk Surf Shop had to be in Venice to target the hip and wealthy surfers, as well as those fans of the lifestyle. Mollusk is all about unique retro style boards, but they also offer good art books and a well designed own clothing line in store. Even if you’re not planning to catch any waves, it’s a great place to stop, look, and shop. Browsing through Mollusk is almost like cruising a surf themed art museum.
5. Surfy Surfy, Leucadia
Located a few blocks from our Outsite San Diego location, Surfy Surfy sells their website as a blog, but it’s really the portal to entice you to visit their amazing shop. Owner J.P. St. Pierre got the genius idea to combine a surf shop and a coffee shop, and the results are fantastic. They’re a worthy local favorite hang out in this vibrant surf community, and their Instagram is full of personality and inspiration, even if you’re not in the area.