Salt Fish Surf Co is a surfy boutique in Venice, in Los Angeles, run by the effusive and friendly French surfer Romaine Goudinoux, who designs and sells branded t-shirts, caps, accessories, and leather-and-fabric surfboard bags hand-crafted in Mexico. But, to be clear, his small second-floor store is not a surf shop. In fact, Salt Fish hardly feels like retail space at all, but rather a beautiful shabby-chic, hipster-surfer living room (dubbed “La Casa Saltfish“). It’s fillwd with Mexican blankets and rugs and a few surfboards propped up amid a tiny selection of merch for sale. The space and vibe is so cozy and chill that you don’t ever want to leave.
It’s no secret that we here at Global Graphica are fond practitioners of surfing, the so-called Hawaiian “sport of kings.” After contemporary art and good espresso, surfing is our other true obsession.
So on our recent road trips up and down the SoCal coast in search of waves, we stopped in the seaside city of San Clemente, the self-proclaimed “Spanish village by the sea” and a hotbed of surfing and surf culture in south Orange County. There we popped into the Album surfboards shop for the first time to see for ourselves the brand’s famously beautiful and well-designed boards.
We didn’t expect that the shop itself would be as beautiful as those boards. In fact, as we approached the entrance to the minimalist storefront, we were in the hottest of a hot secs stopped in our tracks.
We stood, slacked-jawed and wondered, “Are we in the wrong place? This must be the office of an architecture firm, surely? Or perhaps a day spa designed for the publishers of Wallpaper magazine?”
It was none of those things, savvy reader! It was a surf shop. It was the Album surfboards shop.
We had found surfing’s Holy Grail: An aesthetically-pleasing retail experience ensconced in sophisticated, minimalist architectural design. Our hearts fluttered.
Most surf shops, ya see, they … well, they suck, aesthetically speaking. Most surfboard shapers and brands suck, aesthetically speaking. (As people, they’re awesome; They don’t suck.) But most of them have no taste.
And this bothers us, savvy reader. It tears at our souls. Album, however, has restored our faith.
Want to add a bit of sexy, aspirational flair to your retail / dining / third-wave coffee establishment, something with a bit of totemic presence and cool-mystique lifestyle cachet?
You say “YES! Yes, I do!” In that case, here’s a tip: Add a surfboard.
That’s it. Just mount a bright colorful surfboard on the wall. Or tuck a couple of beat-up shortboards in the corner of otherwise dead interior space.
If the board still has wax on it, so much the better for authenticity. If it’s a dinged shortboard autographed by a pro surfer — say, 11-time world champion Kelly Slater — and covered in garish energy-drink sponsorship stickers, well, that’s just great. If it’s a pristine, glossy longboard in a bright, yummy candy color that makes you want to lick the board, that’s fantastic.
By doing so you’ll have added tremendous value to your business by improving the “customer experience,” and you’ll have instantly hipstafied your establishment by a solid 34%, minimum. We absolutely swear!
Many examples as follows …
From top to bottom: Sunny Days Cafe, Honolulu; Kono’s Restaurant, Haleiwa, Hawaii; G-Shock SoHo Store, New York; Louis Vuitton Store, Santa Monica, Los Angeles; Lost Weekend Cafe, Lower East Side, New York; Chanel surfboard signed by Gisele Bundchen at art gallery, Venice, Los Angeles.
The space at Daydream Coffee and Surf in Costa Mesa, California is great, but it’s missing a few things that would make it perfect: A bed, a TV, and a set of keys to the space with our name on it.
The artwork on these beautiful vintage 1970s-era surfboards is surprisingly well-preserved even though the boards themselves show some of the wear and tear that comes with use and age, bearing scars of repaired dings and discoloration. The boards evoke a time when surf culture was evolving and surfing was largely seen in the U.S. as a past time for rebels, outsiders and underground creative types. These are among hundreds of boards on view at the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center in San Clemente, California, which is worth a visit if you’re ever passing through the area.
Last weekend, we stumbled upon this throw pillow with the words “Locals Only” embroidered on it at the Mollusk Surf Shop in Silver Lake in Los Angeles. The pillow is a funny, cute mash-up of old-school, cliched surf-culture sentiment and a folksy, homespun style more fitting in grandma’s living room than a surfer fort at Lunada Bay. It’s not the kind of item that the average surf shop would stock, but then Mollusk is not an average surf shop and Silver Lake is not your average surf shop locale. It’s not a laidback seaside surf haven. That there’s even a surf shop in Silver Lake at all is an anomaly.
Mollusk originated in San Francisco where it made a name for itself that traveled far beyond the Bay Area. It established a style and a reputation for great taste. And for selling interesting, quality surfboards from shapers who made their boards by hand and were influenced by retro designs. Whether it was a shortboard, longboard for a 1970s-inspired “mid-length” board with a single fin, by and large many of these surfboard makers themselves appreciated design and style and their aesthetic tastes were reflected in their boards. (And, by the way, yes, we surf and we enjoy nerding out on this stuff.)
Then Mollusk opened up branches in LA. One is in Venice, LA’s infamous and gritty (if now largely gentrified) beach town. It’s not a mecca of great surfing nor great waves. In fact, the surf at Venice Beach sucks most of the time. But it is a block from the beach and central for the greater LA metro area, and it’s a hub for a creative surfer community. Surfers still paddle out into the waves at the Venice breakwater most days in spite of the poor surf conditions.
Then there’s Silver Lake. It doesn’t have Venice’s location or vibe, but there’s a niche demographic overlap. SLake is home to a class of fashionable creative types (music, film, art, advertising, design), both the moneyed kind and the less-moneyed aspiring kind, and it’s a magnet for a generation of hipsters, some of whom surf or pretend to. Mollusk is right at home here and yet it’s also totally legit, albeit with those ironic, stylish “Locals Only” throw pillows strategically placed in the store.
“Locals Only” has come a long way. It was the kind of thing that one often encountered back in the ’70s and ’80s in the form of crudley spray-painted graffiti near remote or hardcore surf spots along Pacific Coast Highway or at a handlulf of certain “localised” beaches in the string of seaside communities up and down the California coast or in Hawaii. It was a warning to outsiders, one tinged with menace, not to surf that beach … or else. This localism was the harder-edged face of surf culture. So to see those words rendered on the kind of soft, cuddly pillow you might cozy up to on a sofa while sipping a cup of tea and savoring the prose of a Maya Angelou novel, well, it’s funny and brilliant. Its trick is how it both deflates the inherent threat and danger associated with those words while in another way making those words even scarier.
Last weekend we went to Mercado Sagrado, a two-day festival-like event showcasing music, fashion, food, art and surf films held amid the small Old West movie-set town at Paramount Ranch near Malibu, California. There we stumbled upon some beautiful surfboards shaped and designed by Australian label Dead Kooks. The boards were laid out on display at the vendor tent of super awesome surf brand Kassia, one of dozens upon dozens of mostly clothing, home and lifestyle goods makers set up on the sprawling ranch property. The longboard pictured here looks like one Dead Kooks “Nausea” single-fin logs, a fitting board for Malibu. As surfers, we’re kind of in love with Dead Kooks’ aesthetic, though we have yet to buy one of their boards. Eventually, when we’ve put aside enough scrilla to cover the costs and shipping fees from Down Under, we’ll order a board.
We love this … The Lone Wolfs (sic) surf shop on Lincoln Boulevard in Venice, in Los Angeles, was recently robbed. The perpetrators smashed one of the shop’s glass doors. The Lone Wolfs responded with this witty, spray-painted message on the plywood they put up to cover the broken door: “Can’t steal our vibe.”