March 17, 2014

Tropical Rush Surf Shop

The final of the 2013 Billabong Pipe Masters took place on Saturday, December 14th on a typically warm and sunny Hawaiian afternoon.  Although earlier in the day much of the drama had been taken out of the event after Mick Fanning secured the ASP World Title by advancing to the semis, there was still plenty of excitement left as surfing legend Kelly Slater prepared to meet future legend John John Florence.

There was very little action early on, but then things began heating up.  Florence struck first with a respectable ride, but then Slater responded with two high-scoring waves in near succession.  With Florence still within scoring range of pulling out a come-from-behind victory, tension mounted as the clock wound down.  Finally, Florence managed to catch a Backdoor pipe with only seconds left, and his hometown fans exploded with glee as he emerged still standing.  The crowd collectively held its breath as it waited for his score to be announced.  When it was, there was a collective groan as it fell just short of what he needed, followed by a chorus of cheers as Florence fans joined Slater fans in celebrating Slater's fifth Pipe Masters win.

Watching that final was quite a rush.  After letting the memories of it settle in, I turned my attention to another rush I seek whenever I'm near the beach: checking out surf shops and their original shop t-shirts.  One North Shore surf shop I visited was named, appropriately enough, Tropical Rush Surf Shop.

With one of the more interesting origin stories I've heard, "Tropical Rush," at least in name, was originally a lunch truck run by Glenn Lane.  Posted up on Kamehameha Highway beginning in 1986, right across from the North Shore surf break called Rocky Point (halfway between Ehukai Beach and Sunset Beach), the truck served healthy sandwiches and smoothies.  An amateur local surfer, Glenn eventually decided to channel his small business experience and surfing passion into a surf shop in the surfing village of Haleiwa.  Partnering with his new wife Cecilia, whom he met on the North Shore in 1993, Glenn opened Tropical Rush Surf Shop in 1994.

Depending on which direction you're coming from, Tropical Rush Surf Shop is located either right before or after the Anahulu Stream Bridge, a double rainbow arch bridge that is a Haleiwa landmark.  The shop itself is actually a set of multiple forest green buildings.  The largest building houses the core of the shop, where its surfwear and surfwear accessories are sold.

Actually, there are two sides to the core building.  On one side is surfwear from a variety of companies, including Lost, Hinano, Fox, and the North Shore-based brand Da Hui (founded by a club of local Hawaiians known as the "black shorts.")  You can also find a variety of surfwear accessories, including sunglasses (Electric, Fox, Crush, Creed, and a unique wooden frame brand known as Proof), watches (Electric, Vestal, and Nixon), and even headphones (mainly Marley.)  The other side of the core building is exclusively devoted to surfwear and surfwear accessories by the major surfwear brand Volcom, which is in an exclusive North Shore partnership with Tropical Rush Surf Shop.

The other buildings serve distinct purposes.  "The Barn" is a small building that stocks towels for rent and sale.  "The Boardroom" carries its surfboard inventory, which includes brands such as Brewer, Chronic, and Aloha.  (Besides selling new surfboards, the shop also sells used surfboards on consignment, some of which come from ASP-ranked surfers.)  "The Beachroom," so-called for the sand on its floor, contains its rental surfboards and SUPs.  Finally, the Anahulu Shave Ice shop serves refreshing shave ice.  With any purchase or rental from the surf shop, you usually receive a coupon for a free shave ice.

Besides surfwear and surfwear accessories, surf shop services, especially rentals and lessons, are a real strength of Tropical Rush Surf Shop.  It rents boards for a variety of board sports: surfboards, boogieboards, skimboards, and SUPs.  It can even supply straps for attaching larger boards to cars if necessary.  In addition, it rents miscellaneous equipment for various beach activities: snorkeling equipment, kayaks, and bikes.

If instruction is needed, the shop has in-house instructors for surf and SUP lessons.  The rates are very reasonable, with a 2-hour surf lesson going for $90 and a one hour SUP lesson going for $50.

A SUP rental and/or lesson is recommended in particular.  The shop has a convenient launch bay on the Anahulu stream that runs into Haleiwa State Beach.  Along the stream, it is common to see sea turtles basking in the sun along the banks of the stream.

With so much to offer already in terms of surfwear and surfwear accessories, original shop t-shirts do not appear to be a priority for Tropical Rush Surf Shop.  Still, they usually have 2-3 original shop t-shirts available.  I chose to purchase a shop logo t-shirt.  The official logo is a straightforward black-and-white text logo with an oval border, but the gothic-style, iron-railing-like font gives it a little flair.  On the t-shirt I bought, however, the logo has even more flair, with added tropical colors that remind me of the delicious shave ice I had while there.

The blank t-shirt brand used for this shop logo t-shirt is a Hanes Tagless 6.1 oz cotton blank, though the blanks may vary for other shop t-shirts.  It is screen printed, but not in the standard way.  When printing bright, non-opaque colors on dark t-shirts, most screen printers use a white base to prevent the colors from being dulled by the color of the t-shirt itself.  The screen printer for this t-shirt, Chip Lane, a local North Shore surf artist who is also a part-time screen printer, ran the screen with the bright colors, flash dried them, then ran the screen again.  It's usually the same result either way.  In this case, the print is solid, did not crack, and maintained its color vibrancy after a proper washing (turning the t-shirt inside out.)

If you're headed to the North Shore and passing through Haleiwa, you can visit Tropical Rush Surf Shop at 62-620 Kamehameha Highway.  Its store hours are 9 a.m-7 p.m, seven days a week, year-round.  Unfortunately, you can't order anything from its website, which apparently has been under construction since 2012 (it has a message telling visitors it's being remodeled and to check back after Thanksgiving 2012.)  You can, however, reach the shop by phone at 808-637-8886.

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