September 6, 2014

Surf Concepts Surf Shop

You often hear that surfing is more than just a sport, it's a way of life, a philosophy.  In this respect, the name for a surf shop in Manhattan Beach, CA should resonate with surfers and surf fans: Surf Concepts Surf Shop.  Located a little inland on N. Sepulveda Blvd between Marine Ave and Manhattan Beach Blvd in a small strip mall, Surf Concepts Surf Shop has as wide and deep a selection of surf and skate merchandise as any corporate surf shop, but arguably with more knowledgeable, personalized service.  Its original shop t-shirt selection. my main interest however, is not as wide and deep as its other surf merchandise, but if you're looking to pick up something other than an original shop t-shirt, you can probably find it there.

On most days when you visit, you'll run into the owner of Surf Concepts Surf Shop, Ross Yamamoto, just as I did.  A soft-spoken but friendly guy, Yamamoto has surfed locally since the age of 8.  Earning a marketing degree in college, he decided at age 24 to combine his passion for surfing with his business acumen and open up a surf shop.  Partnering with his childhood friend Eric Nakakji, his surf shop first opened for business on Manhattan Beach Blvd in May 1989.  They chose the name Surf Concepts because it sounded cool, which is as good an explanation as any for a surf shop name.  The shop stayed in its original location until 1996 when it moved to another storefront in the strip mall where it currently resides, then it moved to its current location in 2012.  Though Yamamoto ended his partnership with Nakakji in 2005, his shop has thrived up to the present time, and this year it is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

At 2200 square feet, the shop has hardwood floors and a simple square floor plan.  The merchandise is well-organized and spaced, with surfwear in the middle and to the right, footwear and skateboards straight ahead in the back, surfboards to the left and all the way towards the back, and a sales counter stocked with surf and skate accessories to the immediate left.

Surf Concepts carries apparel from most of the major surfwear brands, including Quiksilver, Billlabong, Hurley, O'Neill, Rip Curl, Volcom, and RVCA.  If you want accessorize, the shop has a vast selection of hats (from the major surfwear brands), shoes (Vans, Nike, and DVS), flip-flops (Rainbow, Reef, Freewater, Cobian, Olukai, and Habianas), watches (Nixon, Freestyle, Quiksilver, Rip Curl, and Electric), and sunglasses (Smith, Spy, VonZipper, Hoga, Electric, and Dotdash.)

The shop's surfboard selection is impressive as well.  It stocks Channel Islands, Rusty, Roberts, and Windigo boards.  Custom boards can also be ordered through the shop from these major brands or a Huntington Beach shaper the shop frequently works with named Barry Van Der Meulen of Barry V. Surfboards.  The shop doesn't buy and resell used boards nor does it accept trade-ins, but occasionally it does sell used boards on consignment.  To complement its board offerings, the shop sells wetsuits by O'Neill, Rip Curl, Quiksilver, and Roxy.  It also has leashes, fins, board bags, and board racks from a variety of companies.

Like so many other surf shops, Surf Concepts has tried to broaden its appeal to skateboarders, and it carries a deep inventory of skateboards and skateboard accessories.  Its skateboard selection includes Penny, Sector 9, Carver, Globe, Almost, Enjoi, Cliche, Powell Peralta, Flip, Creature, Blind, and Santa Cruz. Helmets, pads, and wheels from a variety of companies are also available.

The shop doesn't offer much in terms of services other than ding repairs.  For lessons, it will refer you to an outside instructor.  Rentals have to be found elsewhere.  This shop is all about new merchandise.

Original shop t-shirts is among the new merchandise Surf Concepts offers, and you'll usually find it on the first rack in front of you as you enter the front door.  But its selection is nowhere near as wide and deep as its other merchandise.  It always has shop logo t-shirts available, and every now and then it will have an original design or two available until they run out.

Since it was the only design available, I picked up a shop logo t-shirt.  The original shop logo was nothing fancy, just simple text with the shop name.  The current logo, printed on the front left chest of the t-shirt I bought, is a little reminiscent of the Quiksilver logo with the core of the logo being a side view of a cresting wave.  But it's nothing Quiksilver should complain about because after all there aren't that many different ways to depict a cresting wave in a simple graphic.  The remainder of the logo includes text of the shop initials and name in a cooler font than the original logo.  The back design of the t-shirt I bought was a modified shop logo that dispensed with the initials, but enlarged the shop name and added the shop location.

There were a couple of screen printing mistakes on some the t-shirts I shuffled through, however, including one shirt with a white base under black ink (black is opaque enough to not require a base) and another with balled up ink making for a sandpaper feel (usually occurs when printing in hot weather.)  But if you're selective, you'll find a t-shirt with a good quality print in the size and color you want.

Though the brands may vary, my t-shirt was printed on a  red Next Level 6210 blank, a 4.3 oz/sq yard, 60% cotton, 40% polyester blend, a softer and lighter style t-shirt than the typical 6.1 oz jersey cotton surf shop t-shirt.

The shop's website is a work-in-progress.  There's no merchandise listed and no shopping cart, just some basic information webpages.  The shop itself is open Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday 10-7, and Sunday 10-6.

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