October 23, 2015

BC Surf Shop

The 2015 Hurley Pro at Trestles was a memorable one.  If you were there, you got to see intense heats with world title implications, Mick Fanning's gut-check performance after two previous confidence-shaking events, a nostalgic Heritage Series Expression Session with some legendary surfers, and Kelly Slater's controversial 4.17 score in the quarterfinals that will be debated for a long time to come.

Besides watching some world-class surfing at the Hurley Pro, I took some time during a recent road trip to San Diego to check out some local surf shops and their original shop t-shirts. My first stop was in San Clemente, the closest beach town to the Trestles surf break where the Hurley Pro took place.  There I ventured into BC Surf Shop, which lays claim to the title of San Clemente's oldest surf shop.

BC Surf Shop was founded in 1981 by the shop's namesake Brian Clark (hence the BC), a local surfer and surfboard shaper. In 1999, Clark moved to New Zealand, and he sold the shop to husband-and-wife partners Manuel and Melanie Osorio. 

When they first started out, Melanie was involved in the day-to-day operations of the shop, taking charge of women's apparel. Manuel oversaw men's apparel, but also surfboards and surfboard accessories. This arrangement played to Manuel's strengths since he was an avid surfer himself, had a business degree from Sonoma State University, and previously worked for Harbour Surfboards. A few years back, Melanie put aside working at the shop to start her own photography business, leaving Manuel in charge of the day-to-day operations.

When I stopped by the shop, I didn't get the chance to meet either of the owners. But I did get to talk to one of the shop managers, a young, friendly guy named Yann. After spending a few minutes chatting about the Hurley Pro, especially Slater's 4.17 that took place just hours before, he filled me in as much as he could about the history of the shop and its philosophy, products, and services.

BC Surf Shop is a friendly neighborhood kind of surf shop.  It doesn't see the people who walk through its doors as nameless customers. It sees them as people, and it puts an emphasis on nurturing relationships, not just between the shop and them, but also within families and the local community, through a shared interest in surfing.

Over the years, BC Surf Shop has earned many long-term customers.  But it takes pride in the multi-generation surfing families it counts among them.  Going back to the days when Brian Clark owned the shop, it showed its support for the community by sponsoring various surf teams in the local school district, a tradition the Osorios continued when they bought the shop.

If there was one thing that epitomized the culture of the shop, it would be the story of Maya, a black lab who was the shop's unofficial mascot and greeter.  Maya was Manuel's dog who went with him on his many surf trips up and down the California coast.  When Manuel bought the shop, he let Maya hang out there, and she was there so often that whenever directions were given to the shop they included the instruction "look for the green awning and a black lab."  Kids loved Maya, and she would accompany them into the shop while they and their parents shopped for new surf apparel and equipment.  When she got sick several years back, everyone, including the local Fedex delivery guy, asked how she was doing, though she eventually passed.  You can read more about Maya here.

The shop's community-mindedness extends to the merchandise it sells, especially its apparel. It likes to support American-born surf apparel companies, with an emphasis on giving small, independent brands some floor space. Although it does have Billabong apparel for sale (an Australian company), it also carries major brands such as RVCA and O'Neill. The up-and coming independent brands it carries include VISSLA, Stance, Freedom Aritsts, Depactus, and Roark, the last two being local San Clemente companies.

For surfboards, the shop offers Brusurf as its baseline brand, but it also has pre-made BC custom boards made by local shapers.  If you want a board custom-made, one of those local shapers will make it for you.  The shop also sells used surfboards on consignment from a wider variety of brands.  For wetsuits, it exclusively offers Xcel.

The shop also has a rental business. It rents all classes of boards from short boards to longboards to SUPs.  They are usually either NSP or GSI boards, and they go for $35/day. Its wetsuits rentals are also exclusively Xcel, and they cost $15/day.

Most of its services it contracts out. It has a guy for ding repairs. For lessons, it will
put you in touch with a qualified instructor. An hour and a half lesson, including a surfboard and wetsuit, will usually run you $125.

As for my main interest, original shop t-shirts, it has a nice selection of designs.  Its original t-shirts usually have an official shop logo or alternative logo on the front left chest. The original shop logo designed by Clark was a simple initials logo, nothing too inspirational.  Manuel put a little more creativity into the current official shop logo, merging some wave graphics, stacked horizontal lines that look like a setting sun, and some color shading for a more coastal vibe.

There are some variations of this logo with one displaying the text "BC Surf Shop" and "San Clemente" in a circle around it (or the alternative names for the shop, "BC Surf Shack" or "BC Surf & Sport".) Another variation has the logo inlaid within the "C" of "BC Surf Shop."  There are also several unique unofficial logos used on t-shirts.

The shop has about 10 t-shirt designs. Some stand-out designs include a surf woody, a pair of silhouetted surfers in a compass-like frame, and a bird-like decal that looks like a logo for a European soccer team. 

I went with a surfboard-themed design accentuated with an Hawaiian floral arrangement.  A neat feature of the design is a pier seen through the surfboards acting as lenses.  As far as I can tell, the t-shirt was screen printed with plastisol ink. The t-shirt blank is a Next Level blank, style #3600, a 100% combed ring-spun, 4.3 oz cotton t-shirt.  I prefer a heavier cotton t-shirt with screen prints since the prints tend to wear heavier, especially on dark t-shirts.  But for some reason, the print is remarkably softer than a typical screen print, so it's not as noticeable when you're wearing the t-shirt.

The shop's website is not up-to-date, so if you're interested in ordering something you'll have to do it by phone. The shop's number is (949)-498-9085. If you visit in person, the shop is usually open 9 am-9 pm, 7 days a week in the summer and 9 am-7 pm in the winter.

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