When surfer John Severson founded Surfer Magazine in 1962, it not only set my world on fire but also was the most significant source of surf media in the world, for over two decades.
By the early ‘70s, I would wander in there with no appointment, carrying my handwritten stories, and try to convince the new editor, Steve Pezman, to publish something I had written, which he eventually did.
The recent sale of Surfer to American Media (the owners of The National Enquirer) signals the end of the days when a person and a dream could build an empire on little more than sand and salt water.
That sale stung, and recently prompted a friend and me to discuss what was happening to the backbone of surfing, the family-owned and operated surf shop.
In North County, there are quite a few, including, Surf Ride, Mitch’s, Offshore, Witt’s, Surfy Surfy, Encinitas and of course, Hansen’s (If I left you out, please email me, and I’ll try to make it up to you).
Among the aforementioned is the most enduring surf shop ever to occupy the heart of Cardiff, Iron Cross.
Owned by Jeff Grygera and his family for nearly two decades, the critical items in this store, surfboards, are built and sold by a member of Jeff’s family.
Those luscious candy-colored dream machines decorate the floor space, and, increasingly, the Cardiff lineup.
I first met Jeff in the mid-1970s after I concluded a two-year surf odyssey through the South Seas.
Upon my return home I found the town I loved unlike the one I had left, the most disturbing change being the rampant increase in drug use among young surfers who had not learned lessons from my generation, many of whom are dead from substance abuse.
My heartbroken response was to start a YMCA surf club. Fourteen-year-old Jeff, along with fellow teenaged rippers Brian Ingraham, Ricky Eveland, Morgan English, Stewart Valenzuela and Scott Williams, all joined up after they heard we were going on a surf trip to Baja.
Taking a dozen surf-stoked kids south of the border in two cars is not recommended for the faint-hearted or even the stout-hearted.
After four days of good surf and sheer madness, I return home, and to civilian life where I disbanded the club, but not my good intentions.
Just before I broke up the band, I built a surfboard, somehow forgot to strap it to the roof of my car, and lost it on Coast Highway where it was run over by a VW Bug.
The board, a mass of dings, was ruined in my sight, but in the bright eyes of young Grygera, it was a project.
After paying me $25 bucks, he brought that board back to life and, more importantly, began to build surfboards, at first as a hobby, but eventually for a living.
Jeff and his son Jay continue to rank among the top ding repair persons in the business as well as some of the top shapers and glassers in the area.
So it is that each time I wander into Iron Cross and visit Jeff or one of his family members I feel a bit of pride, knowing that I had a little something to do with the little surf shop in Cardiff and the family who keeps it and the stoke going.