Words by Nathan Myers
I hate shopping. I only enter retail stores on an emergency basis, and usually exit prematurely, feeling scarred, confused and cheated.
Surf shops, however, are a bit different. If there’s boards and art and books and movies inside, I can generally hang out inside for a while without feeling too dirty and patriotic. But ever since I moved to Bali, even surf shops have had me feeling itchy.
In a country with cheap rent and discount staffing, surf brands here took a new approach to retail marketing: brand-specific mega stores. Billabong shop. Hurley shop. Quiksilver shop. Why compare quality when you can join a club, right?
Under this same consumer-blind theory, even the non-branded shops separated their wares by brand instead of logic. For instance, if you want some boardshorts, instead of looking at all the size 32’s, you can only look at Quiksilver, then walk to the other side of the store to look at Rip Curl, then another side for Volcom…on and on into retail insanity.
Logic, lost in translation.
But recently, three new surf shops have broken ground in surfing’s hype awareness zone. All three strive towards creating an experience and a vibe, rather than fashion-bombing us into a brand-war most surfers care little about.
Seemed cool to me, so I thought I’d show you around.
Spoiler alert: if you hate shopping (even surf shopping), save your angry response for another blog. We know this looks like we’re choking on something…but seriously, we just needed a bar of wax and ended up checking a few rockers.
Have a look around. No purchase necessary.
Over in the swanky dining-n-jewelry district of Seminyak, the Drifter shop offers a rootsy experience of alterative cruisiness. Unshaped alaia blanks and replicas of classic Indo surfboards (like Lopez bolts, Fitzgerald stingers and Machado biscuits). Handcrafted Hawaiian ukuleles. Boat-approved books ranging from Bukowski and Kerouac to Weisbecker and Warshaw. And a bunch of hand-selected surf art from some of Bali’s iconic residents. Drifter is a tight, earthy package: tastefully designed and packed with handpicked specialty items. Wallets, bags, hats, and shades are all mellow style that don’t scream: “check me out I surf.” They just last long, work well and look cool.
BEST: Overall vibe of handpicked quality.
WORST: $50 t-shirts (that I actually like).
Bali surfer/entrepreneur Tipi Jabrik’s new RAW shop, on the main Sunset Road outside Kuta, is more “surf mall” than single shop, with art brands like RVCA, Obey Deus and Rhythm each occupying a cubical of a massive retail warehouse. It’s still the “together but separate” thing, but here’s where it gets interesting: the warehouse also houses a café, wood-fire pizza kitchen, outdoor bar, and a large, shaded patio area that’s perfect for parties, premiers, DJs and bands (which Tipi is pretty legendary for pulling together around here). The wide-open retail space if littered with motorcycles, pool tables and surf art that blur the lines between shopping and rocking out, and RAW has already started throwing some classic parties to help us shed our retail inhibitions.
BEST: Outdoor beer patio with free WiFi.
WORST: Not much surfboards.
MATUSE ART + FUNCTION
At first glance, this Matuse shop might seem like another brand-specific billboard, but high-quality wetsuit start-up is really just enabling their rider and longtime Bali-resident Mikala Jones to do his own thing here. Set out in the rapid-growth village of Canggu, MJ’s shop is founded on Matuse’s signature surf vests, local shaper Luke Studor’s snubby pug-shapes (sweet fun for the local breaks) and an MJ-approved selection of surf art and photos. Other items like bodysurfing hand paddles, Vertra sunscreen, and bar serving Hawaiian style shave ice are pure Mikala. It’s just a funky little shop kinda way out in the boonies, but you step inside and kinda feel like hanging around a while. Might just be the AC and snow-cones.
BEST: Shave ice.
WORST: Shave ice.