By Taylor Paul
Every Saturday morning at 7:00am, two hundred people converge on Island Water Sports surf shop in Deerfield Beach, Florida. They come for their free surf lesson. No catches. No hidden fees. Boards are provided, thank you.
“It started in the early 90’s before paid surf lessons became popular,” says Island Water Sports Owner and pro surfer Cheyne Cottrell. “We do it to get people stoked on surfing and keep them from doing…other stuff.”
“Other stuff” like partying, causing trouble, or other activities that subtract from the well being of the community. Because the community is what makes IWS. In addition to the surf lessons, they host free movie nights and concerts in their parking lot. The shop, just a two blocks from the surf, is a hub for local surfers.
Big deal, you say, I hang out at my local shop too. But IWS has street cred beyond the groms that hang there. It’s more than just the place you go to lie about how your wave was.
“We work with the city a lot with different events,” Chris says. “ In fact just yesterday I met with the teen center here in Deerfield. They said, ‘none of the kids are hanging out in teen center, can you help us make it cool?’ So now we’re going to help them do events so they can attract more kids.”
IWS is a force. Chris’ dad, Kirk Cottrell started it in 1978 in a 500 square foot building in a bad part of town. Nine robberies and one year later, they upgraded to a bigger shop. Then a bigger one. Then a few more shops. By the end of the ‘80s, IWS was “going the Pac Sun route” and had more than 30 shops. But Kirk soon realized two things—the bubble was bursting and running surf shops wasn’t as fun as it used to be. He was spending more time in the office and less time in the shop and water.
Back to his roots Kirk went. He sold off all but the shop that stands today. The shop that’s 7000 square feet. The shop that has over five hundred boards. The shop that carries all the big name clothes and accessories. The shop that shares a property with a local shaper, so customers can go out back and watch their boards being made. The shop that sponsors the best surfers around and is sponsored by perhaps the biggest sponsor of all—God.
“We have bible study every Friday night,” Cheyne explains. “It used to be at the shop but it got too big for that so now we have it at the church down the street. And that’s the main reason we have the shop—to make a family friendly atmosphere and keep kids on track with the Lord. Or at least out of trouble.”
Family owned and operated. Free surf lessons. Bible studies. These things sit well with most people because Island Water Sports is giving gifts to the community. Positive experiences provided with good intentions. And while they do these things for the people, there’s a large perk for IWS, a payoff for bleeding goodwill into the world. The people from the surf lessons and movie premiers and bible studies need cool clothes and accessories. And we know where people in Deerfield turn when they need help being cool.
Cheyne Cottrell in The Pursuit
Cheyne Cottrell, David Richards, Alan Van Gysen, and Brendon Bosworth surfing Skeleton Bay.