so long Surf Shack
When my parents first bought the old Body Language we were just a family who enjoyed surfing and spent our summers vacationing on LBI so getting into the surf industry just seemed like it would be a piece of cake. As it turned out running a surf shop involved a lot more than just being at the beach and having a store full of surfboards, board shorts, wetsuits, and flip flops to sell. Fortunately and unfortunately the Island was full of local personalities that were eager to lend some advice. Some of it was good and some of it was not but without all of those people the Shack would not have turned out to be the institution that I am proud to say that I was a part of.
In the beginning we decided to have a surf team. I am not going to just name drop, that will come later, but needless to say our group of guys was pretty tough to rival. We had a pretty good competitive rivalry with Joey and his guys at Beach Nuts but what started as a rivalry quickly became a friendship that still lasts today.
It didn’t take long for us to find the perhaps the most colorful and meaningful fixture at Surf Shack, Cookie. Kevin Cook started out as just the repair guy, and then became the guy we went to for custom surfboards, and eventually we just decided to keep paying him since he never really left the store. Besides being the guy that taught me and every subsequent employee everything we know about surfboards, he’s also the guy who taught hundreds of beginners to surf, intermediate surfers to surf
well, and advanced surfers to win contests.
Besides having camps, leagues, and lessons we also ran countless tournaments. We hosted local ESA events and did special contests with Lost and O’Neill, but the Surf Series was something different. The Surf Series was a combination of an idea that I and Jose Melendez had combined with what Kenny did at Body Language way back before we took over. If you ask anyone on the Island who the 10 best surfers are under the age of 21, 9 of them probably competed in the Surf Series and half could probably say the Surf Series was their very first contest. While all of these programs were critical in shaping the surfing outlook on LBI and the legacy of the Shack, it was a contest that my Mom (Mary Miller) decided to do upon the request of a crazy group of guys from Beach Haven that left the most lasting impact on the beaches very landscape.
Odds are if you own a skimboard that is more than 4 years old it is almost definitely from the Surf Shack. The LBI Skim Jam was started by my mom with the help of Billy Wright, TJ Johnson, Bob Shomo, The Wachters, Josh Temple, and Bill Bassant. These guys were the driving force behind us first deciding to carry a full complement of high-end skimboards. The problem that then arose was this one group of guys was not enough to justify a full complement of skimming related products. My mom’s solution to this problem was to simply create our own market by bringing the sport to the Island in a big way. The Skim Jam brought the best skimmers in the world to LBI and to the Shack specifically. The world's best skimboarders have spent time hanging out in the Surf Shack, enjoying a back yard barbeque, or losing money in the house playing cards. 78x world champ Bill Bryan even stayed over at the house on more than one occasion. The contest was started to showcase the sport on the Island, but what was started as an exhibition for the Island's aspiring skimmers became an event that the local skim community quickly staked claim to. After the first year our LBI skimmers made certain that if all the skimmers were going to come to our beaches from North Carolina, Florida, and California and expect to leave with prizes, they were going to have to go through them first. The event grew to host nearly 200 contestants on a yearly basis before the event was moved north last year. If it were not for the creation of the Skim Jam, LBI’s beaches would likely be void of skimboards like nearly all of beaches in New Jersey.
It may seem like I am only painting the Shack as a place where we just ran tons of contests and programs but I guess that’s just the easiest way for the most amounts of people to remember and appreciate what the shop accomplished. It was the little stuff that gave the Shack its personality. It was relationships we had with our customers, employees, and surrounding businesses that made the Shack more of an institution on the Island than just a surf shop. We were the place you came in to brag about a good session or bitch and moan about garbage waves; we were the place you came to rest and eat in between your morning and afternoon session; we were the place you came in to watch the newest surf movie before you decided whether or not it was worth the purchase; we were the place you came to get a t-shirt from a local surf brand you can’t get anywhere else like Forth World, Jetty, After Eleven, Horsemen, Krucial, Skim Into Kaos, Free 2 Ride, and Quiver; we were the place you came to get advice on your next board from myself, Cookie, Jose, Brower, Tron, John, AJ, Jay, Jerry, Mondelli, Gorman, any one of the 3 Carey brothers depending on the year, Denny, Justin, Marciniak, Pete or Scoob.
I was planning on finishing this little piece up by listing all of the friends and family of the Shack, but to be honest I had a hard time getting past the first couple lines and realized it would be pretty impossible for me to list everyone while keeping it together. Instead I invite all of our old guy longboarders who liked to come in to chew the fat, our kids who we were privileged to see grow up, our employees who’s help never went unnoticed, our industry reps who were friends first and business contacts second, our athlete friends who never hesitated to lend a helping hand when it was asked of them, or our surfboard and skimboard shapers to post your Shack stories or what you will remember the Shack for. It was a combination of all of you guys and girls that made it what it was so I don’t want to harp on just what I remember it being—I'd rather hear it from the people who made it what it came to be. I know I forgot a ton like our Surf Shack snow trips, Surf League, after hour’s liquid shredders seshs, surfboard sidewalk sales with AJ from Cannibal, and all of the Shack parties at the house and in Beach Haven West, but everytime I think about one thing something else comes up and I guess I have to stop somewhere.
Lastly I just wanted to say thanks. Thanks for taking the time to read this and for being around the last 11 years. I invite everyone to come down to our Beach Haven store, Surf Shack South. While the energy and personality of the original Shack will never be duplicated, we are going to do our best to do the good name justice. See you in the summer.
Just one of a few hundred members the Shack family,