I was nine years old at the time—obsessed with surfing—and I was excited that a surf shop was walking distance from my new house. But I was a really shy kid, so it took me a few weeks to work up the courage to visit for the first time.
One day I called the surf report, a number I’ve now memorized for life (904-471-1122), and heard the voice on the recording say that if you come in the shop before 8 a.m. and mention you called that morning’s report, you’d get a free bar of wax. I told my Dad, and he encouraged me to jump on my bike and go. While the idea of walking in all alone terrified me, I gathered the courage and nervously set off.
As I pulled open the door, heart racing, thinking about how to ask about the free bar of wax, a friendly voice welcomed me inside, and my fear quickly melted away. Scott Calvin, a St. Augustine legend and Surf Station OG, was the one working that day. I’m pretty sure he could tell I was nervous and new to town, so he went out of his way to make me feel right at home. In fact, he spent an hour just talking story with me that morning, and by the end of it, invited me to go surfing with him and Brian Hornung in the state park when he got off work at 2:15 that very day. I was ecstatic! I knew right then The Surf Station was about to become an integral part of my life.
Fortunately, my parents allowed me to go surfing with Scott, and he was impressed enough with me that he drove us back to the shop afterwards to introduce me to the owner, Tory Strange, and told Tory he should sponsor me. On Scott’s recommendation, Tory sponsored me right there on the spot. Two shirts and free wax for life! When I went home that afternoon to tell my parents, I was shaking with excitement. I’ve had a lot of amazing days in my life, but that one will always rank up there with the best of them.
From that day forward, and up until I moved to California in 2011, I spent as much of my time as possible in The Surf Station. I spent more time in that shop than anywhere else in my life, maybe even my own home. It’s not a stretch to say I grew up there.
As a grom, I’d just hang around and soak up stories from Scott and Brian, as well as Bob Mosley, Tripp Turner, Tom Kiernan, Rob Fulmer, Moose Huerta, and so many more. They took me surfing and also kept me in check (I’d get red belly grom abuse for being a wuss in the water and wearing rollerblades into the shop). I also met my heroes, locals like Gabe Kling and Jeremy Creter, and superstars like Rob Machado and Kelly Slater, just by hanging around. If the guys working ever got sick of me, they never showed it. When I was 15, Tory finally gave me my first job — a job that I cherished and kept for the next 10 years. In fact, I’d typically show up early, just to hang and chat with everyone until I clocked in, and then I’d also stay in the shop after my shift ended. And that’s really the most telling thing about the vibe Tory created with The Surf Station. What other workplace would you spend just as much time hanging in, as actually working? All of my friends worked at the shop. All of my friends hung out at the shop. If we were ever looking for something to do, it always started and ended with The Surf Station. It was our Sandlot.
It’s no secret that St. Augustine has produced a ton of talented individuals that have transcended sleepy St. Augustine to do big things. Gabe Kling, Jimmy Wilson, Ryan Miller, Jake Burghardt, Dustin Miller, Jason Woodside, Lauren Hill… those are just a handful of the homegrown people crushing it in surf, media, art, film, etc. And that’s not to mention all of the talented folks out there that first came to the Oldest City to attend Flagler College. Nor is it even close to a comprehensive list.
What do all of these people have in common? Besides a lot of inherent skill? The Surf Station. They all spent varying amounts of their formative years in the shop. And while I’m not saying The Surf Station is the reason for their success, it undoubtedly helped influence and inspire them along the way.
Personally, I attribute a ton of the success I’ve had to Tory and The Surf Station. The shop — and everyone in it — helped shape my early life, and ultimately, my career. And I’m forever thankful for that.