Mitch Abshere is a California surfer who is the owner of Captain Helm surf shop, the Captain Fin Co., and the wetsuit company Sea Vessel. Determined to do things differently, Mitch blazes new trails and keeps surfing real. We caught up with Mitch and asked a few questions.
What was your life like growing up?
I had a great life growing up (in San Diego and Orange County). My parents were super supportive of me surfing. We lived about 30 minutes from the beach when I was age 10 to 14. They drove me to the beach about three to four times a week. My friends and I would get dropped off at about seven in morning and get picked up at dark—so all day shredding. It was a great time to just hang at the beach and surf.
When did you get your first surfboard?
I got my first board when I was 10. My boogie board got stolen at T Street … thank you, whoever stole it! That’s when I decided to try and surf. I never went back.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
Little hard to remember, but I know that I wanted to quit all sports and just surf. Nothing else mattered.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young man?
Well, when I first started there weren’t many longboarders at all. No kids rode them. Almost all my friends rode shortboards. So I was the Lone Ranger for sure. So really, older guys (which was cool because I got to learn my history). Main guys were Herbie Fletcher, Skip Frye, Donald Takayama. Herbie and Donald were my biggest. Herbie is probably one of the guys that helped keep longboarding alive. He was only guy who would put longboarders in videos and one of the only guys who would get a shot in the magazines. I don’t think he gets enough credit for what he has done.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out and why?
Montauk, New York. Joel Tudor and I went there back in the mid– 90’s. The place was awesome. Super fun waves. The town had one light and was just very private. Been to a ton of others, but this just grabbed me.
Who/what inspires you?
My wife and kids are a huge inspiration. Jesus Christ. A lot of the younger guys these days—Al Knost and Robbie Kegal. Fun to watch them and their creations.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
Being with my wife and kids is the best. Everything else comes and goes.
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
Could have been a lot nicer to people. When you’re young and living on your own, you can get into a lot of trouble.
What are you most proud of?
Being married for almost 10 years now and having two kids. Never thought I would have made it this far. Also, being sober.
With the economy the way it is and the surf industry hurting in terms of sales, what possessed you to open a surf shop now?
Funny you ask this question. Almost every person I know asked it and most of the people that come in the shop. I have wanted to open one for about 10 years. I’m trying not to fear the economy. I’ve lived my whole life doing things backwards. Why stop now? I love it—way more of a challenge. It keeps me thinking of how to get people in the shop. So when we make it through this time, I will have some good stories.
How does your shop differ from other surf shops?
Well, it’s not your typical surf shop. We sell a lot of vintage clothes along with new stuff. Kind of mixed some of my favorite stuff in one store. We have clothes, boards wetsuits, motorcycle stuff, records, etc. My plan is still for something bigger, but this is what we have for now.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Well, “meaning”? I don’t know, but I love surfing and enjoy it more than I ever have. Being a part of surfing is what I do for living. I have met some of the most interesting people and some of my best friends have come through it. Great adventure.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Well I’m a Christian and have been for over 12 years. So the fact that I know Christ, and my family, brings me the most happiness.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
Al Knost and Dane Reynolds. My feeling is their type of creativity will help keep surfing alive and inspire the younger generation to be who you want to be.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
I have a Takayama noserider that is super fun and just got a Christenson double step deck that works amazing.
I love The Ranch; any spot up there will do me just fine.
What’s your favorite meal?
Fish Joint in Oceanside. They have the best sushi!!
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
The Drowing Men, No Bunny, Half Rats and Mark Mathis.
What causes/organizations do you support?
Keep-A-Breast Foundation is awesome. My friend Shaney Jo (Darden) runs it. They are some of the most committed people I have met.
Tell me what one word you would use to describe yourself.
What are you most grateful for?
I’m grateful to be alive. There have been many times in my life that I should have died. I love waking up to my wife and kids, being able to surf and be a part of surfing .… I’ve been privileged to travel around the world and meet so many cool people.
What’s next for Mitch Abshere?
Right now, I’m working hard on Captain Fin. We are trying to put out some wetsuits next year. Also working on a new film. So, I hope all goes well.