JP St Pierre is the owner/operator of Surfy Surfy in Leucadia, California – a retail shop dedicated to bringing the best surfboards to the world. If you have ever met JP or read his popular blog, you would already know that he orbits in an amusing blend of humor, Star Wars trivia, and Bonzers. We spoke with JP to learn more.
What was your childhood like?
I was born in 1970 and grew up in a neighborhood called Tortilla Flats in Leucadia. Back then the town was all flower growers, horse ranches, and agriculture. The population was less than 30,000. The street I grew up on was a dirt road and I remember them paving it when I was 3 or 4. Most of the neighbors were immigrants from Mexico who worked for Ecke Ranch which is famous for it’s poinsettias. Everybody had chickens and threw huge barbeques on Sundays. We also had gang violence which just seemed out of place for a small funky hippy surfer town. My parents still live in the same house I grew up in and the Hanels have lived across the street for 35 years.
I was heavily obsessed with dinosaurs, comic books and Star Wars when I was a kid. My friends and I had a lot of freedom to roam and we spent our days exploring the back canyons finding fossils and Indian artifacts and hanging out at the beach for hours and hours. The vast majority of our old stomping grounds are now paved with hundreds of identical tract homes and a Target shopping center.
When did you get your first surfboard?
I learned to surf on my Mom and Dad’s single fins in the inside Swami’s reform in the 70’s. In the early 80’s I rode hand-me-downs from my Dad’s team riders. My first real custom GH shaped me when I was 15. My Dad taught me how to tape off and airbrush it. It was 5’10″ squash tail thruster. We painted a little gecko on the bottom which was kinda my thing there for awhile.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
I clearly remember my first real wave. I clumsily took off in the white water at inside Swamis and it reformed into this long crystal clear glassy wall. It was a nice summer day. I somehow hooked up into trim and was suddenly going about a 1,0000 miles an hour. The pure giddy surf stoke sensation I felt on that wave has only happened to me once again in life, getting blown out of a huge green barrel at Pascuales in Mainland Mexico in 1988.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a child?
Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Tom Curren and my Dad are still my heroes.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
The greatest thing I’ve learned is that all the corny clichés about life they teach you when you are a little kid turn out to be true. That hard work, honesty and family are the greatest things in life. It’s actually pretty simple when strip it all down to the essentials.
What are you most proud of?
Working off the context that pride is not a sin, I’d say I’m most proud of my wife Yvonne for everything she has accomplished in her life and her career. We’ve been married for 12 years and have two young boys, ages 4 and 2. Yvonne went to architecture school for the first 5 years we were married so we never saw each other, it was hard but worth it. Now she is a project manager at a firm that does large-scale projects and has her own side gig where she does super cool home remodels and businesses. She did the restoration of our historic 1926 building that the surf shop and the coffee shop are in. She calls her style Rustic Modern. She does cool, functional and affordable designs. She is very humble so I have to do all her promoting for her.
The first year we opened Surfy Surfy we also had a baby. Looking back, opening a new business with no money in a recession and having a newborn and a 2 year old was a completely crazy thing to do. I can’t believe we survived.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Surfing is my life. I can’t comprehend a life without surfing. I was born and raised in full on surf culture. My mom and dad taught me to surf when I was kid. I grew up in a surfboard factory – first, the factory downstairs at Sunset Surfboards, which is the shop Surfy Surfy is modeled after, and then Moonlight Glassing which was established by my Dad, Peter St Pierre and his crew in 1979.
Surfing has given me all of my friends. There are waves that are permanently burned into my memories. I love surfing and surfboards. I worked full time at Moonlight Glassing sanding and polishing surfboards for 20 years and now we have the surf shop, which is total, surf immersion all day everyday.
These are interesting times for surf culture. Tumultuous times. Surfing is changing rapidly and there are a lot of bad influences in my opinion. My goal is to be a positive influence.
Of all the interesting places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
This might sound goofy but there is no place like home. I love my little funky hometown of Leucadia, which is the northern part of Encinitas, a still small but swiftly growing beach town in northern San Diego county.
The waves range from mushy fun to terrible, but it’s really quite beautiful here in it’s own way. I made a serious commitment some years ago to get politically and socially involved in the town I grew up in. My friend Kevin Cummins and I run a local political blog called theleucadiablog.com which follows our city council and acts as a taxpayer watchdog. I started attending city council meetings, wrote editorials and letters to our local newspapers and joined the Leucadia Mainstreet Association. A lot of people I grew up with have moved away, but I made a conscience decision to stay raise my family here.
The surf shop and coffee shop are a realization of two separate dreams, one to be a positive influence on local surf culture and two, to be part of the revitalization of our neglected historic coast highway commercial corridor.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Hanging out with my wife and two boys on Sundays. I work 6 days a week so I really enjoy my Sunday family time.
Who are some of the individuals you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
In the Surfyverse there are several key talented shapers I admire. Gary Hanel, Malcolm Campbell, Manuel Caro, Rich Pavel, Mike Slingerland, Chris Christenson, Brian Fredrickson, Ed Wright, Bob Harvey, Josh Hall, Tyler Warren, Daniel Thomson, Ryan Burch and Dennis Kane. This is a short list of course and a mix of generations. I once made a list of all the shapers I want boards from and it’s almost 100 deep.
Gary Hanel I feel cracked the code on blending retro templates with progressive rails, rocker, bottom concaves and fins. The great thing about blogs and message boards is that people can now learn about underground shapers like GH.
When the monthly print magazines were the only surf media, surfers only got a limited view of what was out there. Now surfers have access to pretty much every shaper in the world. I enjoy blogging boards from guys like Mike Slingerland who has been a true craftsman since the 1960’s, but aren’t Internet savvy himself. I started the Surfy Surfy blog in 2005 and we’ve now have done over 3,000 posts. The vast majority of them are simple photos of surfboards that I like. It’s a simple concept and I still blown away that my low-tech surfboard blog receives thousands of hits a day. But surfboards are powerful objects. Surfboards are the ultimate blend of function and art. There is nothing else like them in the world. I believe that surfboards are truly important and we need to document these things.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite spot?
The surfboard that changed my life is the Campbell Brothers Bonzer. I saw my first 5 fin Bonzer in person in 1988. Tim Elsner showed it to me. My first impression was wow, that is really futuristic but then my mind snapped shut due to being an ignorant teenager and I decided it looked weird and that a modern surfboard was a thruster and a thruster only. A year later my Dad wisely insisted I ride one. My first session was leashless on a perfect glassy A-frame August day in trunks. It was a 6’0” 5 fin shortboard. The speed and drive just blew my mind. I did the best roundhouse cutback I had ever done and then I was hooked. I surfed for 6 hours straight, got super sunburned and dehydrated. I remember walking to an ice cream shop after my session and devouring 2 ice cream cones because they were 2 for a dollar and I only had like a buck fifty on me.
I ride a diverse quiver of surfboards, but the Campbell Brothers Bonzer is the cornerstone of my surfing existence. Thank goodness Malcolm and Duncan have stuck with the design for over 40 years.
What’s your favorite meal?
I’m not a foodie. I basically exist off burritos like every other surfer in southern California. Now that I’m in my early 40’s I need to start eating better. I should probably become a vegan and start doing yoga or something.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
I don’t have any music on my iPod. I do have a rather large collection of vinyl records I’ve collected from thrift stores. But my 2 year old son broke the arms off my turntables so the records are out of commission right now. I listen to a lot of loungey stuff on Pandora internet radio. Pandora can actually be a bit frustrating but I’m sticking with it. My favorite album is Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream and Other Delights if that tells you anything. The last rock band I was excited about was The Black Keys. They have broken through to the mainstream now which means I’m not supposed to like them anymore – but I still do. I like jazz and electronic music too.
At Surfy Surfy we have a tradition of hosting live bands on weekends and we are going to expand on that with the new coffee shop open next door. You can keep track of our live events through the Surfy Surfy Facebook page.
What causes/ projects/ organizations do you support?
I support Surfer Labor. It is my strong and passionate belief that surfboards should be shaped, glassed and sanded by surfers for other surfers.
What’s next for JP St. Pierre?
Surfy Surfy surf shop is nearing our 2-year anniversary. It’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears getting it to this point. The first year we opened something like 150 businesses in the city of Encinitas shut down. It was heavy. Year three for Surfy Surfy is extremely important. The plan is to continue onward and forward, learn from our mistakes and continue to keep the stoke going. Our customers are the greatest people on Earth and have been patient with us. It’s more like a movement than just a retail shop.
I’ve got a good support team behind me including the best surf shop manager in the world Summer Nelson. Summer learned to surf on my old surfboards. Her brother Dave Thomas is my oldest surf buddy and part owner of the shop. You won’t find more down to earth sincere surfers beyond Dave and Summer.
Surfy Surfy is about authenticity, real surfers doing real things. We are going to continue providing the best surfboards in the world to our fellow surfers and that’s an exciting thing to be a part of.