Despite the proliferation of urban wineries and the obvious uptick in proudly productive workyards being turned into parking lots, the Funk Zone has once again become ground zero for Santa Barbara’s wave-riding community. For a while now, two of Santa Barbara’s surf titans — Al Merrick’s Channel Islands and Surf-N-Wear’s Beach House — have bookended the colorful neighborhood, running their businesses a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean and helping carry on a surf tradition in that part of town that goes back more than half a century. Today, thanks to a recent relocation from Cota Street down to Mason Street, Santa Barbara proper’s only other truly local surf shop situation, J7 Surfboards, has joined the fun.
“There is just more life down here and more creativity brewing,” beamed J7 co-owner Jason Feist this week about the new headquarters. “No doubt, this end of town is now the one-stop surf destination for Santa Barbara.”
For Feist and fellow J7 owner Tarik Khashoggi, the move was really a no-brainer. Their former location, just a block off State Street on East Cota, was more than serviceable for the past four years, but when their graphic designer Benny Bermudez stumbled across the “For Rent” sign on the 24 East Mason Street address late this past winter, the boys knew they had found an ideal spot to call home. Not only will they enjoy sea breezes and a ridiculously close proximity to their main competition, but the open warehouse style of the building — with its exposed beams, heaps of natural light, rustic tin roof, and plenty of parking out front — provides the perfect balance of casual and cool. Even better, after a few minor interior tweaks, Feist has also been able to relocate his shaping operations, which were formally done at a secret laboratory on the Westside, to a tricked-out new shaping bay in the back of the shop.
“Everything, from the point where we were just peeking in through the windows, to where we are today, with the grand opening this weekend, has just felt so right,” explained Feist earlier this week. Then, as if on cue, before he could elaborate, a father and son walked in the door and, after a few minutes of chit-chat, place an order for a custom J7 6‘6” after shopping the racks at the nearby competitors. While Feist was finishing up the order form, Bermudez observed, “At the old spot, most people who came in off the street weren’t even surfers. Down here, pretty much everyone who stops in is a potential surfboard customer. It’s awesome.”
And while the move is good news for the J7 family, it is perhaps even better news for the average Santa Barbara surfer. Now, not only does the average surf-minded shopper have J7, Channel Islands, and the Beach House all within a block-and-a-half of one another (stand-up paddle surfing haven Blueline is also close), but Jim O’Mahoney’s Santa Barbara Surfing Museum on Helena Street and the often surf-friendly Latitude Gallery are both a chip shot away.
Asked what he thought about being so close to such formidable competition (J7’s second-floor offices literally look into C.I.’s front door), Feist laughed, “I think a little friendly competition is good for all of us.” Then, after a short pause, he added, “Seriously though, everyone in the neighborhood has been super supportive so far. It’s great to be here.”
J7 celebrates its official Grand Opening at 24 East Mason Street this Saturday, June 18, from noon to 6 p.m. There will be live music, a BBQ, big discounts on the hundreds of surfboards in stock, and, of course, big messy servings of goodtimes. For more info, go to j7surfdesigns.com.