While the Pacific Ocean is the lifeblood of Santa Barbara’s surf tribe, the Funk Zone is its undisputed headquarters. The 16-some-odd blocks that make up this part of town are intrinsically linked to the Big Blue that borders its southern side. In fact, the zoning regulations that govern much of what can and cannot happen in the zone ensure this very connection. Over the years, a laundry list of legendary surfboard shapers have fired up their Skil 100 planers and plowed foam in the various workspaces that pepper the streets. People such as Renny Yater, Lauren Yater, Max McDonald, Steve Brom, Clyde Beatty, Wayne Rich, Al Merrick, and, more recently, Ryan Lovelace and Jason Feist have all carved world-class surfboards on a daily basis in the heart of the Funk Zone.
Further, the titans of the 805’s surf-shop landscape, Merrick’s Channel Islands Surfboards (easily the most revered surfboard label in the universe) and Surf N’ Wear’s Beach House both call the area home. Add to this two separate stand-up paddle storefronts (Blueline Paddlesurf and Stand Up Paddle Sports) and Jim O’Mahoney’s impressively odd and encompassing Santa Barbara Surfing Museum on Helena Avenue, and you have a legacy and a still fully functioning ghetto of surf culture crammed into a small seaside area that is unsurpassed in Southern California.
Feist, who just this year moved his J7 label from downtown Cota Street to a Mason Street spot a stone’s throw from Channel Islands’ doors, summed it up recently with a big smile on his face: “Doing what we do, I can’t tell you how much I love being down here. I literally can’t sleep some nights because I am so excited to go to work. The history, the creativity, and the scene around us — there is just more life down here … It is good for a shaper, and it is good for business.”