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Val Surf: The First Skateshop In The World

By Andres Pachon

A. Pachon, a journalist and skateboard addict, is a full-time writer for SHIT® Magazine.

 

The story begins with an urge,  a need for the trill, and the fun! California Surfers became frustrated when the waves were not any good to surf and they started developing a new style of surfing “ the pavement surfers” that was the very first rustic name that was given to these guys who decided that they needed a new way out to enjoy their free time when the sea was not allowing them to do so.

A few of them started building the first skateboards, this before any diagram or drawing of how a skateboard was built, they basically screwed together a wooden board with a set of trucks and wheels from regular roller skates and BAM! The first skateboards were born.

Shortly after this, the boards started to become more stylized as they started shaping the boards as a surfing board, of course, smaller. This could be the first trail of the DIY philosophy that became part of the industry all the way until today.

Funny enough, the fist shop that started to sell “self-produced” skateboards was a surf shop called “Val-Surf” in 1962, the hand made boards featured a small surf like shaped board and the rollerskate trucks, the process was being done with brand new products instead of old batched boards and used up roller skates that other people were using and they even featured interesting designs that could be personalized on-demand which brought a lot of attention for those looking to get into “pavement surfing” without having to build their own board.

 

 

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Val Surf Boardshop

The day was October 6, 1962, after massive amounts of effort and an initial investment of 5,000 dollars that went fully on the acquisition of the 1,200-square-foot storefront with a couple of show spaces containing some t-shirts, surfboards and a full line of self-produced skateboards.

Bill Richards, who founded Val Surf with his three sons, Mark, Kurt, and Eric, had in mind from the start, that they wanted to provide the surfing and skateboarding community with the best quality products, something that had yet to be done by the time the shop opened its doors to the delight of a thriving community that was looking to get goods to ride the “new wave” of the California youth.

 

Skateboarding Across The Nation

The founders of the shop realized that more and more people were telling their friends about the new “skateboarding” shop in California, the discipline started to spread across the USA and more people wanted to get their hands on the gear, which by then you either had to DIY, purchase from someone who made them or get them at Val Surf.

They began to mail out their products to places they never considered possible since skateboarding was somewhat viewed as a sport that belonged in the beach, but more and more people in the city started to get into it and required quality SHIT® provided by a renowned store and not that shady used up board that could break at any second. They tackled the marked at the right place and the right time.

These guys also opened the door for many others who saw the opportunity of starting a small business related to skateboarding and surfing, maybe it was not something that could be considered “good for the business” because of the competition that surged with store after store opening up as skateboarding craze grew all over the country, but this was exactly what took it to the next level!

 

Val Surf Evolution

By the time the huge merchandising machine came along, and the advertisements in local magazines were not enough to cover the expenses due to the massive amount of competition, the family decided that it was time to take a new approach, they did not drop the mail by order (at least not completely) that many other small shops took on shortly after.

They decided to stay local, create and support their scene and work along with the other skate shops of the area to make sure that local business remained that way, they realized that there is no better way of maintaining a local business than creating a sense of belonging among the local skateboarding community that saw this places as a second home, a place to know the others and most importantly, get the best SHIT®

By the time the internet came along, these guys were also some of the first in setting up their website and selling their products online, which opened up a whole new spectrum of opportunities for the company!

All of the “Business” setbacks were not able to slow down these guys and their sense of community seems to really have paid off, altho, the original store has moved a couple of times, it now remains as one of the most iconic California skate shops in business which also carries goods for surfing and even winter sports like snowboarding.

They currently have four locations very much well known by the California skateboarding and surfing community.


Valley Village

4810 Whitsett Ave.
Valley Village CA 91607

Woodland Hills
22864 Ventura Blvd
Woodland Hills CA 91364

Thousand Oaks
3055 Thousand Oaks Blvd
Thousand Oaks CA 91362 

Valencia
24140 Valencia Blvd
Valencia CA 91355

 

Due to current world events all of the stores are managing special schedules being open every day of the week from 11 am until 6 pm.

 

 

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A Family Business

From day one and up until today, this is still a family business, after Bills retirement in the late ’80s, his son Mark, took over purchasing, marketing, and advertising side of Val Surf. Kurt, spends his time between North Hollywood managing the financial aspect of the business and dealing with the banks, and the Valencia store; Bill’s eldest son, Eric travels to the four stores to check on inventories, makes pickups and deliveries, and basically keeps the stores balanced; Kurt’s daughter Denise is head of women’s buying; Eric’s son, Damon, is the North Hollywood manager and assistant buyer to Mark; Jim “Oz” Oswald, Mark’s brother-in-law, manages the Thousand Oaks shop; and Mark’s two sons also help out from time to time in the business.

As you can see, Val Surf is one of the few survivors of the economic downfall of the ’90s were not only skateparks but skate shops and overall businesses had to close, this is mainly because if the name they made for themselves for being a business-oriented for the community and the love of the disciplines involving boards! they never tried to outsell the competition and managed to stay around despite the surge of industrial manufacturing and the whole turn and reinvention of the skateboarding industry.

 

The Heart Of Skateboarding

This is just one of many stories we could find out there but the main reason we are sharing this story is for you to get some background on how important and essential skate shops are for the entire industry, think of them as a bakery for the hungry or a library for the reader.

It’s cool and all that we are able to buy many of our skateboarding goods directly from a website but it is very important to SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHOP! Without them, none of this could be possible, it is true that the industry giants no longer have the need for a physical shop since the local businesses are the ones selling their products and that’s how the industry itself survives, in this digital era and especially with the world pandemic we need to find the way to support local and independent skate shops to make sure that the industry stays strong not only during this difficult times but many years ahead of us.

There you have it my dudes and dudettes, Val Surf is the perfect example of how the importance of a sense of community can take small businesses a long way! We are proud of giving you this little piece of history made by the FIRST skate shop in the world!

 

Read also: Carlsbad: The Park that Brought Skateboarding to Life

Read also: The Soviet Skateboarding Museum

 

 

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