The calendar may say it’s almost summer, but dip your toes into the ocean next time you’re at the beach and the freezing ocean temps are sure to send you scrambling back up the shore–not like that’s going to stop our little beach bums from spending an entire day playing “don’t touch the wave.” For those seeking to get off the shore and into the swells, you’ll want to be properly outfitted before paddling out to catch your first waves. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the Bay Area’s best surf shops to gear up your groms (that’s slang for young surfers). Staffed by local surfers and expert sales people, these shops have all the suits, boards, and wax you need to start hanging ten while keeping them from going numb.
Aqua Surf Shop
You can see Ocean Beach right from Aqua Surf Shop, so the family can get everything they need and into the waves in no time. Like any true neighborhood store, this cozy place knows their products and they’re happy to share their knowledge in a mellow but expert way (one of the owners is a dad himself). They have a reasonably priced selection of boards and wetsuits for rental—a lot of parents who shop here also end up renting wetsuits for kiddos to use during swim lessons at local pools.
Bonus: the San Francisco Zoo is right across the street! (Go for it!)
2830 Sloat Boulevard
Northern Lights wants to remind everyone: “Why shop at some corporate mall? Support your local surf shop!” This is the place to do it. They have everything right down to the smallest surfer details for the littlest of surfers-in-training: boards and even posters, magazines, jewelry, and sunblock. In case your kids decide they’re into land more than water, be sure to ask about their “buy back” program. (If only music stores did that with tubas.)
17191 Bodega Highway
Here’s your classic surf shop in an iconic beach town. The store is located on the main strip of Stinson Beach with a big selection of gear—for buying and renting—and the knowledge to help your kids and family find the best board, wetsuits, and accessories at whatever their level. When you’re done, head across the street straight for the beach!
Insider tip: try to go early to get suited up; they seem to get busy in the afternoons during peak season and in this tiny surfside town, parking in front of the store can get tricky.
3448 Shoreline Highway
2 Mile Surf Shop
In the small surfing community of Bolinas you’ll find 2 Mile Surf Shop, a store that caters to all kinds of water lovers. If your kiddos want to try an ocean sport but are on the newer end, you’ve found the right place with their broad collection of new and used boards (surf, skim, boogie, paddle), for purchase or rent. Ask them about surf camps for kids and even group instruction. The best part? When you’re done, the waves are only 522 steps away.
22 Brighton Avenue
Sonoma Coast Surf & Skate
Before visiting Sonoma Coast Surf & Skate, have your kids watch the “videos of the week” on their website, which is sure to rev them up. This store is on the smaller end but it doesn’t stop them from providing a range of rash guards and wetsuits for kids, and friendly staff to help them find the right fit. When the shopping’s done, you’re lucky to be right in the middle of walkable downtown Petaluma, where along the same strip you’ll find Fruit in Motion (smoothies of all kinds) and even Brian’s Comics (reading for all fankind), so everyone’s happy!
9 Fourth Street
Surf, skate, art—even music lessons and beach clean ups—Proof Lab has it all. They’re compound-like with separate areas for different needs (rentals, clothing, even skate lessons) so there’s a ton to see and choose from. They host events year round, everything from crab feeds to ping pong tourneys and skate contests. When you’re done shopping, check out GROW, an art and garden education center founded by Proof Lab and conveniently located right next door.
254 Shoreline Highway
NorCal Surf Shop
Where else would you go surf shopping in Northern California other than a place called NorCal Surf Shop? This Pacifica staple stocks over 200 surfboards, not to mention an added bonus of all kinds of gear for your skaters-in-training too (right down to the half pipe in back where they teach lessons). Kids have plenty to love about this place, plus the store has rentals and lessons to get your family into the ocean right away.
5460 Coast Highway
Photo credit: all images by Mae Respicio.