Right from the beginning proper surf shops were cultural hubs where the disparate strands of surfing crystallised. And in a tradition revived, when Mollusk opened in San Francisco almost a decade ago, the heart of Northern California’s alternative surf culture began to beat. Founder John McCambridge is part curator, part businessman, part open-minded ambassador of stoke for the region. And the influence of independence and originality he pioneered continues to seed surfing’s more inclusive environs.
When we first opened Mollusk in the Ocean Beach neighbourhood of San Francisco in 2005 I was really lucky to have a talented and motivated group of friends to help solidify the vibe. We’re a surf shop, but more than that Mollusk has become a place to gather, to show art and to meet people as well as to buy boards and other surf stuff. Some of the key people in the beginning were Jay Nelson, Thomas Campbell, Tyler Manson and Kyle Field. Each of these guys brought a creative group of friends that got involved. Before we knew it the network of surfer/artist/filmmaker/musicians was stretching out all over the place.
It was a great piece of timing where you had all these people that were obviously talented and skilled but not too busy or jaded to get involved with this surf clubhouse/utopia/fantasy. That network has been spreading ever since.
I love San Francisco. It’s a unique city in the fact that we are a dense, walkable urban environment that has pretty decent waves in town and is within an hour of some really epic spots. There is a real live-and-let-live attitude here coupled with an educated and fairly transient population. As a general rule San Francisco is not stuck in it’s ways. I think that’s why you see so much innovation coming out of the Bay Area. For the most part San Franciscans aren’t interested in mass consumerist culture too, which makes a perfect environment for creating a bespoke store.
San Francisco has this really great counter culture history, too, mixed with a gold rush mentality. There have been many different communities here who have found a place to flourish – from Native Americans, 49er’s and timber barons to beatniks, hippies, gays, anarchists, mission school, dot-com, electronica, bio-tech, social media, farm to table folk. It’s a place where people come to break out of social norms and reinvent their culture. There seems to be a real overlapping of disciplines here that create new sub-categories. I think Mollusk is a product of this.
Another thing that can’t be overlooked in what we have done is the importance of the boards that we stock. Before we opened San Francisco hadn’t ever had a shop that specialised in alternative shapes by marquee underground shapers. There wasn’t a place where you could go to buy wider, flatter, longer – different kinds of boards for different conditions and different types of surfing style. The opening of people’s minds to riding alternative boards starts conversations which in turn sparks new ideas, alternative attitudes. The boards really serve as the campfire of stoke that we all gather around.
Check out Mollusk Surf Shop.
Our Bay Area Blood web series expands on a feature that originally appeared in Huck 44 – The Tommy Guerrero issue. Grab a copy of the mag for more on Tommy G, San Francisco and culture-shapers of all kinds.