Before Josh Bernard was the CEO of Surf Ride, he was a shop kid. At only 12 years old, he’d climb the shelves in the back of Surf Ride’s flagship store in Oceanside, California, grabbing shoes for the customers of his father and uncle’s store. “I used to spend all my time in the shop,” says Josh. “People would ask, ‘Aren’t you a little young to work here?’ I was just hanging out.”
Josh’s father, Bill, and his twin brother Richard founded Surf Ride in 1974. Avid sailors and surfers, they originally opened it as a Hobie Cat dealership. As sailing business waned and surf gear grew more popular, the brothers transformed the store into a thriving surf shop, with one of the most robust surfboard selections in North County, San Diego. In 1984, they tore down the 800 square-foot adobe where they founded the business, and built a 7,500-square foot store that still serves as Surf Ride’s main location.
Forty-six years after its founding, Surf Ride continues to be a family business. Josh runs the business, and his brother Dustin shapes boards for the store’s SR/MFG surf label. Their dad and uncle are largely retired (but still chasing waves), and their mom and aunt continue to help behind the scenes. They’ve added locations in Carlsbad and Solana Beach, but Surf Ride’s roots are still in Oceanside.
“The surf community in Oceanside are super passionate surfers,” says Josh. “It’s a really core surf community, and they’re really loyal to the store.” For this reason, Surf Ride has managed to remain a core surf shop, focusing on hard goods like surfboards, wetsuits, traction pads and leashes at the center of its business, rather than pandering to tourists. “People come for the surfboards,” says Josh. “Eighty percent of our customers come from within a 10-mile radius.”
Josh and Dustin aren’t the only ones who grew up at the shop. Former Reef President Jeff Moore’s first job as a grom was at Surf Ride, sweeping the parking lot and restocking wax. Reef’s sales manager, Aaron Coyle, used to manage the shop, and was even roommates with Josh for a while. “Reef has always taken really good care of us and supported us,” Josh says.
But the most important relationship at Surf Ride is the one they share with their community. Surf Ride sponsors many of the local surf and water polo teams and donates as much as it can to local churches and organizations. In turn, the community’s support has made all the difference as the business temporarily shut down in the spring due to Covid-19.
“It was very scary in March,” says Josh. “We shut down for about two months. But since then business has been better than ever. I think the community has been realizing that we have to stick by these small businesses otherwise they’ll shut down. They’re really backing the places they like.”
“Especially during these times, having a family-owned business that can support the community, and the community can support it, is something awesome to hang onto and that we don’t ever want to lose. Keeping family owned is a big part of that.”
~ Josh Bernard, Surf Ride CEO