90 minutes away from the coast is a surf retail scene that we should all take notes from. Amongst a sea of craft beer, under a sky of grey drizzle, Portland is blind to the influence of Main St surf shops. The shops in PDX are doing it their own way and they don’t care how we do it in California.
Looking for a core shop that’s choc full of boards and accessories? Gorge Performance has enough foam to keep you dirtying up rails for an hour or two. I know because I’ve personally killed time flipping through rows of sleds.
While working in a Portland Sail Boat Shop in the 70’s, Bob Rueter was introduced to Wind Surfing. His boss had no interest in Wind Surfing, so in 1983, Bob borrowed a few bucks from his grandmother to open Gorge Performance. Over three decades later, Gorge Performance has remained relevant within the industry by continuing to add emerging board sports to the menu. The first addition was snowboarding back in 1984. Then came surfing in 1990. The skateboard department has steadily grown and evolved from the early land sailing boards Bob and the crew tried hard to kill themselves on. Most recently, stand up paddling joined the board lineup in 2006 solidifying Gorge Performance as the premier go-to shop for all things board sport in Portland,
Up North Surf Club
This is one of my all time favorite surf shops. I love this concept so much that I dream of opening Down South Surf Club.
Martin and his wife Karen decided that they wanted to open a store but were well aware of the hurdles brick and mortar faced. They decided to focus on community because that’s something the online stores couldn’t do. Being from Germany, Martin has always had a love of German beers and how beer can create community. People meeting at the bar after work or surf to just catch up and relax. So in 2017, Martin and his wife blended their love for Craft Surfboards and Craft Beer into a surf shop called Up North Surf Club.
I interviewed Martin in 2018 for Transworld Business and one of the questions I asked was “Out of all the Up North Surf Club products you make, which one sells the most?”
Martin Replied “Pretty much anything that says Up North Surf Club on it. It’s been awesome to see people choose our brand over established brands. The Pacific Northwest doesn’t have a ton of big surf brands so it’s been fun trying to create something relatable to Oregon surf and not made in California or Australia.”
Sounds like the community approach is working.
P.S. I wear my UNSC shirt all the time.
COSUBE is a boutique surf shop in Portland’s Kerns Neighborhood. Besides boards you can also grab coffees, teas, food and local craft beers from their café.
COSUBE is another PDX surf shop that’s focusing on community with weekly events from bingo, book signings, live shaping in their bay and everything in-between. I make sure to stop by every time I’m in town to see what’s new and grab a pint… or two… ok 3.
Not 100% a Surf Shop as they also carry Ski, Snow, Bike, Wake, Camp and more but defiantly worth checking out if you’re on MLK Blvd in Portland.
I haven’t been to their locations in Denver, Salt Lake City or Whistler but the staff in Seattle and Portland always greets me as if I’m an old friend. Every time I’m in the PDX location I’m offered free Kombucha and a beer. Plus, the Portland location has a stylish Middle Eastern bistro inside, called Evo Kitchen + Bar.
If anything, I feel the shops in Portland are doing a great job building communities. They have identified whom the Portland Surfer is and they are not being influenced by other markets. Do yourself a favor and check out these shops if you ever up that way.