329 Main St. Seal Beach, CA
Harbour makes the claim that their Seal Beach shop is the world’s oldest continually operating board manufacturing location.
Rich Harbour, the name behind the brand, started shaping boards back in 1959 so no matter the validity of their historical claim, they play a major role in California surf history.
Today the shop has artifacts scattered around the walls, on shelves, and hanging from the ceiling. It also has new boards on the racks, being shaped in the back, and available online. The place is not a museum but a functioning shop.
It is crowded with tourists and surfers, the two not being mutually exclusive, parking is tight, but you should visit.
1600 Pacific Ave
There are three Mollusk shops, Venice, santa Barbara, and the original in San Francisco.
They are all pretty much the same look, same stock, and same vibe, but without feeling contrived or templated.
At least not compared to the big chains or the more corporate shops with posters of sponsored riders on the walls.
This place has a weird octagonal clubhouse high up on one wall and the other wall is painted with some sort of stylized lion that is drawn to look crude but not exactly childish.
The pallet is all light wood, tan, and muted tones- which did make me wonder a little bit if this place was made for surfers or the sort of suburban instagram mom who wears tall leather boots a chunky poncho and broad brimmed hat while out grabbing a Starbucks.
I would say that woman would fit in here visually, but I don’t care because those Danny Hess surfboards are works of art.
34174 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point
Hobie opened their first surf shop in 1954, claiming to be the first in Southern California.
Hobie Alter had long been making surfboards in his garage, but with this new dedicated location Hobie the man, and the brand, stepped things up.
Hobie played a major role in not just shaping boards, but in the many ways the boards themselves shaped surf culture. Hobie helped pioneer the transition from balsa wood to foam and had a hand in shifting surfing from a local culture to a global image.
Much of how the world views California, is just a reflection of Hobie.
At the Dana Point shop you can watch a board being shaped and stand browse the history hanging from the rafters… then buy a Burton shacket and a pair of Quicksilver shorts.
In my (limited) experience, surf shops trend toward either a shopping mall version of an imagined White California, or a museum centered on a 1950’s shaper sprinkled with global brand clothing items (Quiksilver, Billabong, whatever). Not Album. Album is a functional art gallery.
1709 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA
I’m not good enough to ride any of their art nor am I smart enough to understand the science of how they work, but I know what looks good. Those boards look great.
They have somehow found that sweet spot between a late 80’s T&C Thrilla Gorilla and a prop branded by Prada that no serious surfer would ever be seen on. I don’t know enough real surfers to speak to what “they” think of Album but I do not care.
Its like how I don’t need to know real artists to like Van Gogh or know real musicians to like D’Angelo. I like Album.