I live at the beach. On many weekends, I am one of the lucky few who don’t even get in their car! So, why am I driving to the Valley to check out a surf shop? A surf shop in the Valley — isn’t that an oxymoron? But, my friend assures me I have to see this place. He says it’s not just a surf shop and that they have the coolest clothes around. He’d better be right, or this shop is gonna see the ugly side of a beach girl gone inland.
As I merge onto the 101, hives materialize on my arms. Have I really driven over the hill — for a surf shop? Down in the Valley, the air is Africa hot and I know I’m past the point of no return. I search for Valley Village. How is it that I’ve lived here for years and never even heard of Valley Village?
Off Riverside on Whitsett, I find my destination and pull into the parking lot. Did I say parking lot? That’s nice. No combing the street for a spot with a meter, or digging for change. It’s a good thing, too, because it’s about 1,000 degrees over here.
At first glance, Val Surf looks like any other surf shop. GRRRR. But when I enter the thankfully cool store, a smiling salesperson greets me. Yes, smiling. Where are the tattoos? The grumpy, “cooler than thou” attitude practiced by most West Side surf-shop employees? The staff is young, but they seem to genuinely want to help, and appear to have eaten happy pills. As an over-25 surfer, I almost feel welcome here!
Now for the real test — the goods. I peruse a good range of boards for every type of surfer. They’ve got Lost, Roberts, and CI — longboards, shortboards, and the ubiquitous “funboard.” I was most fascinated by the 6-foot-6-inch, 4-inch-thick fish and wished I could watch somebody try to duck-dive it. Board bags for day trips or travel are in the corner. Wow, they even have lots of wetsuits for all seasons, mostly O’Neill, my personal favorite. And more than one in my size! That’s impressive because the last time I needed a suit I went to three stores before I found one that fit me. The hives begin to vanish from my skin.
Val Surf carries skateboards and snowboards, too — a store for all seasons. I go over to check out the variety of skateboards, and brace myself for impact with the skateboard staff. Another smile? Knowledgeable, and nice? I don’t skate, but it looks like you can get all the gear you need to cruise your street or get on ramp for potential suicide. I like my landings a little softer than concrete, but if I get adventurous, I know where I can get pads to protect my every joint.
Disappointingly, the snowboard room is being revamped on the day of my visit. They assure me that you can get whatever you need for a weekend on the mountain. Did I mention that they also do rentals? Both snowboards and surfboards. That sounds better to me than standing in line at the Mountain Shop or trying to wrangle up a board on a hot day at the beach.
On to the clothes. First, the men’s. Have surf clothes gotten hip, or has this shop got better buyers? I see cool jeans and I must admit, I’d buy my guy a shirt here. In fact, there are more diverse clothes in here than I’ve seen in any other surf shop. Ahhh, are surfers breaking out of the baggy, oh-so-dirty look? Or is this just a reflection of fashion-conscious L.A.? Who cares? I like it!
Now, for my favorite — clothes for me! Val Surf has a selection of sandals I can barely take in. Dresses, skirts, and bikinis, oh my! Besides the irritating corner of Paul Frank stuff — a necessity for kids, I guess, but I hate that damn monkey — I’m loving the selection of everything from Roxy to UGG.
I can get my surf stuff and satisfy most of my fashion needs! SoCal is all about casual, right? After spending more than I’ll make writing this article, I ease out of the store, rudely awakened by the fact that I am still in the Valley and 1,000-degree heat. Run for the beach!
I’ve gotta say, I’ve been in a lot of surf shops. This was easily one of the best, and not just for surf. Shopping as it should be! The next time I need wax, I might just find myself driving over the hill to my new, favorite inland destination.
Val Surf, 4810 Whitsett Ave., Valley Village, (818) 769-6977, toll-free (888) VAL-SURF.