Ronee and Jim Brady, pictured in the “boardroom” of the
West Coast Surf Shop, are celebrating 50 years in business.
CINDY LANE | SUN
HOLMES BEACH – There’s plenty to do at the West Coast Surf Shop a few days before its 50th anniversary, but founder Jim Brady is watching the Mavericks Invitational 2014 off the San Francisco coast online while his wife, Ronee Brady, mans the counter.
“Big waves,” the characteristically concise local boy says.
That translates to 50 feet – think five-story building. The surfers are deploying vests filled with air to bring them to the surface after being held under the crushing waves for several minutes, catching rides on Jet Skis back out to the lineup after each wave and recording it all with Go-Pro cameras mounted on helmets and boards.
Surfing has changed a lot since 1964, when Brady opened the shop at its original location near the present site of the Island Chamber of Commerce, the year after Ron Jon’s – officially the oldest surf shop in Florida – opened its Cocoa Beach store.
He’s not quite sure of the exact opening date – he was only 16 – but “All Summer Long” had just been released by the Beach Boys, and at the Manatee Public Beach, teenagers were dancing to surf music on the rooftop pavilion.
Brady, however, could be found out in the water, surfing on a rescue board, courtesy of lifeguards Dave Miller and Phil Sims.
His grandmother, Aida Brady, and his aunt, Carol Stevens, minded the store while he was out or if they weren’t available, he’d hang a sign on the door saying, “Gone surfing.” Sometimes, guys would track him down while he was in the water, asking him to sell them some wax.
In 1979, he moved the shop to its present location just south of Manatee Public Beach, across the street from the former Duffy’s Tavern.
Like Duffy’s, the surf shop is an Island icon, according to Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who worked there when she was a teenager and lived above the shop with her daughter, Janae. The Bradys were in her wedding and clothed the bridal party from the surf shop, she said.
A FEW CHANGES
Since those days, surfboard sizes and shapes have multiplied and new materials like carbon and new types of fiberglass have made boards lighter; even 12-foot paddleboards are easily carried, he said, predicting that paddleboard surfing (in waves) will be picking up in coming years, now that recreational paddleboarding and flatwater racing are commonplace.
The Bradys’ grandson, Giorgio Gomez, 18, is 21st in the world in men’s paddleboard surfing. Their granddaughter, Izzi Gomez, 14, is 3rd in the world in women’s paddleboard surfing.
“It’s good to see our grandkids liking the sport and excelling in it; that makes it worthwhile,” Brady said.
Their mom, Brandi Brady, runs a month-long surf camp each year on the beach behind the shop, beginning the week after July Fourth.
The grandkids and their mom live on the east coast now, and Anna Maria Island is getting pretty well known among east coast surfers, judging by those who come in the shop.
Brady said he doesn’t surf as much now.
“You’ve got to surf or work,” he said. “I leave the surfing up to my grandkids.”
Originally stocking boards, wax and T-shirts, the shop also carries swimsuits, flipflops, sunglasses and jewelry, long and short skateboards, skimboards, bodyboards, racks, and their newest item, surfboard covers that double as hammocks, useful on surfing safaris.
The Bradys put the store up for sale three years ago; when it sells, the couple plans to travel more and watch the grandkids compete in places like Hawaii and Dubai, and maybe keep working there part time.
Finding the right buyer takes patience, like waiting for the right wave.
“We’re in no rush,” Brady said.