surfer approved

Bird’s Surf Shed

Eric "Bird" Huffman has created a new kind of surf shop in San Diego

| posted on December 12, 2013
A man and his quonset hut: Eric ‘Bird’ Huffman and his cavernous surf shop. Photo: Gilley

A man and his quonset hut: Eric ‘Bird’ Huffman and his cavernous surf shop. Photo: Gilley

He says he’s not a collector—an unexpected statement considering that Eric “Bird” Huffman’s massive quonset hut is filled, from floor to ceiling, with over 1,400 surfboards. Stingers and Spoons, Noseriders and Firewires, Hot Curls and TOMOs—you name it, Bird’s Surf Shed is packed to the rafters with it.

But his place is about more than just boards—customers discovered that when it first opened in 2011. What they found was a fully functioning retail store, event venue, de facto museum, shaping room, music loft, and a place to borrow and trade equipment. But The Shed is more than the sum of its parts. What really makes it unique is its aura, and while the source of this vibe might be hard to narrow down, it probably has a lot to do with what it’s not. It’s not a store staffed by intimidating “I-used-to-be-on-the-QS”, High Fidelity–esque employees, or uber-hip “where’s-your-skinny-jeans-dude?” fashionista bros. It’s a low pressure, take your time, relaxed environment—a throwback to an earlier era, but without the stodginess. It’s an establishment run by an extremely knowledgeable, hands-on owner—a business where contracts are negotiated over tacos and a handshake.

The more time you spend at Bird’s, the more time you suspect providence at work. First the unavoidable, prolonged, neck-ache inducing act of staring at all the boards on the ceiling—pretty much the same thing people do at the Sistine Chapel. Then there’s the life-imitating-art shape of the building itself—the middle of this arched quonset hut feels like your standing in an super-sized barrel, an expansive Pope’s living room. And then there’s the completion of the Holy Trinity: The Shed’s union with the only other two surf businesses nearby—Joe Roper’s Surfboard Repair and Skip Frye’s shaping room. A strange little pocket of urban San Diego is now coated with salt-caked authenticity.

And that might allude to the only negative thing you can associate with the Shed—its location. Despite being on a major frontage road and in plain view, a tracker’s instinct is required to negotiate the alley and side-street turns to actually park there. But in retrospect, even that seems appropriate because hunting it down draws on the same skill set needed to find secret, off-the-beaten-path surf spots.

Bird claims that The Shed is well received because he sells surfers “what they need, not what they want,” which is a bold and refreshing approach to retail. No test marketing mandates or profit merchandising here—Bird knows from more than 20 years of surf shop experience that surfers can smell posers from a mile away, and can and will take their business elsewhere. Plus, as he points out, “people can find Ugg Boots and Nixon watches just about anywhere these days.” He sums up his philosophy with a simple two-word mantra: “Boards first.”

When you leave Bird’s Surf Shed, it feels a bit like leaving the water after a good session. It has an afterglow: you feel a little more buoyant and reinvigorated and proud of the surfing life you chose. And in a fast-lane, hyperbolic world, that counts for a lot, because while corporate surf shops and action sports mall box stores are constantly shrinking their surfboard inventory, a man named Bird is proudly, and confidently, flying the other way.

With so much visual entertainment, spending money at The Shed somehow feels less painful. Photo: Gilley

With so much visual entertainment, spending money at The Shed somehow feels less painful. Photo: Gilley

Tucked in obscure corners of Bird’s Surf Shed are reminders of a forgotten surf experience like…irreverent humor. Photo: Gilley

Tucked in obscure corners of Bird’s Surf Shed are reminders of a forgotten surf experience like…irreverent humor. Photo: Gilley

The view from the back—one giant tube ride. Photo: Gilley

The view from the back—one giant tube ride. Photo: Gilley

Loaded question: How many surf shops in the world have their own shaping room? Safe answer: not many. Photo: Gilley

Loaded question: How many surf shops in the world have their own shaping room? Safe answer: not many. Photo: Gilley

Can your local surf shop owner throw down a proper pig dog? We thought not. Bird in La Jolla. Photo: Gilley

Can your local surf shop owner throw down a proper pig dog? We thought not. Bird in La Jolla. Photo: Gilley

Bird’s Surf Shed has more on offer than just surfboards. Photo: Gilley

Bird’s Surf Shed has more on offer than just surfboards. Photo: Gilley

  • francisco espejo

    FANTASTIC SHOP…no words!!

  • James

    This place looks sick!

  • cleanSooke

    Nice job!

  • Big bone

    Bird is the absolute best! A San Diego legend. Anyone in the area should make a pilgrimage here, and while you’re in the area, check out Joe Ropers if you need some work done

  • Jimmy the Saint

    Nothing worse than a “surf shop” with no boards

  • Smithers

    Birds is the best. And yes it is hard to park there

  • Scott Mires

    Kudos Bird…

  • http://www.bronsonharrington.com/ Bronson

    Oh my, is this what the sled shed in surfing heaven looks like?

  • Cleber Bolha

    nice pic.
    CB

  • Mike Raney

    The Shed is the best surf shop ever and Bird really does offer a lot more than boards and gear! Nothing but aloha from that guy! So glad to see him being recognized here.

  • Kerry Prochaska

    Next time I visit my family in Coronado I will def visit this place. Amazing! Not a surf-beautique. Didn’t think that could ever exist again. Please no ‘cool’ dudes in skinny jeans w/ lots of tats or girls in cool clothes who just want to sell clothes and don’t know anything about wetsuits and boards.

    • mang

      I think part of the experience is the hot girls there. As long as they are kept in their area its good to have hot girls walking around, but in the clothes, not board section.

  • Mik

    sounds rad. i don’t get the rant about skinny jeans tho. style changes… dont get stuck in one way of looking at it. oh yeah: ur still the film only mindset. me too, except when i’m not.