Bob Wise Q&A

The owner of San Francisco's oldest surf shop on his city's surf scene and the upcoming Tour event

| posted on October 28, 2011

Bob Wise opened the first surf shop north of Santa Cruz, and he continues to serve the SF surf community today.

A self-described “old timer,” Bob Wise founded Wise Surfboards in 1968, shaping and glassing surfboards for the local surf community. No one has had a better perspective of the evolution of San Francisco surfing—he can see it all from the front door of his shop.

Wise Surfboards sits just across the street from Ocean Beach, site of the 2011 Rip Curl Pro Search San Francisco. SURFER Magazine caught up with Wise for a look into what ASP fans should expect when their focus turns to the Bay Area in November.

How would you describe the San Francisco surf scene?

I don’t think there is one, to be honest with you. There was when I was a young guy—I’m 63 now. Years ago, it used to be that the guys that surfed out here, everybody knew everybody. Most of us lived by the ocean. You really couldn’t live inland and be a surfer. When I was a young guy, if you were on the other side of town, if you were five miles away, you could miss it, you know. There was no way of knowing. So it’s a whole different deal right now. Surfers are scattered, and I really don’t think there’s a surf scene and a surf culture, per se.

That puts you in an interesting situation. No surf scene, but you’re selling to surfers. How does that work?

In the past, it was good for us, because we were one of the few. In the early ’70s, we were the only surf shop north of Santa Cruz in the state of California. But now, of course, we’ve got several surf shops in town—they’re all over the place. As far as business goes, the Internet is actually wiping most of us off the map.

That being said, why do you think Rip Curl chose San Francisco for this Search event?

I think they were looking for something that was more metropolitan than some island tucked out in the middle of nowhere. We do have good waves this time of year, although it’s iffy. And it’s iffy every year. Although if you wanted to surf here, probably the best time of the year, statistically, would be the last two weeks of October and the first two weeks of November. That was the obvious reason for picking November 1—that’s the time of the year when we have surf.

Let’s talk about that. What challenges do you think the competitors will face?

The biggest thing they’re going to face is what we face daily. It’s the cold water. You have to wear a heavy wetsuit—although if I were a competitor and were only surfing 30-minute heats, I wouldn’t wear a really heavy wetsuit. But the cold water is going to be a problem. Where they’re going to hold the contest is fairly close to the opening of the Bay, and the currents can be quite strong. And they’re not allowing them to use jet skis for returning them back to the lineup, so they’re going to have to paddle through that. I think those will be the problems. I think the wave itself won’t be a problem for them, for obvious reasons. These are the best guys in the world. You know, if my buddies and I can surf it, these guys will be able to tear into it I’m sure.

Do you have a pro in mind that is favored in these conditions? Who is your pick for the win?

I’ve looked at some of the guys. Kelly Slater is always a favorite, right? Just because he’s the guy. I don’t know. The conditions can change the whole thing. We’re talking a different level here. Every one of these guys is experienced. So I don’t know.

Is there a lot of hype in the Bay Area for the contest?

It’s surprisingly minimal now. We’ve got such a big area here that there’s always something going on, so I think the news media is not going get into it for a couple weeks. Once they start putting it out, it could go a little bonkers. The shootings, the stabbings, the Raiders, the 49ers, the sharks, there are just a whole bunch of things going on. And we’re not really a beach town, you know. So I think the hype will be a little slow in coming, but it will be full on when it happens. I think when it gets closer and the pros start showing up, things will be happening. I personally know that some of the guys in the news media are surfers. Bill Martin, weather guy from Channel 2—he’s their head meteorologist, and he’s a surfer. We’ve also got a guy from Channel 7, who’s an investigative reporter, Dan Noyes, that’s a surfer. So these guys all know about it, they just can’t constantly talk about it. They’d lose their jobs.

Click here for more on the upcoming event in San Francisco.

  • G

    It would be nice if his shop benefited from this event (long term). The upside of these events is the potential to promote small business. Nice looking shop and website. Cheers!

  • tubetop

    You should interview some of the other surf shops in the area. Small businesses could benefit if they were all included. Why is Bob the only one the media is interviewing? Could it be that he is the exclusive SF Rip Curl dealer? No surf scene? ha. Open your eyes.

  • G

    Its cool he has been around so long. His shop sells a bunch of pop out junk boards shaped by a computer and finished by a 12 year old in Shanghai. Its lame to see someone who started out shaping and glassing his own boards supporting these types of companies and then complain about anything at all. The shop was way cooler when it was on Vicente. Once they moved is turned into HSS north.

  • Rich Eve

    Bob Wise is a legend in the real SF scene like Jack Oneil is in SC. His shop might have the biggest selection of boards & wetsuits on the west coast. The people who work their know their stuff. While other shops come and go Wise has been there for the real surfers all along. We should thank him for hanging in there in tough economical times. Bob and the shop are the real deal. The negative comments are sour grapes from guys who only can dream they had a shop and business like Wise

  • Ben

    I agree on the pop out thing. It’s always surprised me how such a perceived “core” shop like Bobs doesn’t stock any local shapers or even hand crafted boards. Just a bunch of overpriced CI’s and the cheap chinese pop outs. Come on Bob, i know its about money, but really?

  • Funny Stuff, G….

    Are you calling the Mayhems in the back “pop-outs”? Folks, for the record, the possibility of a hand shaped board from anyone is llloooowww….That said,G. You better watch your back now in socal too cause Biolos is gonna be pissed now since your City ride is over. Calling Wise out? Shut it! He’s as hard core as they come. There are no other “surf” shops there, kook!

  • BVB

    I canʻt wait for the contest to end.

  • Lyle Carlson

    Go check out the Dick Brewer Balsa Guns upstairs that are for sale.

  • donniedarko

    G your uneducated and uninformed comment is a jab to all the ghost shapers who work at Lost. Also Matt shapes quit a bit. Same with CI their ghost shapers arent human. There are alot of shapers at these companies. Popout? stupid thing to say get a clue