Surfing is made up of factions. You’ve got your WSL contest jockeys, your asymmetrical enthusiasts who sometimes ride just pieces of unadulterated foam, your surf nerds, your kooks and anything and everything in between.
More and more these days the lines to these factions are being blurred (like lots of distinctions in our global lives). So what if I told you there was a place to be a part of a community as a surfer that offers endless perks with a limitless amount of new boards you could use … and is only $80 per month?That place is called The Board Club, and it’s an Australian-style surf club hangout in Newport Beach, California that could bring a major shake-up to the surf communities within the United States. In July of 2010, Newport Beach lifeguard Ben Carlson passed away in large surf. Peter Belden was a good friend and fellow Newport Beach lifeguard for 18 years, but was working for a startup at the time selling data analytic software 10 to 12 hours a day.
The passing of Carlson hit him hard: “Life is too short, if I die tomorrow in the next big swell I’ll have spent the last however many years not enjoying what I do,” Belden told GrindTV during a sit-down at The Board Club recently.Belden then put everything he owned in storage and headed off to Indonesia for two months, followed by a trip to Australia. While in Australia he was struggling on a small wave surfboard he had with him in waves that were hollow and demanded a higher performance shape.
“I got really frustrated and wondered why I couldn’t have access to any shape I needed,” Belden remembers.
Thus, the idea for The Board Club was born. Belden went straight to work on the business plan, while also doing a lot of research at Australia’s surf clubs. These clubs in Australia are the beacons for their respective communities and offer surfers from young to old a place for camaraderie as well as access to anything they might need. “The boards are obviously a major draw, but it’s a central place to meet people and hang that draws everyone together,” says Belden.It’s important to note that this sense of community is at the core of what The Board Club’s purpose is: “I don’t want to be just rentals, that’s a word I don’t like,” he says.
With over 100 brand new boards of all shapes and sizes on offer for a member to use for up to three weeks, Belden has already gotten a good sense of what his members are looking for. Belden has worked exclusively with Orange County shapers (as well as one Santa Barbara shaper) who know the waves for that area.Opened in May of 2016, Belden also drives an Uber at night while he’s still getting things rolling with The Board Club.
At the time of the interview, Belden had 70 members who are helping him shape what The Board Club can really become. “I’ve taken the idea to this point and whatever the collective interests of the members are, it’s my job to make that happen. I’m constantly asking for feedback. We’ve got a good group of guys.”Located on 31st Street in Newport Beach, right across the street from Wild Taco, the amenities are endless: free parking, hot showers for post-surfs, movie nights, a once-a-month dinner for all members, a hangout place to watch all the WSL contests, the endless selection of surfboards to try, BBQs and so much more. Averaging one new member a day, it seems Belden is certainly onto something.
There is potential for a connecting group for members if there were clubs all throughout the country. “It only makes sense to grow it, it’s a perfect franchise model. I can’t go to Santa Cruz and say I’m starting a local surf club there. Each one would have it’s own characteristics. Anywhere you would go you’d have reciprocal membership.”Those future goals are all built into Belden’s business plan, but for now he’s cultivating the original one right in his own backyard.
“I love the community here in Newport and now I can bring my passion for surfing together with that,” he says.
For more on The Board Club, head over to their website.
More from GrindTV