Mark McDermott

Best Dive Shop

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Dive N' Surf co-founder Bob Meistrell (second from right) with kids and grandkids who have kept the waterman/woman spirit alive in the South Bay. Photo by Kevin Cody

Best of the Beach logoDive N’ Surf – Dive N’ Surf is more than a dive shop and even more than a local institution. It is quite arguably the epicenter of the water sports industry, the place where two hardscrabble twin brothers from Missouri made their stand in 1953, helping launch a water-going revolution that would change Southern California forever.

Bob and Bill Meistrell made the first practical wetsuits – made from neoprene, and called Body Glove – the very same year they opened up Dive N’ Surf with their buddy Bev Morgan. In the beginning, they were lucky if they sold $100 worth of gear a day.

“We all worked five days as lifeguards and spent our two days off working in the dive shop,” Bob Meistrell recalled. “$100, $200, then $500…it just kept going up.”

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The dive business wasn’t enough – there weren’t many divers back then – so the shop quickly diversified. They dealt Boston Whalers, Johnson motors, and Thunderbird Formula boats. The Body Glove wetsuits, meanwhile, suddenly opened the ocean up to surfers and divers year round and helped spur the creation of the California beach culture that we know today.

But even as Body Glove became a worldwide brand and corporation, the unassuming little Dive N’ Surf shop in Redondo Beach persisted. Eventually, Bob’s son Robbie Meistrell would take over, get the shop out of the boat business, and continue diversifying into apparel and surfboards as well as an ever-expanding array of dive gear. It’s annual “Yard Sale” has become a staple of local surf culture, and the shop continues to diversify, often in unexpected directions.

Bob Meistrell, for example, recently saw a high-tech toy helicopter at a convention and couldn’t resist selling them in the store. He may be 82 now, but his appetite for trying new things has not diminished.

“These things are flying off the shelves!” Meistrell said. “Every time I go in the store, I sell one. That’s my goal.”

But the core of the business may be something that isn’t even a product: the shop remains a reflection of the Meistrell family’s straightforward passion for the ocean.

“We treat people right. And it’s not just the family, it’s our employees.” Meistrell said. “Word of mouth is the best advertising tool, because it spreads like wildfire if you do something right, and it spreads like wildfire if you do something wrong, too….So we try to be honest, make a little profit, and we survive.”

504 North Broadway, Redondo Beach, 310-372-8423, www.divensurf.com

Runner-up:

1911 S. Catalina Avenue, Redondo Beach, 310-373-6355, www.seadsea.com

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