First surfboard shop plaque proposed for downtown MB 

The world’s first surf shop, at the corner of Ocean Drive and Manhattan Beach Boulevard in Manhattan Beach. Painting by Michael Tilden

by Kevin Cody

In 1950, the State of California created a new sales tax category, for surfboard sales. The first retail shop to be issued a sales tax license under the new category was Surfboards by Velzy. 

Dale Velzy had been shaping balsa boards under the Manhattan Beach pier until the city ordered him off the beach.

“The shavings blew into town and street sweepers used to say ‘Where did this stuff come from?’” Velzy recalled during his 2003 induction into the Hermosa Beach Surfer Walk of Fame.

Velzy moved his surfboard business a block up from the pier, to a former shoe repair shop at 117 Manhattan Beach Blvd. The location is now the Strand House restaurant.

Last month, the Manhattan Beach Cultural Arts Commission reviewed a proposal to install a bronze plaque commemorating the world’s first surfboard shop on the sidewalk where the store had been located. The proposal was submitted by Velzy’s son Matt; Bing Copeland, a contemporary surfboard shaper of Velzy’s; and Manhattan Beach resident Jaquelyne May.

The proposal was accompanied by a petition of support signed by over 700 people.

“The shop itself was tiny, and dark, and it didn’t look like much. But it represents a huge development in surf culture,” former Manhattan Beach resident Matt Warshaw wrote the commission. Warshaw is the founding executive director of the Encyclopedia of Surfing. 

Former Manhattan Beach Mayor Russ Lesser also wrote the commission in support of the plaque.

Lesser notes that legendary surfers Greg Noll, Dewey Weber, Hap Jacobs, and Bing Copeland, surfed with Velzy at the Manhattan Beach pier. “That’s one of the reasons Velzy opened the first shop right above the pier,” Lesser wrote.

The applicants told the arts commission that the plaque and its installation would not require city funds. 

Following the meeting Commission Chair Joe Marcy said the commission was generally supportive of the proposal, but it directed the proponents to return to the commission with more authentication for the assertion that Velzy’s was the world’s first surf shop. ER


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