Today’s posts from our featured Port Elizabeth Blogger:
He’d met Tich Paul (owner of Lifestyle surf shop in Muizies) at SA Champs a bunch of times, so when he started out he partnered with Tich as a shareholder/advisor, so that’s where the Lifestyle name actually came from. The original Lifestyle in Cape Town is still going strong.
They stocked boards by Larry Levine and Kenny Freeland (Faith), wetsuits from Reef and Zero, those were the pre-leash days, so none of that yet. Mike Larmont (Ripcurl) and Andy Thysman (JBay Ugg boots) were also early suppliers. Plenty of skateboards in stock, with sales helped by Turtle Morris and Dennis de Silva starting a local skateboard club.
After about 3 years Neil moved to 10 Main Street – opposite City Hall. Greg Smith recalls the early days “I started working at the only REAL surf shop in town, Lifestyle, when it was still in Main Str, and the smell of resin filled the air, as we used to fix boards in the cellar below the shop. Lefty was manager then, he would “charf” the meter-maids who would regularly pop in for a chat.”
Steven Adshade (aka Chappy) was still a lightie and used to come hang around after school and his first job was to empty the bins! He used to catch the bus home from Grey School and had to connect to the Bluewater Bay one in town, so Lifestyle was en-route home.
“I flunked most subjects in my first year at UPE in 1983. I clearly remember Supers being pretty good that season, or was it The Point?! I was on a “You pass, I pay” scholarship from my dad that first year so needed to find a job. I’d started hanging out at Lifestyle whilst still at school, emptying the dustbin until they felt obliged to offer me a part time job!
Neil Dorward owned the store and Tanya Weschta (Karl’s sister) was the manager. Wayne Emslie, Gavin Macaulay, Grant Myrdal and a few other skollies also use to work there. Trevor Hansen took over from Tanya as manager a little while later. We used to close up shop at 5, drive though to Jbay, surf til dark, then sleep in the car or any empty house we could find. Would wake up for the dawnie and then get back to the store to open at 9. Repeat until the swell dropped. Life in surf retail was pretty easy back then!
Ant Voster was the rep for Instinct, old man Kemp was the Bear rep.
Neil opened Beachbreak Surf & Sail in 1981, on the corner of Rink Street and Robson in Central (it’s a Nigerian café these days!) He had secured the agency in SA for the original windsurfer, so Beachbreak was a core windsurfing shop, also focusing on outdoor stuff. Vincent Davis, ex ‘Summies Ironman and big wave charger, used to run the store. The shots below are of his 21st. Check out the surf fashion!
Suntrax, another windsurfing/Hobie Cat shop run by Brian Wilson, was also in Rink Street over the road from Beachbreak, so it was shopper’s dream walking up and down the strip hustling for deals.
Th ou’s reckoned that Lifestyle had one of the biggest selection of sunglasses in town. Cool Rays were in, and Vuarnet was King. Smiler Smith chips in “And Espadrilles! Those funky Spanish slippers. Kept on marking them down but if I sold one pair it was cause for celebration….They were truly hideous! And Neil had bought tons of them.”
Hagen recalls “Still remember when grass fedora hats first became fashionable, but they were impossible to get. I saw entrepreneurship at work. Turns out fedoras are actually quite similar to farmer’s hats. Chappy sent us down to the farmers co-op in North End to buy all their stock of farmers hats. By the time they arrived back at Lifestyle, they were fedoras and they were all sold out in, like, a day!”
Lumo was in. Gotcha, Bear and Instinct were the big labels. The reversible Instinct jackets sold like hot cakes. Shaun Tomson boards were in the racks. Country Feeling was growing, and the surf market was firing.
The windsurfing industry had crashed in the early 80’s, mainly due to the rigs becoming too expensive. Following this, a lot of the windsurfers went over from sailing to triathlon, which was just coming into its own as a sport. Beachbreak started up a division selling triathlon wetsuits and time-trial bikes. Gavin Vos, a keen surfer, was working at Beachbreak at the time and headed up the bike department.
They brought it back to South Africa and gave it to Gavin to ride to work at Beachbreak every day. There was so much interest from people that they decided to start importing Wheeler and Cats mountain bikes. Despite things not taking off with a bang (their first few bikes sat on the shop floor for months before getting sold) a lot of the guys that were surfing began riding mountain bikes when there was no surf – and that’s how it grew. Probably helped by the fact that there’s often “no surf” in PE!
Never one’s to sit still, Neil and Chappy moved Radical Sports from Greenacres to the Bridge a few years later and also opened Eyeswise, a sunglasses boutique, upstairs at The Bridge. Oceans had by then also moved into in the mall and it was Round Two of the surf shops wars.
No-one will ever forget the hey-day of Rink Street surf shops. Ou’s hustling for the best deals cos competition was rife. When you could cruise the strip collecting surf stickers. The Catchit one’s were my best. Made a lekker cover for my geometry-box-turned-pencil-case.
Lumo was in. Life was good. Surfing ruled. And still does.
Thanks to Neil and Chappy for their input. All the shots and clipping are from their albums.
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