Back in 1986 you’d have found Gary Rogers and Nick Noble trundling along the Lower Promenade of Saltburn-by-the-Sea with their mobile surf hire business, supplying the demands of the ever-growing North Sea surf community. Whilst the mobile business initially only ran for two months at a time over summer, the surfers of the North Yorkshire coast wanted more, so Gary and Nick opened the Saltburn Surf Shop in 1991, stocking the best wetsuits, boards, hire equipment and essentials.
As a surf shop run by a guy who made his first three wetsuits himself, they certainly know how to keep their clientele warm. Specialising in cold-water gear to suit the North Sea surfer, the iconic little red and white surf shop situated below the funicular railway is now run by father and son team Gary and Evan. With an average winter water temperature of 7.4°C, we’re proud to keep the east coast crew warm in C-Skins suits and boots (and hoods and gloves!). When the waves arrive on the east coast, Evan claims they are “the best waves in the world”, so it’s important that the North Sea riders can maximise their water time by using the warmest kit.
Co-founder Gary Rogers has been immersed in the east coast surf community since he arrived on the scene in 1977. From launching the mobile surf hire business to starting The Saltburn Open (an annual autumn surf contest for all abilities), Gary’s always got involved. Throughout the years Gary has competed in national and international competitions, being crowned British champ in 2004, taking home 13th place in the Puerto Rico World Championships and achieving 2nd place in the British Longboarding Championships in 2007. To this day you’ll find Gary in the water whenever the conditions allow, be it sliding along knee-high ripples out front or charging triple overhead waves at nearby breaks.
Son and co-owner Evan learnt to surf at the age of 7, taught by his dad. After travelling extensively to all corners of the earth, snagging the title of British champion twice and taking silver in the junior longboard event at the European Championships in Morocco, Ev headed home to Saltburn. Joining his dad at the surf shop, he now loves nothing more than surfing his home breaks with his friends, with an occasional trip to Thurso thrown into the mix every now and again when the charts look good.
The close family bond within the business is mirrored by the tight knit community that surrounds the store. The east coast surfers are a loyal and committed bunch, and surfing in the North Sea isn’t for the faint hearted. With water temperatures rarely exceeding 14°C, even in the summer, you have to be dedicated to the sport, as the frigid waters aren’t always that enticing. With the aim of getting more and more surfers in the water Gary piloted the Saltburn Autumn Open, a local competition for all ages and abilities. The categories are broken up into Open, Longboard, Seniors, Womens, Juniors, Rookies and Groms, with prizes being donated by the surf shop and local businesses. Entry is £7 for juniors and a tenner for adults. Each year the Saltburn locals are joined by the Tynemouth and Scarborough crews, for a weekend of surfing, wave watching and pub-crawls. Whilst the waves can be hit or miss on the east coast due to their small swell window, with a close eye on the forecast, judges and organisers from Saltburn Surf Shop always make the call that if there’s waves, the comp goes ahead.
The fact that the surf isn’t guaranteed may be one of the reasons that the core surf crew of the northeast are so dedicated. Home to sand bars, barrelling reefs and heavy waves, when it’s on, it’s on. Whilst the brown, chilly waters are far flung from the crystal peelers of surf mags, you’ll be hard pushed to find such a stoked, steadfast bunch of locals anywhere else in the world. So when you next pass through the little town of Saltburn-by-the-Sea looking for a surf report, a new wetsuit, a hire board or a friendly face, we’d recommend dropping into the Saltburn Surf Shop.