Core Store: Down The Line
Since opening in 1993, Hayle's Down The Line Surf Shop has always been a core surf shop, with surfboards, wetsuits and surf hardware being the backbone of their trade. Over the last three decades the store has developed into a true surf retail destination, particularly for surfers in the market for a new blade, thanks to their almost department-store like set-up allowing them to showcase brands in separate immersive rooms and spaces – the most eye popping of which is their JS Garage which is designed as “a physical embodiment” of the JS Industries brand where a huge range of their surfboards are on display. The team at DTL are a super friendly and knowledgeable crew, and despite it being the midst of the school summer holidays are always happy to chat surf, kit, or in this case, their history and ethos. We sat down with the manager of the digital side of the business, Ryan, to find out more about this core store.
What’s Down The Line’s origin story?
Back in 1993, Trevor Clayton founded the shop after years of travelling and surfing the globe. Trevor had been a fisherman out of Brixham in Devon, and used his savings to open Down the Line Surf Co in Hayle. The store originally started in one room inside a shopping arcade, alongside a barber, charity shop and the other usual suspects in a 90’s retail arcade. When a neighbouring shop vacated, Trevor acquired the room and DTL slowly grew until it held the entire shopping arcade space. We are still in the same premises to this day.
How did DTL come to specialise in hardware when so many other surf shops focussed on soft goods and fashion?
By having all of this hardware in one place, Down The Line has created a great spot for people to hang out, have a coffee and look at some surfboards, even if they’re not purchasing one. We also think it makes such a difference for people if they can see and feel what they’re buying, and have a really good chat over the nuances of each surfboard, rather than just looking at an image online.
Is the fact that DTL isn’t a beachfront surf shop in Cornwall part of the reason for your core store status? You’re on the way to the waves for a lot of surfers but not weighed down by selling buckets and spades. What is special about your location?
Being located pretty much in the centre of west Cornwall does help, as we are accessible from all corners of the county! Like you say, we are on the way to waves for a lot of people, which is great - people love to pop in on the way (or way back) for a chin wag about the surf, or to pick up a block of wax.
Surf shops don’t often carry many surfboards, but there are hundreds at DTL, covering more than three rooms within the store. How have you developed the relationships with those international shapers and brands, and how far do people travel to browse the racks and buy boards from you?
How has the store developed over the last three decades – how has it changed, who has worked there and what have their impacts been on making DTL the place it is today?
Well Trevor Clayton no doubt made the shop what it is today from the ground up. Trev has since sold up and has passed the reins over. Justin and I [Ryan] are now the managers of the shop, with Justin looking after the front of house and me dealing with everything digital. We are both Hayle boys and keen surfers – in fact I bought my first wetsuit from DTL when it first opened in ‘93 whilst I was still in school. I’ve worked here on and off since 1995, in-between travels, college and the like. Justin’s also been coming into the shop since he was a super grom.
What’s Down The Line’s place within the local surf community?
Most of the current team live within 15 miles of the shop and everyone working in here surfs. You’ll find half of us at Godrevy before and after work if there are waves. We currently sponsor Bude’s Reubyn Ash with JS surfboards, and Jayce Robinson of St Ives with DHD surfboards. We also support Tom Lowe, he’s a great ambassador for the shop and we help with his global travels and swell-chasing whenever and however we can.
How do you see the store continuing to evolve and serve the local and national surf community?
We’ll just continue to do what we’ve always done, and that’s hand select the finest surf brands from all over the globe and offer the best service that we can to the surfers around us. We’re proud to have the same customers still buying boards and wetsuits off us since we first opened.
We’re planning a “business” trip to Australia for this winter, if you can call it that! It’s a great opportunity to catch up with some of the surfboard shapers who we work with, have a chat, a surf and a beer afterwards. We feel that these trips are essential in creating and maintaining the positive working relationships that we have with the companies we’ve worked with over the years. Also, it’s the only way to truly see what the latest movements are in the surfing world, and what the next big thing is.
We already have orders in place with two shapers never before seen in the UK, which should be landing with us for Spring 2024. Watch this space!