"Former professional surfers own beer brands and real estate ventures. Instead, Reynolds is selling t-shirts and making videos."
The green-painted building at 365 East Santa Clara Street in Ventura stands alone surrounded by parking lots in the shade of an Indian Laurel.
Heavy metal shutters swing across the windows and a wrought-iron gate guards the entry. It has variously served as a property management office and a check cashing outfit.
These days, the simple building houses Chapter 11 TV Surf Shop, the latest venture from Dane Reynolds. Black block lettering on the side of the building spells out Chapter 11 TV.
On Tuesday, Justin from Left Side Designs added “surf shop” to the sign. Stickers dot the two front windows. It looks fun, homegrown, and unassuming.
Let’s go inside.
A round glass table readily at home in your grandparents’ living room stands in the center of the room. It’s an obvious thrift shop find. Piles of stickers sit on the table’s two shelves. As a grom at heart, I took the free stickers, yes.
Surf films run on the video screens, which should not surprise you at all.
A poster hangs on the wall from the premier of “Glad You Scored” at the nearby Majestic Ventura Theater, a battered single-screen movie house. There’s a framed photograph of Reynolds surfing, and a framed movie flyer from Australia. Nothing fancy.
Clothing from Former runs along one wall. The line has subdued colors, which is to say, there’s a lot of black. Reynolds pulls design elements from eclectic sources, and the current collection brings a punk-mod vibe.
Reynolds is also producing clothing under his Chapter 11 TV label, and it occupies the store’s opposite wall. Bright, playful, and mostly hand-drawn, it feels entirely different from Former. The groms seem to like it — smaller sizes were scarce.
In an Instagram story, Reynolds explains one of the designs. While sending a text to filmer Hunter Martinez during the Haleiwa comp, Reynolds told him to “Capture the moment.” At the same time, Reynolds was drawing a shooting star for one of his daughters. It’s now a cute as fuck t-shirt and hoody. I regret not buying one.
One corner holds hats and t-shirts from Trashboy, a creation from Courtney Jaedtke, Reynolds’s wife. It derives from son Sammy’s early obsession with the garbage truck, if I remember correctly. Between them, Jaedtke and Reynolds produce an almost dizzying array of clothing and art. It’s hard to keep up.
Boards and suits remain on the sparser side. A few boards hang from the ceiling with space for more. A stack of cards at the front desk stands ready for custom orders to Channel Islands. The extremely analogue approach fits. A rack holds a dozen or so wetsuits.
An opening in the back wall shows a small workspace with a four-color t-shirt printing press. It’s Saturday afternoon, and Reynolds is back there screening shirts. He looks relaxed and happy, like there are few places he would rather be. He waves a cheerful hello.
Nah, it was flat all the way down the coast. Looked like a swimming pool.
Did you check the harbor? He sounds like he’s trying to help us, like he really wants us to find surf today.
I admit that we did not check the harbor. It was so flat, you could have seen a whale fart.
We rehearse the call and response. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week. It’s the slowest winter anyone has seen in years.
We buy a t-shirt and Reynolds thanks us for stopping by and for supporting the project. It feels genuine. He wants to succeed at this thing.
Former professional surfers own beer brands and real estate ventures. They fix and they flip. If Reynolds has a real estate empire, he’s kept it a secret. Instead, he’s selling t-shirts and making videos. And standing there in his shop, he looks damn happy doing it.
There’s a quality of giving back about Reynolds’ current chapter that’s hard to resist. He created Chapter 11 TV to serve as a video platform for the local rippers. He’s one of the many partial owners of Channel Islands surfboards. (The brand passed the hat among team riders, employees, and local friends to come up with Burton’s asking price.)
At a recent film night at CI, one of his daughters held her hands over ears. She felt the music was too loud. Ten minutes later, all three kids were asleep in their parents’ laps.
Outside 365 E. Santa Clara, traffic rushes by, and around the small building, time shifts the city. Walk two blocks, and find a bargain-rate Motel 6 and a liquor store.
Walk four more and arrive at a yoga studio and a vegan restaurant with modern apartments stacked on top.
A few blocks further still, Patagonia’s headquarters sprawls across several buildings.
Green grass from the recent rains pokes up through the dirt in a vacant lot.
As I wait to cross the street, I read the sign. A six-story building is coming soon. Retail on the bottom and apartments up top, the pattern repeats. Already, there’s Playa Vista and Cora, which boasts coastal luxury living and a resort-style skydeck. Live the future. Leases available.
Earlier in the afternoon, I stood in a parking lot with a crew of women who have built home-grown brands. They had brought their goods to sell in time for the holidays: Board bags and totes from upcycled fabrics, a newly launched magazine, hand-shaped surfboards, wetsuits, and art.
“All the most important things in surfing happen standing around in the parking lot next to the dumpster,” says Kassia Meador, whose bright spark lights up films like The Sprout and who now owns Kassia wetsuits.
Meador’s energy is infectious. She convinces me to try on a wetsuit, even though I don’t need one, even though I know that I wear a men’s medium in every brand. Come on, she says. Just try it.
It’s easy to feel like surfing’s soul has drowned in a sea of soft tops and Sprinter vans. The latest private equity firm to come along buys and sells the empty shell that’s left. Pull the shrinkwrap off another one.
Did it ever exist at all? Did surfing ever have a soul? Seduced by magic images and exuberant story-telling, did we imagine the whole thing?
I’m pretty sure our battered soul still exists, stuck to us like the last chunk of wax at the bottom of the box.
It might be the guy screening t-shirts in the back of his shop and making cheerful small talk about the waves and the forecast. It might be the next generation of groms falling asleep on movie night. It might be the women hanging out in the parking lot, talking about board designs.
I think maybe we pass the beat-up remnants of that soul from one person to the next wherever we manage to find one another. It’s there in those brief moments of connection, and it’s there in the shared scripts we repeat back to each other.
Get any waves today?
Here we are, just passing time until the waves come again.