Gary Linden at store. "I was bummed out for a while."
Surfer Brian Thompson had not yet heard the news: Linden Surfboards was getting squeezed out of the Cleveland Street headquarters in Oceanside it has used for 43 years. “It’s ruining years of culture,” says Thompson, 21, while working his night job at Best Pizza. “He’s been shaping there for years. Linden Surfboards is legendary. Three-story condos in that part of Oceanside just doesn’t sound right. More kooky people coming in.”
"I have an office on Wisconsin Street which I will probably use as my showroom."
It might be Oceanside’s new unofficial general plan: More kooks. Fewer icons.
Most locals will tell you that Oceanside’s two most recognized surfers over the last 50 years would probably be the late longboarder Donald Takayama and Gary Linden who has been shaping boards at 1027 Cleveland Street since January 1, 1978. Linden founded the Big Wave Tour in 2009. He was on the board of directors of the Association of Surfing Professionals for 16 years, and president for three. He’s judged contests around the world. Linden’s niche for the last 25 years was making boards using the stocks of the Agave plant.
At 70, he still surfs the big breaks at Dungeons, Todos Santos, Waimea, Mavericks, Nazare in Portugal, and Jaws in Maui.
Linden has been told he has until March when he has to give up the shop he’s occupied over six different decades. He estimates he has hand-shaped over 30,000 boards. On August 24 the Oceanside Planning Commission unanimously approved another modern-looking condo complex for Oceanside’s once funky Cleveland Street west of Coast Highway that been a mix of classic bungalows and offbeat businesses including recording studios, tropical fish shops, an ice factory, and the bottler of Delaware Punch.
At 70, Linden still surfs the big breaks at Dungeons, Todos Santos, Waimea, Mavericks, Nazare in Portugal, and Jaws in Maui.
Linden’s shop and the adjacent two properties will be razed to make way for a three-story, 16-unit condo project built by Hall Land Company of Solana Beach which has already built a number of condo projects on Cleveland Street and has more in the pipeline.
“It looks like Cleveland Street is going to be all condos by the time we’re finished,” Oceanside planning commissioner Curtis Busk said at the Monday meeting that sealed the fate of the Linden Surfboard building.
But Linden is not folding up shop.
Mark Cappa at Stay Covered
“When this building was sold about a year ago, I was bummed out for a while. I wasn’t planning on moving any time in the next 30 years. I want to live to be 100. But I’m 70. I still have energy. I think I can move and make everything work.”
But the details on Linden Surfboards are still to come. “I haven’t sorted it all out yet. I have an office on Wisconsin Street which I will probably use as my showroom. I may move my shaping room to Valley Center.” Linden says he has over 200 boards he will have to sell or find storage for. “We have a few from each era.”
Linden has over 200 boards he will have to sell or find storage for.
Linden stays stoked. “It’s all good. Why should I be bummed? I’ve surfed all over the world. Like they say in Australia, change is as good as a holiday. I want to see what’s behind the next door that opens up for me. I’m sure it’s going to be good.” Linden says he has no plans to change his routine of surfing every morning. At 8:30 he’s usually at the end of Oceanside Boulevard.
Linden was raised in Clairemont and graduated from Madison High in 1968. After living in Brazil and Ecuador, he bought a house in Carlsbad the year after he opened Linden Surfboards.
During his 80s salad days, Linden says he had four other full-time shapers turning out boards. That’s when he made overtures to buy the Cleveland Street building.
“I wanted to buy out the landlord but he didn’t want to sell.” Linden says that opportunity did come in 1991 when his landlord died. “But by then I had this clothing company that was running up a lot of bills. I had a secretary that was embezzling money, and my Hawaiian shop went from selling 400 boards a year to a couple of T-shirts a month because the Japanese economy had tanked. It all hit me at once. When the opportunity came to buy the building, I didn’t have the money.”
Linden’s niche for the last 25 years was making boards using the stocks of the Agave plant.
Not at all happy with the Cleveland Street condo invasion is Linden’s business neighbor Mark Cappa, owner of Stay Covered which makes and distributes surf leashes worldwide. “They have decided to put these cookie cutter condos all up and down this street… I’ve been here since 1997. I’m a surfer so it’s been really good for me here. I can just walk to the beach.” Stay Covered, which sells other surf accessories, will stay in Oceanside at a site Cappa has yet to find. “I’m real proud that I’m one of the only leash companies left that still manufactures in the U.S.”
The surfing industry continues to thrive in Oceanside, but most of it is east of I-5. Some 20 independent shapers still turn out custom boards throughout the San Luis Rey Valley. Australian surfboard company JS Industries is opening an Oceanside branch, and insiders say the surf-oriented Stab Magazine is planning to move to Oceanside.
Meanwhile, Tom Rosales, chairman of the Oceanside planning commission, says he is not completely happy with the fact that those classic Cleveland Street bungalows from the 20s, 30s and 40s are destined to get razed along with Linden’s shop.
“I understand the need for new housing,” says Rosales. “But I also wonder if there wasn’t something we could do to save the character of downtown Oceanside. But there is nothing on the books that would allow us to save them. Couldn’t we have a balance?”