Founder Jason Stevenson. Heath Walker, president of U.S operations: “We are an Australian company. We never lied about that.”
The Aussies are invading North County with foreign-made surfboards. “It’s like freaking locusts descending on us,” says one local surf shop owner who declined to be named. “It’s like they have a scorched earth plan as they dump boards on us from out of the country. We make more boards here in Oceanside than any other town in the United States. They are coming in and taking money from everybody, from retailers to board builders and everybody in between.”
One local tagger sprayed on J.S. Industries’ newly painted exterior.
The huge Australian-based surfboard manufacturer J.S. Industries is set to open its new U.S. headquarters in Oceanside next month at a 6,000-square-foot warehouse a half mile from the beach. The back half of the building on Wisconsin Street will serve as a warehouse/distribution center shipping out imported $800 retail boards to the rest of the country. The front of the building will sell retail to locals. And all those foreign boards, says the local businessman, could impact such longtime local surfshops as Surfride, Real Surf, Asylum, Offshore, and Carlsbad Pipeline.
The anti-Aussie sentiment spilled over last week when one local tagger spelled out on J.S. Industries’ newly painted exterior: “You fuk up! Fuck ozz! O’side. Get out!!!” The slur has since been painted over.
A T-shirt has been printed with J.S. Industries’ tractor logo that says “BUILT FOR GREED…JUST SHIT INDUSTRIES.”
J.S. Industries is taking over a building that’s been vacant for over a year. It was most recently a vintage car showcase called Pops Hot Rod Garage. J.S. painted over a longtime Ed Roth-style skeleton mural that had been on the building for some eight years.
Tag was quickly painted over.
Removing the hot rod mural did not sit well with the surf shop owner who says you should not do stuff like that and expect to connect with the locals.
“You probably shouldn’t paint over a mural like that,” says the surfshop owner. “Locals don’t react well to shit like that. If you want to come into Oceanside, you should do it soft…do it right and be humble about it. You have to earn local respect the hard way. Look at [restaurant] Bull Taco and [coffee shop] Revolution Roasters. Bull Taco got run out of town and no self-respecting local goes to Revolution Roasters.”
(Revolution Roasters opened on Coast Highway next door to the long-established Captain’s Grounds coffee house.)
A different local surf shop owner who declined to be named is only slightly less negative over J.S. Industries’ Oceanside arrival. “I feel like there’s room for everyone as long as they employ local shapers. If it’s just pop-outs from China then what the hell are they doing here? I hear a lot of what they [import] is pop-outs from China.”
Heath Walker of Carlsbad is the Australian-born president of U.S. operations for J.S. Industries. He says the surfboard-making business is on a roll. “The surf industry is booming right now. Team sports are hurting because of Covid. The only thing that’s open is the beach and everyone’s surfing. The guys who build the boards are making more than they ever have in their life.”
J.S. painted over a longtime Ed Roth-style skeleton mural that had been on the building for some eight years.
“We are an Australian company," admits Walker. "We never lied about that.” But he says J.S. Industries in Oceanside is all about being local. “The people we employ are all local. I met our gardener in the [surfing] lineup. Our painter is a ripper in the water. Everyone we employ from the electrician to the guy who made the fence is from Oceanside. I realize you can’t just show up for 12 months and get respect. We have a long-term lease and we’re here for the long haul.”
He says J.S. Industries has long supplied boards to local stores like Surfrider in Oceanside, Hansen’s in Encinitas, Hangar 94 in La Mesa and Ripcurl in PB. Last year it imported 3,000 boards into America. “We want to support all the local businesses. I surf in Carlsbad or Oceanside every day. It gives me so much joy to be here. I want to give back to this place.”
About the graffiti: “It hurts a lot, I’m not going to lie,” says Walker. “It really took a chunk out of my armor. But we are here for the long term and I know getting acceptance will not happen overnight."
The T-shirt. Heath Walker: “We tried to do it domestically once, but it didn’t work out for our brand.”
Regarding the mural, Walker says, “We want to support local history. But what we hope to do going forward is hire local artists to do a new local mural each year.”
Walker says J.S.Industries has tried to make boards in the U.S. “We tried to do it domestically once, but it didn’t work out for our brand.” He says he would like to convince the home office that it should be tried again. “I am pushing for that to happen but out of respect for all the years [founder and namesake] Jason Stevenson put into brand name, our prototypes would have to be perfect. It’s like making a Mercedes Benz in the U.S. It has to have the same quality or it’s not worth it.”
He maintains that J.S. Industries is one of the top four surfboard makers in the world along with Mayhem of San Clemente, Channel Islands of Santa Barbara and Darren Handley Design of Australia.
After 40-plus years in his old location on Cleveland Street, Gary Linden is moving his shop and shaping facility directly across the street from the new J.S. Industries headquarters. He says the new Linden Surfboards home will open in the spring.
“I’m fine with it,” Linden says of the new competition. “If you want a foreign board made overseas or a hand-shaped board made locally you now have a choice.” Besides, says Linden, business is good for everyone. “Nobody is hurting. I don’t see why anyone should be complaining. Like anything, it is not correct to blame the supplier. It’s like drugs or anything else, you should always look at the consumer. Nobody is forcing anything down anyone’s throat. I sent a message to them and said ‘Let’s collaborate.’”
Walker says he hopes going forward his fellow surfers and surfboard sellers can cut him some slack. “We’re living in a world of shit sandwiches right now. Our objective is to be a positive person in the community. It takes time.”
Walker says J.S. Enterprise boards are imported either from Australia or Thailand,Aussie but none come from China.