Numerous successful, renowned businesses of our time - such as Apple, Amazon, and Harley-Davidson - began as modest home-based startups, their origins rooted in humble beginnings within one's own garage. The idea behind Traveler Surf Club Outpost, however, was sparked by a lack of garage.
After years of beachside living, Julie Cox and her partner Rel Lavizzo-Mourey moved from SoCal up to San Francisco, resettling in a small walk-up unit with a corner staircase – not the ideal setup for two surfers. Both longtime lovers of the sport, this shift had some implications for their routine.
“Getting home after surfing was hard,” Julie said. “I’d get home, walk up that apartment stretch, kind of knocking the board on the steps all the way up. I’d still be wet, because I’d drive home in my wetsuit, because it was way too cold to change in the parking lot.”
This long, cold, wet, ding-prone commute sparked an idea: to somehow offer an easy, warm, and relaxing post-surf experience: “A club, where we could have hot showers, a place to leave your boards near the beach, a place that can feel ‘at home’,” Julie described.
A former pro longboarder and surfer, Julie has been in the surfing world for years, working, living, and breathing the sport in multiple capacities.
“I’ve done everything from pro surfing, teaching surfing, designing boards, running a surf museum…and I wanted to do something a little bit different.”
In pursuit of the place and comfort the couple saw as lacking within surf culture, Cox and Lavizzo-Mourey opened their first outpost in Pacifica in 2016, complete with changing rooms, outdoor showers, personal storage lockers, saunas, and even heated furniture. What luxury!!
Now having expanded to four locations, the membership-based clubhouse and retail shop provides more than just a place for clean up and board storage; TSC is also a shop, where guests can rent gear, shop apparel, and enjoy coffee and other refreshments.
A place offering services like these makes TSC one of few in the U.S., but the outpost is also unique in how it offers a kind of ‘après surf’ culture that was otherwise nonexistent for northern surf locations.
“We're not really active skiers,” Rel said. “But just the ski culture – having a locker, a place after you ski, where you can gather and hangout and get warm; we really liked that whole concept, and thought that, especially in colder places like Northern California, we felt like it could be really interesting.”
For skiers and boarders, ‘après’ is as much a part of the sport as the laps, drops, and jumps that come before it.
Since the 19th century, skiers have gathered to mark the end of the ski day. It's said upper class Brits really kick-started this tradition who, after spending a day on their holiday Swiss mountain of choice, would gather and enjoy hot tea, naturally. (The 1950s brought about the more alcohol-fueled après tradition that is practiced by many Westerners today.)
Back then, people would typically gather at one another’s homes, lodges, or hotel rooms, while standard practice today usually means meeting in the resort parking lot around one’s car; the smell of food and drink and often music marks a traditional après-ski experience.
While it has no real universal rules, après-ski is really just an umbrella term for gathering and relaxing with food and beverage once the ski day is complete. Basically, it translates to a good time.
This, Julie and Rel noticed, was where the northern surf culture could use a revamping. No one wants to hang out in their still-very-wet wetsuit and chat with friends; any après-surf in these locations is short-lived, and ends by getting to your car as fast as you can and running the heater while you await thaw.
“I was missing the community, growing up in Southern California,” Julie explained. “It was much more of a hangout-on-the-beach lifestyle. Here where it’s colder, you don't hang out and see people and chat and stuff, so I wanted to somehow help to provide a community where people could cross paths or even become surf buddies.”
Once the surf community experiences not only shelter after a day out on the water, but the luxury of heated furniture, a shower – or perhaps a sauna!? – and hot coffee, the couple say it might be hard for surfers to go back to the old days.
“It’s a game changer,” Julie said. “Once people have that, they’re hooked – and it’s hard to go back.”
Knowing this, Julie and Rel expect growth for TSC in the future, and the potential of opening more outposts is most definitely not out of the question. For now though, the couple is taking 2024 to focus on existing outposts, and expanding their product and gear. If you find yourself in the SoCal area, the couple invites you to come by and say hey, and check out the après surf culture for yourself.