Hansen’s Surf Shop Honored with Display at California Surf Museum

December 31, 2011, Judd

The largest surf shop in San Diego County, Hansen’s, on Coast Highway in Encinitas, is in the midst of its 50th-year anniversary celebration. The California Surf Museum (CSM) in Oceanside is honoring Hansen’s half-century of board-shaping and retail surf success with an exhibit, which runs through February.

For a farm boy raised in Aberdeen, South Dakota and for someone who didn’t start surfing regularly until age 20, Don Hansen has made quite a big name for himself.

The exhibit at the CSM proves, though, that Hansen wasn’t merely one of the first surf shop owners. He was also a skilled shaper, a board manufacturing pioneer, a lifestyle innovator, a retail trendsetter, a brand mogul, an industry icon, a champion skydiver, a monoskiing enthusiast, a tandem surf champ, a rancher, and a Stone Steps Invitational impresario (a surf contest that some longtime Leucadia locals look back on as the ‘golden era’ of Encinitas).

“I’ve had a great 50 years and I’m still going. I’m not dead yet,” promises Hansen.

Hansen stresses it’s been with the help of family and that of his loyal employees–regarded as like immediate family by Don — that has led to Hansen’s success and longevity.

“Some of our employees have been with us for 35 years and they’re really good at what they do….My dad had a profound business impact on me and really ingrained in me that the customer was always right. It’s a real simple business philosophy, but it works,” adds Hansen.

But Don built the business from scratch.

He started shaping surfboards for wetsuit pioneer Jack O’Neil and quickly became one of the nascent foam blank industry’s most skilled board makers. Some of the 60’s trendsetting and influential models of Hansen’s boards — some of which are worth tens of thousands of dollars today — are on display at the CSM, such as the Superlight, Classic, 50-50, and the Competitor.

Photos of other surf legends from Encinitas are featured as well, including artist Diana Brummett, trimming down the line of a Cardiff Reef perfect peeler, in 1965. There’s also a photo of world champ Linda Benson grabbing rail on a triple-overhead bomb at Makaha, circa 1960. Both women were sponsored by Hansen’s.

One photo that might look familiar to Hansen’s customers is one of Cheer Critchlow, crouching with his lead, regular foot leg fully extended towards the nose of the board and his inside leg bent at the knee. This photo was taken in 1967 at Pillbox, in Solana Beach, and the ‘Critchlow Crouch’ would go on to become the iconic Hansen’s logo.

Another photo shows the original Hansen’s location in Cardiff, near the present-day Kraken Bar. Hansen’s Surf Shop was located in Cardiff from 1962 to 1968, before relocating to its current location.

If Don Hansen had never met some fraternity brothers who were from Coronado, his path would most likely not have led him to having one of the most successful board and retail surf shops on the planet.

Asked why anyone from San Diego would want to go to school in South Dakota, Hansen replies, “The pre-med program at what was then known as South Dakota State, had a good reputation.”

Hansen continues: “I went back to Coronado with one of the [fraternity] brothers and learned how to surf,” says Hansen. “If it weren’t for my friends from Coronado and the Bud Browne surf films of the 1950s, who knows? Maybe I’d still be on the ranch in South Dakota.”

Fifty years on, fans, friends, family and customers are glad Hansen made the move.

For more pictures, visit the original version of this article on Encinitas Patch.

Judd Handler is a freelance writer and wellness/lifestyle coach in Encinitas, California. He surfs uncrowded, fun reef breaks; plays instrumental alternate-tuning guitar; goes hiking in the backcountry; and is amazed on a daily basis by just being alive.