The one-story stucco building at Main and Bay streets can hardly be said to have any architectural significance. Yet it has been under discussion for possible designation by the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission.
The building is the home of the Horizons West surf shop and also houses the Zephyr skateboard shop, home to the legendary Z-Boys skate team who have been the subject of two films, the documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys and the fiction film, Lords of Dogtown.
Randy Wright has managed Horizons since the mid-1980s, and knows a great deal about the local surf and skate scene.
“Back in 1984 I was surfing in Venice and I was a really advanced local surfer,” says Wright. “This surf shop had a pretty well-known surf scene at the time. They picked me up [and] I surfed for the shop [as part of the team representing the shop in competitions] and I started working here. After a couple of years, the original owner, Nathan Pratt, who was one of the original Z-Boys, didn’t want to run the surf shop anymore so I took it over from him.
“Originally, there was a surf shop in this building called Jeff Ho/Zephyr and Jeff Ho Productions. It occupied three of the five spaces in this building. On the corner of Main and Bay streets was the Zephyr retail showroom, next door to that was Jeff Ho’s shaping room [a workshop where surfboards are contoured] and on the corner where we now have our girl store was where Jeff and Craig Stassick and Skip used to airbrush and gloss the surfboards.”
The shop did good business due to its proximity to a beach area where surfers had long “ruled” the waves that bounced off the ruins of the P.O.P. amusement pier. For residents of the neighborhood, it was a familiar sight to see surfers in wet suits or baggy shorts carrying boards down Bay Street early in the morning to catch the good sets.
Although skateboarding, as a sport, had been around since the 1960s, the stunts performed were limited. In 1975, Jeff Ho formed a skateboard team to perform in a competition down in Del Mar near San Diego.
“They basically outfitted the boys – and girl –in blue jeans and the Zephyr competition t-shirts,” says Wright. “These guys had been practicing riding the ‘banks.’ By banks I mean Bicknell Hill [Bicknell Avenue between 4th and Main streets]. It’s a nice steep incline. And the local schools like Paul Revere and Mar Vista Elementary. You have these schools with banks – the side of the school where [there’s] a little slopey bank.
“They wanted to skate like the guys who surf. They didn’t want to do ‘nose wheelies’ or handstands, what people used to do in the ‘60s. So these guys went to Del Mar as a team, the Z-Boys and they rock and rolled and a lot of people didn’t like it because it was futuristic [but] a lot of people think in retrospect that that was the birth of the ‘hardcore’ movement.”
When signs went up on the Horizons property last fall announcing the building’s impending demolition, surfers and skateboarders raised an outcry heard ’round the world. As a result, the owner, 2001 Main Street LLC, has withdrawn the demo permit for the time being.
Speaking on behalf of 2001 Main Street, Juli Doar told the Mirror that at the present time, the owner is “looking into all the options” in regard to the possible designation of Horizons/Zephyr and is trying to get input from community members about ways in which the new project could incorporate the history of Horizons/Zephyr.
“I’m on pretty good terms with my landlord,” says Wright. “I’ve been here forever – 20 years running. I understand my lease expires and my landlord wishes to tear it down and maximize their profit revenue of the building.
“So knowing that’s what my landlord wants to do, I hope if they do it, they do it quick because I have a tentative agreement to come back. For me I just want to do what I’ve been doing here, which is selling surfboards made by guys who surf out here.”