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AN INTERVIEW WITH GLIDE SURF’S PHIL BROWNE

Phil Browne opened Glide Surf Co. a few years back in Normandy Beach, NJ. His mission was to move away from the cookie cutter surf shop vibe that tends to plague our coastline. Glide featured a clean, visual aesthetic, with a boutique set up and laid back vibe. They also housed and featured a variety of unconventional surf craft. Basically Phil created the perfect shop for those looking to draw different lines in life and on a wave.

After Hurricane Sandy, Glide was left without a home and the future of the shop seemed uncertain. Over the last few months word was spreading through the streets of Asbury that Bangs Ave. may become the new home for Mr. Browne and Glide. When I caught wind of this I quickly reached out to Phil to get the scoop on the shop coming to Asbury Park, while simultaneously picking his brain on surfing and alternative surf craft. 

ZAPPO: When and where did you start surfing? What initially drew you to surfing?

BROWNE: I started surfing when I was 9 years old. I loved the water from a really young age. My father surfed when he was younger, but kind of got out of it as work and family took precedent. Once I showed some interest, he led me to it. From then, it was an easy thing to do with the family.

ZAPPO: What was your first board and do you still have it today?

BROWNE: The first board I ever surfed (my fathers) has way more significance than the first board I owned. It was a super transitional era 7’6” Con Butterfly Mid length. It is actually really similar to some of the stuff I’ve been riding recently. The first board I personally owned was a Christmas gift when I was nine. It was a 6’3” LIR, shaped locally by a guy named Mark O’Neill, I think. It was a full on 80s thruster. I, unfortunately, don’t have either one of them any more. I could take or leave the 80s Thruster but I still dream of finding another Con.

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ZAPPO: Describe the feeling and memory of the first time you road across the face of a wave.

BROWNE: I honestly can’t really remember the first wave I ever surfed, but I assume it’s not all that different than a good wave nowadays. I do remember being pretty hooked on it from day one. It kind of just took over and was all I wanted to do.

ZAPPO: Our generation for the most part grew up riding the standard high performance thruster. You’ve strayed from that over the last few years. What boards have you been riding and digging on most recently?

BROWNE: Yeah, I surfed almost only super high performance boards forever. I would play on a longboard when it was small, but that was about it. I was kind of stuck in this super competitive mode, and I guess I thought riding a fish or other non-conventional stuff would hurt my surfing. Once I stopped competing and trying to be on that trip I stopped surfing a lot. I went to school in Boston, got married and moved to Baltimore for 4 years. It was a good break, and once I really started surfing again I just wanted to keep things fresh. I tend to get bored a lot, so when I have a bunch of totally different, some difficult-to-ride boards, it lets me totally change my mid-set. As far as the board I’ve been digging, there are a few that have really been blowing my mind as of late. I’ve got a 7’8” Ryan Lovelace V Bowls that might just be the best surfboard I’ve ever had. It’s a single fin, pintail mid length that kind of does everything. It trims like a beast, paddles like a log, rides the tube, let’s me step back and put it on rail, etc. If I had just one board to ride for the rest of my life, it would probably be a V Bowls. Other than that, I’ve got two finless or free- friction boards that make my head explode. The first is a Ryan Lovelace Rabbit’s Foot that is super short and kind of has a hull front half with a crazy asymmetric tail. It probably took me longer to get used to than any board I’ve ever owned. It’s such a trip to ride. It’s so fast, slippery and really lets you get places on a wave that I did not think were possible. The other one is this super duper pintail Cream Dream with a sort of sculpted long kind of keel bottom, shaped by NJ’s Luke Crossman. I’ve only ridden it a few times, but it’s pretty wild, and I think it could probably take me to alternate universes.

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ZAPPO: After about five years or more of experimenting with different equipment there are obvious advantages and disadvantages to certain shapes and fin configurations. What have been some of your experiences and realizations, moving away from the thruster and riding quads, twins and single fins?

BROWNE: I tend to think about this stuff a lot, and I always come to the same conclusion. I really think it’s more about how you want to surf as opposed to advantages and disadvantages. Thrusters work really well, and they definitely have a really good pivot feeling off the bottom, but I feel like they maybe lack some flow. Quads, Twins and single fins tend to give you a bit more “down the line” flow and just give you a different feeling than thrusters. My ideal is to go as fast as possible by doing as little as possible. Sure you can go really fast on a thruster, but not really by just trimming. Additionally, I tend to think most alternative boards can do a lot to clean up people’s surfing and make them look a bit more relaxed and stylish. In my mind, that’s 100% advantage!

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ZAPPO: You opened up Glide surf shop a few years back in Normandy Beach. It was one of the few shops in New Jersey that was catering to the “alternative” surf community. After Hurricane Sandy the shop was left without a home. Now you guys are moving. Tell me a bit about the move and what’s up with Glide.

BROWNE: Yea, it’s been a really crazy almost 8 months. I’ve gone through so many emotional stages, from sadness to anger to frustration. I think we’re finally at the motivation stage. I’ve kind of put all the bullshit behind me, and I am really just looking above and beyond our current state and into the future. My mantra as of late has been “with adversity comes opportunity” and that’s really how I look at this move. We love Normandy, and I will always have a special place in my heart for the town and our customers, but it was just so decimated that I could not foresee being able to stay open there. The way I saw it was that I had two choices: stay in Normandy and die a slow death or move to a less affected area and have another go at it. The only place in my mind that really made any sense was Asbury Park. I was already pretty networked up here, and I have a lot of existing customers from the area, so it was kind of a no brainer. Plus the population is young and hip, so it lets me do a lot more of what I want and envision for the shop as opposed to catering to the masses. We’re not your typical “Surf Shop” and I don’t want to be, so I really think this move will let us break that mold a bit more. We just signed a lease on a space at 520 Bangs Ave and are working like crazy to get open as soon as possible.

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ZAPPO: Locally you’ve been a big proponent of Ryan Lovelace’s surfboards. Tell us a bit about how you guys connected and your relationship.

BROWNE: Ryan just might be my favorite person in surfing. He’s so f-ing talented and so humble at the same time it blows my mind. He and I first spoke about a year before I even thought about opening Glide. I just saw a few of his boards and was immediately attracted to the outlines and aesthetics. They looked so smooth and curvy, I knew just from the photos I saw that they would (sell). I ended up finding one– a used 5’0” Velo Sims for sale in Long Island and swooped it up. The thing went even better than expected, and I was pretty hooked from there on out. When I decided to open Glide, he was one of the first people I called, and he was like “sure, lets do this.” When I opened, I got a handful of boards shipped from him in Santa Barbara and sold through them pretty quickly. I called him up to try and get a few more, and he said “why don’t I just come out to NJ and shape a bunch while I’m there?” I jumped at the chance, and he’s been doing that pretty consistently for the last few years. It’s turned into a pretty cool friendship and I like to think it benefits both of us really well. We can bounce ideas off each other, surf together and talk about what’s working from both a business and design perspective. It has some fringe benefits as well…

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ZAPPO: What surfers inspired you coming up and who is inspiring you today?

BROWNE: There are so many surfers that inspire me. Growing up I was into really powerful surfers… so guys like Taylor Knox, Tom Carroll, and Martin Potter were my heroes. Then, there were the obvious choices of Tom Curren and Kelly Slater and really all the “Momentum Generation” guys. Nowadays, the list is pretty huge. I look to so many surfers for different things. All the guys from when I was a kid are still on there, but as I get older and my surfing matures, I think I have a better understanding of some of the idiosyncrasies of different surfers. For example, Alex Knost and Travers Adler for their flair and style, Derek Hynd for his free friction maniac antics, Joel Tudor for his effortless approach, Ryan Buch for his incredible shaping/surfing and his next level understanding of the surfing universe. The list goes on and on but those guys are pretty relevant as far as what I like so see.

ZAPPO: Besides surfing what other activities fill your daily life, work or “play”?

BROWNE: I like to keep things pretty mellow. When the shop is open I work just about everyday, so that takes up a lot of time. Besides that, I like to spend time with my amazing wife, travel as much as possible and cook delicious meals for friends.

ZAPPO: Any final words of wisdom for the people out there reading today?

BROWNE: I guess just have fun, live simple, and don’t be afraid to try new things.

All photo’s attached are by Rob Cusick.

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