David Moon says he's not obsessed with collecting vintage surfboards and artifacts. Says he can take them or leave them. Yet he still finds time to scout swap meets from Malibu to Orange County at least twice a week—when he's not doing his daily eBay checks. In fact, he's still steamed he got outbid the other day by a measly 99 cents (99 cents!) on a copper-imprinted surfer picture.
Moon owns the 15th Street Surf Shop on the Balboa Peninsula. A few blocks south of the Newport Pier, Moon's shop doubles as a showcase for his collection—nearly 80 surf, belly and skim boards, original Churchill swim fins, wooden water skis and an aquaplane. It's all stuff he salvaged from swap meets, traded for, dug up or simply, um, "found" in vacant houses and garages.
"Once I see something I want, I get it in my mind that I have to have it," said Moon, a 36-year-old, soft-spoken surfer. "It just eats at me until I get it."
Like the day he was walking by Blackie's near the Newport Pier and spotted a family carrying an unusual tie-dye-looking surfboard. Moon figured it for a 1958 foam board from Velzy and Jacobs—a rare item, to say the least. After first running back to his shop to get his own long board, Moon spent hours hunting around the pier area until he found the group. He offered the parents a trade, which they gladly accepted. "The kid was stoked to get a brand-new board," said Moon.
Moon grew up on Balboa Island in the 1970s, and graduated from Corona del Mar High in 1984. He tried odd jobs around the world—lift operator and ski instructor in Mammoth; pizza shop owner in New Zealand; pizza shop owner in Aspen; then 15th Street Surf Shop employee. After working there for two years, Moon bought the shop and owns it today.
"The walls were white," Moon said, recalling what really bothered him when he took over the store. "The first thing I did was tear down the drywall to expose the beams. Then I started putting my boards up."
Moon got the collecting bug in 1992 after spotting a 1965 Wardy surfboard at a Balboa Island garage sale. "The guy wanted $200," said Moon. "I asked if he would take $140 for it if the board didn't sell by the end of the day. All day, I was sitting behind the counter thinking it's not going to be there, but it was."
Since then, Moon has been on a rampage to acquire every possible beach-related item. Sometimes, Moon says, the items even find him. Several years ago, a young surfer stopped in his shop and told him about an old board hanging in his mom's garage. Moon checked it out and was astonished to find a 1942 wooden paddleboard. He grabbed it instantly.
Then there was the day Moon was repairing paddleboards for the city of Newport Beach. While wandering beneath the Newport Pier lifeguard building, Moon saw an old board buried in the sand. City officials shrugged their shoulders and told Moon he could have it. After cleaning it up, he found it was a 1958 board inscribed with the city emblem.
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A 27-foot wooden racing scull mounted to the ceiling in the center of the store was another surprise. "A buddy who owned a condo called me," said Moon. "He had tenants who moved out and just left the scull hanging from the ceiling."
One of Moon's favorite finds is the 16-foot surfboard hanging in the back of the shop. It's one of a kind, manufactured by board-builder Jeff Clark in 1965. Clark intended the immense blue, green, orange and yellow board to hold an entire family of eight. It was to be sold at the Ala Moana Hotel on Waikiki Beach.
Moon's roommate Doug Keyzer heard about the board, then worked for four years to get it. After running into another collector at a surf swap who had connections with the owner, Keyzer negotiated a trade. He forked over seven boards to get it, but Keyzer and Moon say it was worth it.
Moon is running out of room in his cramped 15th Street Surf Shop, but says he has no plan to stop collecting. He intends to close the shop this winter for several weeks to carry out a little "renovation," so the place can accommodate more boards, pictures, memorabilia and Moon's latest collecting craze: tiki dolls. They don't take up much space.