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Meet Brent Stephens of Concept Surf Shop and Little Groms Surf Camp in Moonlight Beach Encinitas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brent Stephens.

Brent, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Well I started my surf camps about 14 years ago. I was working at Hansen’s Surf Shop at the time. I was a surfboard buyer and I was managing the surf team there. We would get tons of calls during the summer asking about surf lessons. I thought it would be a smart idea to start my own surf school and have all of those calls directed to me so I could make a little extra money on my days off. At first, I just wanted to get those customers coming in from the surf shop and do all of the surf lessons myself. Once I actually started the business I realized how fun it was to own your own business. I could implement my own ideas and be as creative as I wanted to be. I then got pretty consumed with growing the business.

I started doing all levels of surf instruction from first time beginners up to coaching local amateurs thru advanced training programs. When the business started to grow I had to start hiring some of my friends to work for me. About 2 years into this I went to the City of Encinitas to talk to them about all of the surf programs I was doing. I wanted to see if I needed to get any kind of beach permits and what kind of insurance they required. That turned out to be one of the best meetings of my life, and in many ways changed my life.

They really liked what I was doing in the community and they asked me to take over all of the surf programs for the Parks and Recreation Dept. This included Spring Break Camps, Summer Camps and After School Programs. And they wanted me to implement all of my other programs like the advanced coaching programs and ultimately the Little Groms Surf Camp. Having that partnership allowed me to work full time on my business and gave me the confidence to open my surf shop, Concept.

Now it is 11 years later and working with the City of Encinitas continues to be such an awesome partnership. They have such great people that work in the Parks and Rec Dept. I have so much respect for all that they do and all the hard work they put in. And by working with The City it has allowed us to work with thousands of local kids growing up here in Encinitas.

Has it been a smooth road?
Haha… Definitely not smooth all the time but the twists and turns and bumps in the road have made it that much more rewarding at this point. The journey is what has molded me and the style of the business. Being able to adapt when the road hasn’t been smooth is what has created some of the success. You see what works and you stick to the simple things. And you learn how to do every aspect of the business yourself. From building websites to designing logos, online marketing, Facebook advertising, Google ads, SEO, clean the windows, vacuum the shop, rinse wetsuits, sell boards, teach lessons, work at the surf camps, taxes, payroll, scheduling, social media, photographer, drive kiddo to soccer, and be a present husband and father to name just a few of the daily tasks… You learn how to wear a lot of hats.

I opened Concept in 2008 and that was at the peak of the recession. Money was super tight those first few years. I worked 7 days a week including holidays. But one thing I knew I could always rely on is my family. I have a really incredible wife and an amazing brilliant kiddo and they have an unwavering support and have had my back thru every challenge we faced. Never underestimate the support of those closest to you.

So, let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Concept Surf Shop and Little Groms Surf Camp story. Tell us more about the business.
So, I have a surf shop in Encinitas and I have two different surf camps at Moonlight Beach. Having both the shop and the surf camps allows me to do so much more for my students. One example is we always use new and high-quality surfboards and wetsuits for the surf lessons and the camps. That alone makes for such a better experience. And we always give our students really good discounts at our surf shop. So, when they are going to get their first surfboard or their first wetsuit we know what is perfect for them because we just spent a week surfing with them. Just last summer we had more than 600 kids go thru our surf programs. That leads to awareness of the shop and traffic to the shop. That was something I always thought about while growing each of the businesses individually. How each one should help the other.

I think something else we are known for is that we really try to identify with each student and customer and what level they are at and how we can help them the most. Whether it is getting them set up with the perfect board or with private surf coaching, or maybe it is just advice about where they should surf. There are so many variables with surfing and the ocean and everyone has different levels of skill and confidence and ways they adapt. I really like identifying with my customers and students needs and I genuinely like helping each and every one of them. I think our customers are loyal and keep coming back for these reasons and I think this is something that sets us apart from everyone else.

Another cool thing we do that is different is that along with selling surfboards we allow our customers to try out the boards before they buy them. Our customers can ride surfboards from the best board manufacturers in the surf industry like Lost, Firewire, Super brand, and Chemistry before they decide which one to buy.

Something I am most proud of at the moment is the Little Groms Surf Camp. This camp has been amazing in so many ways. It is a one of a kind surf camp for 5-8yr old’s. In this camp we really focus on the proper intro skills of surfing along with a big emphasis on ocean safety. We are teaching these really young kids how to stay safe and how to be confident in the ocean. And I have seen it have a huge impact on a lot of kids. The ocean can be a really intimidating and scary thing. When I can help a kid get past that initial fear and then see them start to have fun and love the ocean and see them build their confidence gradually is a very rewarding feeling. Because it can turn from a big scary element into a something that brings them peace and calm.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Well the surfing industry has always been a pretty tight knit group of people. It is really unique in that way. But I see some big changes and shifts coming in the next few years for sure. For one it is going to be in the next Summer Olympics. That is huge. It will be interesting to see the impact that has on surfing as an industry. Bigger audience and more awareness is usually a good thing. I’m excited to see and I think it will be positive.

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