Bob Humphreys is a featured dealer on Global Surf Industries! Read the full feature here.
For over 30 years, one of the most passionate surfers you could hope to meet has been working at Boca Surf & Sail. Bob Humphreys started the business with his brother Bruce, and every morning as the sun rises, he recharges his stoke with a paddle or swim, no matter what the conditions are like. This is part of Bob’s story…
Humphreys: I love coming to work each day. And I still get in the water every morning before sunrise. There’s never a day I come to work and haven’t already been in the ocean. So life is great, and we have the best customers in the world….
At the beginning, we just hoped we’d have a store for 3 years, and figured we’d get cheap surfboards and maybe travel a bit. Half of the store was dedicated to wind surfing, and we were doing a lot of business there, and with lessons and surfboards too. Then as things have changed, we just focused more on surfing. We were always surfers, but just saw financial opportunities in wind surfing originally. We thought we’d have to get real jobs later, but now, 31 years later, we’re just too dumb to quit.
How did your surfing life begin?
My dad was from New York, but we moved here to Boca when he was working for IBM, about a block from the beach. I was in the third grade then, and got into surfing at 13. It was just the greatest thing, and I’ve been able to share that love of the ocean with everybody I’ve met since. Seriously. Everyone’s got a gift from God, and he gave me the gift of making anyone comfortable in the ocean, and to teach surfing. I just want people to commune with the ocean, it’s the greatest gift that I know of, and I really have to go down each day and watch the sun come up. Then I get out there one way or another. Paddle, swim, surf, snorkel, free dive… whatever it takes, we’re in the water. I’m fortunate enough that the lifeguards in Del Ray allow me to workout with them every morning, so whatever they do from 7:30 til quarter to 9, I get to participate in too. Unless it running (laughs). If they do that, I just say see you later, and go for a swim.
I get so excited thinking about the ocean, and just always want to be out there. Actually just lost a girlfriend, cause she was like ‘you’re really not willing to compromise on the time tables?’ I was like, ‘I get up at 5:30am cause it’s like Christmas. What’s the beach going to bring me? I can’t help it. It’s a lifestyle I gleefully embrace, and I can’t understand how other people who are introduced to it, don’t just take it as their own. When you’re that passionate about something, it’s easy for it to be infectious, which really helps us take others out in the water. That being said, we lose sales all the time by not selling people things they want, when we know its wrong for them. I really try and make sure people leave the store with what is going to help them have a great time.
It’s why I’m so excited about the Hypto Krypto. As a 58-year-old man, that surfs it at about 210 lbs., that thing is a game changer. I still longboard 90% of the time, but any day when you’re going to be duck diving, or traveling, my little 6’4” Hypto is just amazing. If you get a chance to come by the shop, I’ll even loan you mine (laughs). I can ride them all the way down to 5’10”, but as you get older, you just don’t want to paddle that hard. There’s no surprise it won Surfboard of the Year a couple times.
Do you remember the first boards you rode?
Of yeah, distinctly. It was the time when everybody was taking beautiful longboards and stripping them down. My neighbor Glenn Guthrie built my first one. He took it from the middle of a longboard, so it had no nose rocker, and no tail rocker. He sold it to me for 50 bucks, and it did its purpose. It’s actually kind of similar to the design of the Hypto (laughs). I just love the Hypto cause it’s such a traditional, classic design, and goes great.
What else have you ridden through the years?
Everything from 5’4” twin fins, on up to longboards. I had a longboard collection that got stolen in the mid 80’s. It wasn’t a great collection, but it happened to be my four boards (laughs). I look back fondly on those… kind of like thinking you had a hot rod in high school, when you actually had a piece of junk.
But we’ve always ridden a little bit of everything here. I think during the early 90’s, when boards got so rocker’d out, and thin, we all switched to really small fun boards that had a wide nose and fuller outline. There was just that period of time when boards didn’t work for the average person, or on the average wave. But we all wanted to look like Kelly, so we kept going with it (laughs).
Knowing what we know now, those boards just look horrific, but back then, they looked really cool and were like Corvettes.
Over the span of this store, what other board changes or technology really stand out?
Honestly, I tell people that right now, boards are the easiest they’ve ever been to ride since the early 80’s. I’ve only shaped enough boards to know I should leave it to the pros. I love doing it, but it’s just a waste of foam under my hands. But back in the 80’s there was enough foam on the smaller boards that an average surfer could actually paddle and ride a normal wave. But then the boards just got too performance orientated, despite the fact we weren’t all surfing performance kind of waves. Thankfully in the past 5 years, boards have gotten way more user friendly again. It’s all about flotation, less rocker, and they’re just designed so well. I’m so stoked on it.
Where has surfing taken you, or taught you, over the years?
I’m living every little boys dream. I’m living the dream I had as a kid. I used to go hitchhike up to Nomad Surf Shop, and hang out there, and I’m sure I was a pest (laughs). For Christmas I always told my parents I wanted a Nomad surfboard, so I’m giving them a plug even though they’re my competitors up the road, cause they’re great guys.
I got into this with my brother, and honestly, everyday has just been a blessing. I basically own my job, but what I really own is friendships, and watching people grow up, and the community in general the past 30+ years of having the store. My heart is warmed everyday by my customers. I just feel so lucky about being part of this community.
What are you most proud of?
The relationships. I could cry thinking about some of them. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about money. I have a theory, called psychic income. That’s doing something I would be miserable doing everyday, but making money, or doing something I love and making less money. In that spread is psychic income, and man, I make a million bucks a year. It’s awesome to get to live the lifestyle I do, have these relationships, not to mention be partners with my brother and watch our kids grow up in the store. All the employees are like family, and never leave.
Who has influenced you most?
My dad. He was very supportive and really helped us out a lot in the beginning. As far as personal influences in the water… we grew up in the days before leashes, and you didn’t drop in on the older kids in the water. You had to earn your spot in the pecking order, which I guess you still do at most breaks. I’m real gracious in the water now, kind of at that age where my ego is not in the way, so I share a lot of waves. I love to watch people ride with me, see them surf, and just share the waves. Maybe don’t drop in on me if I’m in the best section, or the barrel (laughs), that’s not going to get points with me, but all the rest of the time, yeah let’s share and have a great time. You can totally change the vibe in the water and make it good, by your attitude. Give a smile instead of a stink eye. Paddle out and show some respect to the locals, say hello and wait your turn, and you’ll get your waves. Obviously some days are more agro, but for the most part, showing respect in the water makes it so much better for everyone. Be out there for the stoke and have a great time.
Life is better when you surf.
It is. One of things I do is teach people how to play again. People get into their life and become workaholics… not because they don’t want to play, but they get kids, have to put them through college, a mortgage, and everything else, and playing ends up on the back burner. When I take people out paddle boarding, it’s just magical. Some days are more magical than others. Suffice to say, I’m still stoked everyday I paddle out. If I see whitewater, I’m going to go out and stand up. I love it.