If you're looking for an authentic surf shop, go straight to the expert source: one run by a Hall of Fame surfer. Bill Yerkes, a world-renowned surfer, runs his own shop on the Space Coast, a funky surf-and-swim shop in Satellite Beach named after him: Balsa Bill Surf Shop.
The store specializes in selling balsa surfboards (handcrafted by Yerkes himself), which you can buy and take straight out to the backyard surf spot, known as Balsa Bill’s Reef or Dos Palmas. Or try a demo board to experience the difference for yourself. Yerkes caters to all levels of surfers, from “kooks” to pros.
Balsa Bill Surf Shop is the real deal, run by a Hall of Fame surf legend — Photo courtesy of Balsa Bill Surf Shop
If the waves are particularly enticing, you may very well find the doors closed, with a note from Yerkes that he's out on the water.
“So [my wife] Nola asked me to open the shop this morning. But when I got there, the waves behind the shop were really good," Yerkes wrote on his Facebook page once. "So I put a 'Gone Surfin' Open Later' sign on the door and paddled out. I hope I don't get fired.”
If the doors are open, your shopping experience may very well be serenaded by Yerkes on the ukulele. He’s a talented musician and also a member of a band.
Although the balsa boards are the heart of Yerkes’ shop, he also makes and sells his own line of T-shirts, Hawaiian shirts, baggies, hand-stamped batik sarongs, shorts and surf flicks. In fact, Yerkes is one of the first ever East Coast surf movie-makers, with a production company he started in the '60s.
Balsa Bill’s Classic Surf Trunks are made in the tradition of shorts back when Yerkes started surfing. Then, he says, if you wanted a board and shorts, you had to have both custom made, because there were no surf shops or big magazines.
His shorts are made from fabric that he picks out himself, then hand-cut and sewn with salt-water-resistant thread. Buttons are made out of coconut shells. Shorts are guaranteed for life. (“My life, not yours,” he adds.)
The Hawaiian shirts are made from a special fabric that Yerkes gets from “an old surfing buddy.” The fabric is sent to Hawaii, where it is cut and sewn, making these shirts authentic – down to the rare “Made in Hawaii” label on the inside.
He calls his T-shirts an “art form” and personal statement. They come from his own T-shirt printing plant, Tropical Design Screen Printing and Graphic Design, in Melbourne.
Balsa Bill Surf Shop also sells an ever-evolving stock of record albums; ukuleles (Free lessons come with your purchase.); jewelry; and unique, beachy collectables brought back from Hawaii, perfect if you’re looking for a souvenir of your beach vacation or a gift to bring home.
Balsa Bill Surf Shop organizes events, too, such as an annual paddle challenge.
Oh, and this shop’s hours are pretty relaxed; it's “not always open on Sunday,” so make sure you call first.