Treasure Island, on Florida's west coast, is a sliver of sugar sand beach along the Gulf of Mexico. Suncoast Surf Shop has been there since 1966. Legend has it that owner Joe Nuzzo started the shop with $300, a few surfboards, a dozen T-shirts, a bottle of red wine and some stickers. Since then, Suncoast has built a following that continues to expand through SUP. —Tom Fucigna Jr.
SUP mag: Why did you decide to get into the SUP market?
Nuzzo: Fast forward to 2008. The surfboard industry was falling to almost nonexistent. I was seriously thinking about closing my doors, but then along came standup paddle boards. I took a chance and ordered heavy in late 2009, and now the store is making a living, thanks to my Manager, JoJo Braddock.
SUP mag: What features of your location make it appealing for standup paddling?
Nuzzo: We have calm Gulf waters in front of the shop, offering incredible sunsets and rideable waves over 70 days a year, and miles of inland waterways behind us.
SUP mag: What brands of boards and paddles do you carry?
Nuzzo: We carry Surftech, Hobie, Naish, Boardworks, NSP, Riviera, Fanatic, Starboard, Suplove, Hovie and Tropical Blends boards, plus Quickblade and Kialoa paddles.
SUP mag: What size, or types, of boards have been most popular?
Nuzzo: In the beginning we sold more NSP’s than anything else. They are true workhorses. We continue to move a significant number of them and our rental fleet is loaded with 11'6"s.
Our customers range from beginners to expert racers, and we sell a fair amount of race boards. Brody Welte was in our area for a few years, and his Gulf Coast Stand Up Paddleboard race was instrumental in cultivating our race community.
Last summer we sold mostly cruising boards from Hovie, Nomad, Riviera Voyager, the Boardworks Raven, Surftech and Flowmaster. A lot of people want a board that can be thrown off of their dock and used by everyone in the family. This usually translates into a surf-style board with plenty of volume. Suplove, NSP, Tropical Blends, One World and Starboard all make great boards for this use.
SUP mag: Have you sponsored or organized races or other events?
Nuzzo: We like to get involved with all things SUP. Our Monday Night Paddle events include anywhere from 10 to 100 people. You can bring your own board or rent one, and manufacturers bring their demo boards. We rent a little patch of sand around the corner, and after paddling we head into the Salty Rim restaurant for appetizers and beers. It is a great way to connect with other paddlers.
We rent a tent at nearby races and have started presenting movies. Last month Chris Aguilar came to town and we showed Destination 3 Degrees at the shop. We sponsored the film Decade of Dominance at the Pacifico Paddle Challenge.
SUP ‘n Kids Ocean Crest Experience, created by JoJo, was a huge event last summer that included yoga, shore conservation and about 100 boards for kids.
We also are running training and certification classes. We just hosted Dan Gavere, and Brody Welte will be here in February. Joe Bark is also coming in February to help us with an event to raise money for Wounded Warriors Family Support.
SUP mag: Are there any standout SUP locals who are part of your story?
Nuzzo: Suncoast's staff includes JoJo’s daughter, 16-year-old Bailey Rosen, who has been winning races and looks to have a strong future in the SUP world. She has helped increase visibility of race boards as she is a part of the Bark, Surftech and Quickblade families.
SUP mag: Where do you think the SUP market is headed?
Nuzzo: It is truly amazing to see friendships develop through SUP. All walks of life come together with this sport. There is definitely an evolution taking place, and we love changing with our customers. We look forward to continuing to grow with the SUP industry. Fishing, yoga, racing, surfing, cruising – there is really something for everybody!
SUP mag: What else would you like us to know about Suncoast?
Nuzzo: We welcome and educate our customers, and truly listen to what they have to say. Our staff is made up of folks that make going the extra mile a way of life.
Suncoast is all this and a rustic wooden building with 47 years of beach and surfing history, on the original plot of sand with the same owner.
For more about Suncoast, visit: SuncoastSurfShop.com