Alex Martins Surfboard Repair Shop Digital Farewell
Interview by Federico Gobbi
Alex Martins Surfboard Repair Shop shut down this month and likely you don’t know its story.
Alex was interviewed about his shop by a fellow surfer with a purpose of getting to the root of the Why behind the work, the impact it’s made on the local surfing community, and what’s to come. What unfolded was a conversation that gives us an introspective look into Martins’ inner world about repairing; his acute attention to detail, respect for the craft, and passion for those who walked through his doors.
I decided to interview and share the story of Alex’s shop because it not only had an impact on me, but on so many others in the surfing community. Having worked in the shop, and holding many conversations, I know this to be true. All in all, I’m really sad to see it go.
Alex Martins reached his peak as a professional big wave surfer in 2010 when he got invited as alternate for the Mavericks Invitational (February 13th).
But first, let’s rewind for those of you who aren’t familiar with Alex Martins. Born in Recife, Brazil, he began surfing at age 12 and quickly got into surf competitions.
Alex reached his peak as a professional big wave surfer in 2010 when he got invited as alternate for the Mavericks Invitational (February 13th). That day Alex caught “two of the biggest waves” that he’s rode in his life, he says. He also won his heat, placed fourth in the semi finals and of the 2 waves one was nominated for the Billabong XXL Monster Paddle Award. You can read more about Alex’s story on his website.
It was during this time when Alex began to see an increasing demand for surfboard repairs. Alex already had well-refined skills in repairing surfboards when he lived in Brazil—not many shops were repairing up to his standards, so he learned the trade himself. He brought this passion with him when he moved to Ocean Beach and started doing repairs in his backyard. Eventually this became his job and he decided to finally open the Surfboard repair shop in the Sunset District (San Francisco).
Demand grew as more customers established trust towards the shop and spread the word. Alex knew this was no longer a hobby and started growing the business with a focus on learning about his customers needs, wants, and desires.
Alex’s shop was, and is, considered one of the best surfboard repairing spots in Norcal, two reasons being: his true craftsmanship and acute understanding of the surfers love for their surf gear.
Big wave surfers, like Lucas Chumbo, used to leave their boards at the shop for repairs and often store it there in preparation of the potential good conditions at Mavericks beach, Half Moon Bay.
“At the beginning”, Alex shares, “it was a little complicated to launch the business because nobody had a surfboard repair shop in the area. I had to call the firefighters to do the inspection of the shop, that’s where I learned a lot about how to store the resins. I tried to do everything by the book and be compliant with the requirements from the San Francisco City”.
Alex first opened his shop in San Bruno, a bit far out of the area where he lived. He then found a place closer to his home, where he didn’t have to drive a truck everyday bringing surfboards back and forth. It was much more convenient for him and his customers, he expressed to me with relief.
For the past 10 years the shop has been serving hundreds of local surfers who were seeking only to repair their sticks—that’s all they were expecting from the shop.“I was only doing surfboard repairs, that was my only specialization”, says Alex.
“I was only doing surfboard repairs, that was my only specialization”.Alex Martins interview in May 2020.
Customer happiness was his keyword, sometimes at the cost of refunding the full amount for the work if it didn’t meet expectations. Even so, this work ethic rewarded Alex with a lot of word of mouth and useful tips for his crafting work. “I never asked anyone to write a review for the shop. One day someone wrote a bad review but he was so unhappy that I decided to refund him the full price of the board. He eventually decided on his own to take review off”.
All of this is how I see Alex and his work. A craftsman out in the world in service of people whose only objective is (and should be) to have fun.
From Alex’s words you can hear for yourself the passion he has for the water, for the all boards he fixed and every client he ever served. If you asked him about the board he fixed for the unhappy customer, he could tell you exactly.
I walked into Alex’s shop on December 7th, 2019 (wish I would have before). I remember the moment because I was destroyed after losing a relationship with the guy that was fixing my board prior. I set up a meeting with Alex, and when I walked in, I met a Brazilian dude.
I thought it must be Alex, but then he mentioned his name was Gustavo. Gustavo, in fact, was the guy that had been running the scene for a while. The guy Alex defines as “better than me”.
Gustavo is Alex’s cousin and trainee, and has been working in the shop for a few years until Alex gave him the news last year that he will be moving to Hawaii and therefore closing the shop.
As mentioned before, I’m not a random customer, or better I was when I first walked in, but I decided to stay and help Gustavo on his work. This is how I got to know him and Alex well, and like Alex, Gustavo’s attention to the details is that of a true craftsman.
The story of the shop is an impressive one, and my only objective here is to share Alex Martins’ shop as a digital farewell. I grabbed the opportunity to interview him before his next adventure, and committed to sharing it with the whole surfing community.
Enjoy the story! Listen here:
View this post on Instagram
Dedicated to @alexmblau passion and work for over 10years 🙏 Thanks for your amazing attitude and devotion in being the best craftsman the local San Francisco (and beyond) surfing community would ever ask for. ~ “I started fixing boards in the 90s back in Brazil repairing my own board and some friends’. No quality, no tools, no good setup.” ~ 📝Written intro in bio. ~ surf, surf shop, surfboard repair, surfboard repair shop, repairing surfboards, surf crafting, crafts, surf shaper, surfing repair, surf life, surfer life, craftman, surf craftman, surfer crafts
P.S. What’s next in the shop is a bit complicated with the current status of the world but the official date to close the shop was the end of May 2020. Gustavo will most likely continue working on the business, and Alex will keep his phone number on Google for all the local surfers that want to connect with Gustavo to get their boards fixed.