The Continuous Groove: Welcome to the world of Mollusk
Words by Jed Smith
It is a testament to the times that the modest, independently-owned, San Francisco surf shop, Mollusk, has become what it has. That is, an internationally renowned beacon of life and personality in the surfing community. The enterprise is tiny, a classic 'ma and pa' set-up founded by local San Franciscan art and surfing enthusiast, John McCambridge, back in 2005. Today, collaborators include Tom Curren, Rob Machado, Thomas Campbell, Jack Coleman, Ryan Burch, Tyler Warren, and many more.
"I've been surfing since I was a kid and I've been really obsessed with it," begins John. "I had an art background, and have a lot of varied interests like everybody else, in art, and film, and everything, so when I thought to open up the shop it was a natural thing to combine all these interests into one and not be so segmented about everything."
Together his "loosely associated" team are forging a brave new world for surfing. One where the founding tenants of the sport - personal flare, eccentricity and humour - are at the forefront. We took a trip through Mollusk's many contributions with the owner and founder.
Stab: Strong vibes you've got going on up there!
John McCambridge: (Laughter) Excellent, appreciate it.
What are the key ingredients to the Mollusk mix? It just started off just being a fun project and getting stuff together to give surfing a bit more interest to us. But really it was about different surfboards because really there weren't a lot of interesting surfboards around at the time. We started in San Francisco and realised a lot of people like to ride them, people who were friends of mine, who were good artists, so we were able to create a double shop experience from the beginning. We used to have art shows and stuff and people were contributing in one way or another. It was just a good feeling because it was something that maybe hadn't been done for a while in a surf shop. And it was just interesting to people so we kept it going, getting more people interested and involved. At the end of the day it's all about the community up here, and surfboards is what it really comes down to.
Rob Machado, Tom Curren, Tyler Warren, Ryan Burch, Bryce Young... you've got some serious talent attached to your little enterprise. Yeah, I mean it's pretty loose associations. From the get go, who we associate ourselves with, all comes from an honest place. It's not like we have marketing meetings where we go, if we get so and so involved… It's more along the lines of, we're stoked on what this person is doing, we have these other people who are doing cool shit involved, let's hope they see we're involved with them… So it feels like a good thing, it's a loose association. We never try and hold onto someone, like, oh you're ours. We're like, whatever.
What's brought your filmmakers and surfers together? A lot of the time I wait for someone to pitch me a cool idea and then say 'yeah, go for it.' For the most part we just filtered at the beginning whether someone was good at something, either filmmaking, taking photos, surfing or shaping surfboards, we just say, 'we'll work with you on anything you want to do.' It's not like I'm the one who's dictating what they're up to. They do whatever they're gonna do and then we showcase it.
You must have a favourite film or surfer from the journey so far? Oh man, I really like the, shit, what was the one we just did? Dos Hermanos. That was fucken sick. So good. Those things show up in my inbox and I'm like, I can't believe this! This is fucken sick!
Byron's most cooked, the Browne brothers, Ari and Raf – they're really something. Dude, so good! They're the best! It's so insane. It's just straight up fun, not serious at all, just a great vibe.
And Tyler Warren. What a talent... Tyler is amazing. He's multi-talented, his heart's in the right place. He's another guy where we'll order boards from him or feature him in videos and I'll never dictate what I want him to do, I'll just be like, dude, make us six boards. I don't tell him anything just because I trust he has good taste and he'll make some cool shit. So I think that's really what it comes down to: the way we work with almost everybody, not dictating to them. We prefer to work with talented people and see how it works out.
Some of the go-to filmmakers you're working with. It's all about Jack Coleman right now. He's doing insane stuff. He's just so good. He's got the right vibe, works really hard and pumps stuff out that's insane. We've worked with tonnes of filmmakers over the years, people are at different places at different times. You'll catch someone when they're being super productive and it's the right time for them to make stuff and you just ride it out and a lot of the time it doesn't last forever but if you catch them when it's good for both of you, it's a good thing, right?
What is surfing's future as you see it? I have no idea. I kinda live in a bubble. What I think surfing's future is? Finless surfing and stupid shit like that. I dunno what surfing's future is. It's probably got 18 different futures right? Like, the whole world is getting more and more segmented, where people can focus in on whatever their particular interest is. There's probably tonnes of parts of surfing in the future that I don't really have any interest in or any idea what it's gonna be.