“Bro, they sell surfboards at Costco.”
I still remember the call from a friend of mine who picked up an 8 ft foamie while stockpiling his annual supply of Beck’s Oktoberfest.
“And they’re only $100 bucks.”
The rest, as they say, is history. He had one, I had one, my buddy got one for his kid but mostly kept it for himself. The local college kids who were absolute kooks and sucked at surfing had one. Everybody had one and Costco struck gold.
At first the Wavestorm was sort of a joke. Either you could actually surf and just wanted a beater board to pack closeouts (rumor had it Costco would replace them free if you broke them), or you were a total Barney and this was an ideal way to get into the sport.
My friends and I (who I will place in the former category) used to drink beers on the beach and then try to beat the shit out of each other while party-waving on our Wavestorms. Frank had the traditional blue one while Brian had the white one. Me, I had the Jamaican flag-colored Wavestorm I appropriately dubbed the “Rastarocket.”
These were boards for doing what you were supposed to do when maximizing shite surf. Having fun.
While “real” surfers were never ashamed of having a Wavestorm in the quiver, we all knew they were a joke. Something to use when you wanted to fart around but not something you’d paddle out on when the waves were actually shortboardable.
You could always spot a kook who had a Wavestorm. The Wavestorm didn’t inherently make you a kook, your kook likeness was fully showcased in the manner of your body language and seriousness of surfing instead of farting around like the real surfers. You could always spot a kook who obviously took a lot of care putting their Wavestorm on the top of their car, often the wrong way, jamming out to Maroon 5 with the windows down with their boyband-looking friends who still rocked shell necklaces and considered themselves “real sarfars.”
Then, something happened with the foam board movement nobody could have expected.
Pro surfers, seeing the success of Costco’s Wavestorm and the movement that followed it, decided to make the kookstorm cool. They came up with cool names like the Catch Surf Beater Board and the Odysea, catered to core surfers with ads showcasing gratuitous cleavage and thongs, and perhaps most importantly, fucking ripped on these things.
Jamie O’Brien can still be seen surfing his foamie at massive pipeline, catching better waves than 95% of the guys out there. Kalani Robb brings them out on crowded days at Lowers and looks to be having more fun than the rest of the sheep. Blair Conklin skims his foamie and showcases the versatility of these durable boards.
Today, you see a guy or gal in the water on a soft top and can’t automatically assume they are a Barney. Some of these foam lovers can actually surf!
What’s more, they are taking them out in conditions you wouldn’t normally associate with a softie; conditions with critical drops, fast sections, and rippable surf.
So, while I can certainly assume some responsibility for the hypocrisy that I am calling out, we all have Costco to thank for the popularity of the foam soft top. They took a chance on a product that we all loved, offered it at a ridiculous had-to-be-made-in-Taiwan price, and created a movement that went from “you piece of shit you bought your surfboard at a big box store you f$%ing sellout” to “those things are actually pretty god damn fun.”
Naturally, you either want a Wavestorm or you are compelled to make a move towards one of the more softie core surf brands. As of late 2021, Costco stopped selling the icon that is the Wavestorm.
Don’t panic, they still offer a comparable product in the Gerry Lopez soft top which honestly gets you a bit more street cred because of the namesake.
For me personally, I’d lean you towards a Beater Board or something that doesn’t take itself too seriously but has the capability to keep you surfing on weak days and is versatile enough to make it out when it gets a little bigger.
Just remember this. Don’t judge a soft top surfer by their board. They may be just another surf stoked ripper who is more concerned about having fun than putting the latest WSL craft under their feet.