Encinitas man helps launch “The Netflix of surfboards”
Tyler Swain has seen a lot in the past decade, traveling around the world with surf photographer David Pu’u and filming surfers, then serving as a camera operator, producer and cinematographer for MTV and other production companies on shows like “Nitro Circus” and “Living Lahaina” and movies such as “Jackass 3D” and “Bad Grandpa.”
But now, the 31-year-old has returned to live in Encinitas — where he surfed D Street or Swami’s nearly every morning as a teenager — and joined with Matt and Ben Murphy to work on The Surf Society.
The Murphy brothers own and operate Bird Rock Surf Shop in La Jolla, where Swain also works, and came up with the innovative business idea a couple of years ago. Now up and running, The Surf Society is described on its website as “The Netflix of surfboards.”
“It’s a membership program, where you can ride any surfboard you want, any time you want, you just pay a monthly fee. So it’s a subscription-based thing,” said Swain, who is The Surf Society’s vice-president of operations. “I don’t think anyone has ever done it before. You can ride-top brand boards anytime you want.”
Matt Murphy is the CEO of The Surf Society and Ben Murphy is the CFO. The three have known each other since Swain was 6 years old, living in Escondido.
“It’s a new concept so right now we’re just trying to educate surfers about our business and provide the best service — and boards — possible,” explained Matt Murphy. “We feel The Surf Society works for just about every surf demographic.”
The subscription, which is currently going for $69.95 per year, allows beginners to learn and progress faster because they can be matched with a board suited for their ability. Intermediate and experienced surfers benefit by being able to use all of the newest shapes without having to purchase one of each board.
“You wouldn’t want to play a round of golf with just one club and you can’t truly surf with just one style of board,” Murphy continued. “If it’s small, get a longboard or a fish. If it’s big, get a step up. If it’s pumping, grab the newest high performance Channel Islands model.”
Based on initial signup trends, as well as other market research the group has done, The Surf Society is looking for locations in Encinitas to open their first headquarters. For now, interested surfers can visit www.thesurfsociety.com or the Bird Rock Surf Shop in La Jolla to get more details or sign up.
Swain is particularly excited to bring the opportunity to Encinitas and the beaches he’s enjoyed surfing since he was 12 years old.
“(But) I wouldn’t consider myself really surfing until 16. The day I got my license it was every day before school,” Swain said. “It was before Surfline and all that stuff. There used to be this (homeless man) who stood on a corner and you would pull up, hand him a dollar and ask him ‘What’s the surf doing today.’ He would (give all of the stats) and say ‘My call would be Swami’s or D Street’ and he was always spot on.”
After finishing high school, Swain was accepted to Brooks Institute for film school and moved up to Ventura — where he just happened to move into a room in Pu’u’s house. The famous surf photographer eventually took Swain on surf trips around the world.
“Me and him bonded, every single trip he went on, around the world, he took me,” Swain said of Pu’u. “He let me shoot the film and he would shoot the photos.”
Swain has surfed and filmed all over Hawaii and more exotic places like the Seychelles Islands, Nova Scotia and El Salvador.
On one of the surf trips, Swain met one of the producers of the then MTV show “Jackass” and told Swain he would be a good fit at MTV. Swain quickly dropped out of school, at age 19, and began working on TV and films.
“I did a bunch of reality shows,” Swain said. “Living Lahaina was a fun one because I got to live in Hawaii. That was with a local guy, Matt Allen.”
Allen is now the owner/operator and an instructor at the Maui Surf Academy in Encinitas.
As for Swain, now that he is back from L.A. and living in Cardiff, he still surfs nearly every day in the area, but won’t disclose the location.
“I’m old school mentality, I don’t say where I surf,” Swain said. “I don’t like to draw a crowd.”