Cowabunga Dude!

Tucked away in the corner of John Muir College and down the steps beneath
Sierra Summit is a college-campus rarity. There, one may find skate lessons
being taught, guitar chords being strummed, boards being repaired or surf
melodies softly sounding from behind glass walls.

Muir Surf and Sport Team Manager Scott Lembach slides his skateboard at Mayhem at Muir II, a promotional event organized by both Lembach and the UCSD Skate Club. (Karen Ling/Guardian)

There lies Muir Surf and Sport, UCSD’s two-year-old surf and
skate hub and still the only board shop on any college campus in the nation.
While the small-time shop may be difficult to locate, it may be hard to leave once you get there.

It could be the rows of fluorescent-colored wheels on the
wooden skateboard decks that draw people in, or perhaps the stylish apparel and
gleaming white surfboards that entice students through the windows. Or maybe
it’s the store’s ambiance, which welcomes people with its acoustic-heavy
playlists, surf videos, orange swivel chairs and bright-faced staff.

The man behind the establishment, Scott Lembach, is an
energetic salesman who moved from Baltimore in
1997 to pursue the San Diego
surfer’s lifestyle, Lembach was approached by Muir College Center Manager Vince
Manson to compose a proposal to open a campus surf shop. Because a board-sports
shop was among the top student requests for the vacant retail space, the
college accepted Lembach’s proposal, and Muir Surf and Sport opened in
September 2005.

Now Lembach spends nearly all week in the shop, summer
included, eagerly sharing his knowledge about his latest products and — if the
timing is right — the incoming northwest swell.

“This is my life,” Lembach said. “If I’m not working, I’m
surfing, skating or snowboarding. It just happened to work out in my favor
because I love what I’m doing.”

The goal of Muir Surf and Sport has always been to bring
value to students, said Lembach, who added that he seeks vendor discounts in
order to offer products to students at affordable prices. The staff prides
itself on below-retail-value prices that help bring oft-expensive action sports
to the campus community.

A board shop seems like a natural fit for a campus dubbed
the “Best School for Surfing” by Sports Illustrated, but catering to the
average, academically focused UCSD student has proved challenging, according to

“All that these kids have been doing their whole lives is
studying,” he said. “When they get a skateboard, it changes their lives.”

The shop’s obscure location and modest size, however, have
been the toughest obstacles to confront. To maximize space within the
440-square-foot store, the staff built custom skateboard racks this year to
lift the boards off the floor and place them at eye level. A new Web site was
also created about six months ago to increase access and launch online sales.
The shop now offers three new skateboard brands, along with the new Muir Surf
and Sport brand.

With the exception of Lembach, Muir Surf and Sport is run by
UCSD students and alumni. Among them are Muir College senior Marc Leglise as
webmaster; Muir College junior Sergie Magdalin, who is the graphic art and
design manager responsible for the new Muir Surf and Sport clothing and
skateboard designs; and UCSD alumnus Matt Goldstone as the new co-manager,
charged with updating the Web site, developing a new inventory system, managing
daily operations and supervising the shop while Lembach takes his midday surf

Thurgood Marshall College senior Kristian Gustavson,
Lembach’s roommate, points to his board-sport knowledge and friendly attitude
as reasons for the shop’s success.

“Scott understands students,” Gustavson said. “He’s out at
the skate parks grinding, he’s out at Black’s dropping into closed-out sets.
The guy is crazy. He’s not a hypocritical owner like a lot of guys out there.
He rips harder than most guys I know.”

Muir Surf and Sport is also focusing on bringing the shop to
students by holding five to six events every year while also increasing its
presence in the San Diego community.

Last week, Lembach and three UCSD seniors — Gustavson,
Michael Almeida and Sasha Savanovic brought a minivan full of skateboards,
shirts and stencils to Qualcomm Stadium and Steele Canyon High School evacuation
centers to distract disillusioned evacuees. Kids weaved through orange cones in
competition for a new skateboard, parents and their children designed their own
shirts and the shop gave away Muir Surf and Sport apparel.

Most people would say Lembach is just one of the kids,
participating with the students at events.

“I get caught in the middle and by the time I’m done, it’s
over,” Lembach said Oct. 24 at Qualcomm, skateboard in hand. “The time has
passed and I have the time of my life. I don’t even think about the business
aspect of it.”

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