A creative genius, Dan Heritage loved to build things. Having spent many summer days in the New Jersey surf as a kid, he had a real love for the ocean. But his interest in surfing began after reading an ad in Popular Mechanics on how to build your own surfboard.
With a few friends, Heritage sent away for materials and instructions. While the final product wasn’t exactly a keeper, the experience — and the process — lit a fire in Heritage that would last a lifetime. By 1962, he opened up his first surf retail store in Sea Isle City, naming it Little Wave Surf Shop. Little Wave was always grounded by its excellent selection of boards — the shop was one of G&S Surfboards’ first East Coast distributors, and it also carried many other brands like Harbour and Tanaka.
The Little Wave name would not stick — Heritage’s father was an artist and photographer in the advertising field, so he gave his enterprising son some advice. “What better name to give your boards than your own?” he told Heritage. He then designed a logo of his son’s surfboard brand, which included the Heritage family crest. From there on out, the business was known as Heritage Surf & Sport.
To support his wife and two children, Heritage took a full-time job as a production supervisor in a nearby chemical laboratory, but he surfed and worked in the shop every chance he got. He also coordinated several surf competitions and never missed qualifying for the East Coast Championship in Hatteras, along with his shop team.
Eventually, Heritage began shaping boards on a full-time basis. Because of limited board manufacturing resources on the East Coast at the time, he had to teach all of his employees every aspect of the process, from shaping, glassing, sanding, pinning and glossing. It was hard work and endless hours, but Heritage was driven by his persistent determination to be the best he could. Everything he’d ever done was self taught, and he was never afraid to try new ideas.
From the main retail location in Sea Isle City, Heritage spread the business to two more shops in nearby Ocean City and Margate. Along the way, his wife and children began getting involved with the business — especially his son Brian, who today is a celebrated South Jersey shaper himself.