George Gerlach*

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In the early 60s, George Gerlach and his friend Paul Rugor decided to build a surfboard. The two weren’t beach kids, strictly speaking — they lived two-and-a-half hours inland, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but Gerlach and his family would spend the summers in Ocean City, on the Southern New Jersey Shore. When Gerlach and Rugor finished the board, they took off for Ocean City. When they got done surfing, a crowd was waiting for them on the beach with a million questions about this new-fangled sport of surfing. Gerlach knew then and there that he’d open up a surf shop right there in town. 

Surfers Supplies opened its doors in 1962, and quickly became a hub for South Jersey’s nascent surf community. Gerlach was as much of a shop rat as the shop rats that hung around the place all year long. He took pride in the fact that he had the most eclectic surfboard selection of all the other shops that sprung up around him. He adorned the walls of “Supplies” with black-and-white pictures of himself and friends surfing in Biarritz, France, where he was soon vacationing every fall. Around Christmas, he’d blow through the doors of the shop in a Santa outfit, bearing gifts for everyone. 

In the 1990s, Gerlach and Surfers Supplies fell under the spotlight when Tom Curren popped in for a visit. The fish revolution was in full swing and Curren, who was on the East Coast for a promotional tour, had heard of Gerlach’s excellent selection of the craft. Curren picked out a 1970s-era, 5’5” twin-fin and proceeded to surf the thing in an ASP World Tour event in France. 

Responsible for introducing countless kids to surfing, Gerlach was a revered figure in Ocean City. He passed away in January 2011.

Photos by Dick Meseroll / ESM and courtesy the Gerlach family