Founder of the famed Grog’s Surf Palace in Seaside Park, New Jersey, Greg Mesanko started surfing in 1963, outside his childhood home in Seaside Heights. He got his first board from Keller’s Surf Shop in nearby Lavallette. “I bought a surfboard, and my mind just changed,” he remembers. “When I got in the water, it was just perfect for me…I could be one with nature, and it just took off.”
During the 1970s, Mesanko became known for his skills on a twin fin. He competed in contests up and down the East Coast from the time he was 14 all the way up to age 50, finding most of his success in the Senior Men’s and Master’s divisions. Inspired by the likes of Dick Catri and Ron DiMenna, he worked at Custom Surf Shop before opening Grog’s Surf Palace, just down the street from where he grew up.
As a shop owner, Mesanko traveled the globe to research the international surf scene. He surfed everywhere from Central America to California, Australia and Hawaii, and when he returned to New Jersey, he brought home shapes from each of the places he visited. His goal was to have the best shapers represented in his store so his customers could have access to the highest-quality boards on the planet. During the shop’s tenure, Mesanko sold thousands of boards, as well as wetsuits and other surfing products.
Grog’s became a destination surf shop, and Mesanko a brilliant marketer and steadfast promoter of the sport in the Northeast. He brought world-class surfers to Grog’s — professionals like Shaun Tomson, Cheyne Horan, Mark Richards and Rabbit Bartholomew. He helped out East Coast talent by arranging television appearances, and he even sold surfboards to Bloomingdales so the retail giant could use them as props in their store displays.
After 28 years, Mesanko shuttered his shop and did a short stint as a sales rep — a gig that gave him appreciation for another side of the surf industry. He quickly returned to retail and now runs the Billabong store in Shrewsbury, New Jersey. He is a member of the New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame and the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame. He says of his induction into the latter, “Who would have thought I would actually get an award for something I love to do?”