Mihaylo Student’s Laguna Beach Family Surf Shop Stays Afloat in Competitive Marketplace

Clay Huntington (left) and his son, Grant ’18, shape a custom surfboard for sale at their family-owned surf shop in Laguna Beach. The Huntingtons’ shop has thrived despite a trend toward corporatization in the Southern California surf industry.

Clay Huntington (left) and his son, Grant ’18, shape a custom surfboard for sale at their family-owned surf shop in Laguna Beach. The Huntingtons’ shop has thrived despite a trend toward corporatization in the Southern California surf industry.

From the Beach Boys to international competitions, surfing is the pastime most associated with Orange County. Mihaylo marketing senior Grant Huntington ’18 is part of the next generation of surf shop professionals, currently working as marketing manager at his family’s RWorld Surf and Skate in Laguna Beach.

Last year, more than 6 million people visited Laguna Beach to enjoy miles of sandy beaches, crashing surf and beautiful sunsets. A good number of the beach town’s surf aficionados frequent RWorld Surf and Skate, a family-owned surf manufacturing and retail outlet catering to the Southern California beach scene.

Founded by former attorney and biologist Clay Huntington, the shop employs his wife and adult children, including Grant Huntington ’18. “My role is to oversee and direct marketing efforts,” says the younger Huntington. “However, in small businesses, your role extends significantly beyond your job title. I also help with design work, merchandising and management.”

Huntington notes that his parents’ lifelong hobby formed the basis for their family business. “My family’s start in the surf business originated from my parents being professional tandem surfers while I was growing up,” he says. “My dad used to be a lawyer, and before that he was a biologist, but surfing was his true passion.”

Keeping the Family-Owned Surf Business Scene Alive

While small surf shops were the norm along the Orange County coast in decades past, Huntington says his family’s business is one of the few mom-and-pop surf shops still thriving in the region.

“If you lived in Laguna Beach, you notice that what used to be small local surf shops turned into what I like to call ‘corporate corner.’ You have Billabong, Vans and Rip Curl all right next to each other,” he says. “RWorld is different. We are a family, and everyone does their part. My mom hand makes our jewelry; my sister designs a lot of our shirts, skateboards and custom art surfboards; and my dad shapes all of our boards.”

Huntington notes that many of RWorld’s customers seek out a small and intimate alternative to the big name corporations.

“We label our shop as a Laguna Beach lifestyle shop; our goal is to not alienate but to simply spread the stoke,” he says. “In a time in which Amazon will deliver whatever you need that same day, it is nice to take a step back and really enjoy a unique shop with products you can’t find elsewhere.”

For RWorld, the surf business is a family affair, spanning two generations. Mihaylo senior Grant Huntington is at right.

For RWorld, the surf business is a family affair, spanning two generations. Mihaylo senior Grant Huntington is at right.

Surf Culture Meets Internet Marketing

The digital revolution has transformed every industry – and Southern California surfing is no exception. But with an eye for marketing, Huntington is helping to keep his family’s business ahead of the curve with his Mihaylo marketing courses.

“It has been really fun experimenting with different channels and learning how to monetize our marketing efforts,” he says. “I was stoked to be able to run a free Adwords campaign in my digital marketing class. Even though we were not able to obtain conversions, I gained a lot and will be able to monetize Adwords again in the future.”

While the plethora of digital options might seem overwhelming, Huntington believes that marketing can be simplified by focusing on a few large channels.

Grant Huntington ’18 believes that marketing plays a crucial role in the success of his family’s surf business. “We label our shop as a Laguna Beach lifestyle shop; our goal is to not alienate but to simply spread the stoke. In a time in which Amazon will deliver whatever you need that same day, it is nice to take a step back and really enjoy a unique shop with products you can’t find elsewhere.”

Grant Huntington ’18 believes that marketing plays a crucial role in the success of his family’s surf business. “We label our shop as a Laguna Beach lifestyle shop; our goal is to not alienate but to simply spread the stoke. In a time in which Amazon will deliver whatever you need that same day, it is nice to take a step back and really enjoy a unique shop with products you can’t find elsewhere.”

“I find that SEO, email marketing, and Facebook and Instagram ads have been the most successful marketing tools thus far,” he says. “One reason is they are inexpensive and have a great opportunity for very specific niche targeting. Once we get the website dialed in and have a bigger budget, I think we can definitely drive traffic with Adwords, but for now it is not something we can throw money at. The website is currently undergoing a lot of change, and my team and I are working diligently to increase the user experience. I’d say by spring 2018 it should be ready to really start creating synchronized marketing campaigns through multiple avenues.”

Among the most important takeaways Huntington notes from his coursework is the importance of recognizing and pursuing your target market. “A lot of businesses spend so much money appealing to the wrong audience,” he says. “That’s the whole reason we are a Laguna Beach lifestyle shop. If we only paid attention to surfers and skateboarders we would of been out of business years ago.”

For More Information

For more on RWorld, visit the shop at 305 North Coast Highway in Laguna Beach, give them a call at 949-715-8953 or check out their online shop.

About dcoats

I'm Daniel Coats, a CSU Fullerton Communications graduate student
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