The Inertia Founder

The Inertia

This feature is presented by our partners at Manera Wetsuits.

Almost every surfer in the United States knows Jack’s Surfboards: the iconic surf shop on the corner of Main and PCH in Huntington Beach. Not many surf shops can make that claim. In fact, very few can. But Jack’s Surfboards has become synonymous with Surf City USA and the relentlessly consistent surf across from its flagship storefront.

But the story of Jack’s Surfboards isn’t what you might expect. The internationally recognized operation is not one of a multi-generational, tow-headed SoCal surf family that needed only to keep the machine’s wheels turning to flourish. Far from it. Rather, the tight-knit family that helped elevate Jack’s from a community staple to a king-making, global powerhouse came from humble beginnings. It began on a strawberry farm in Oxnard, Calif. Or, actually, a battlefield in Palestine.

Mike Abdelmuti, a Palestinian refuge, emigrated to California during the Arab-Israeli war, and found safety and a fresh start picking strawberries on a farm in Central California. With an entrepreneurial spirit, Abdelmuti started selling toothbrushes to other workers who lived on the farm. When the owner caught wind of the upstart entrepreneur, he was supportive. He took him under his wing to create a proper shop on the premises. Eventually, the enterprise evolved into purchasing goods wholesale at local swap meets. That’s where the relationship between Mike Adbelmuti and then-owner of Jack’s Surfboards, Jack Hokansen, began.

As Abdelmuti grew close with Hokansen, he shared news about opportunities in Huntington Beach with the rest of his family, who had fled from Palestine to Brazil. That’s when his son, Jamal, and nephews, Ronnie and Bobby, arrived to help.

“Our family, we grew up in Brazil, and we are well connected very much with Jack Hokanson, who used to own Jack’s, and we developed a very good relationship with his family,” said Bob Abdel. “When he decided to retire, he sold us the business, and we took over since then.”

When they took over, they made small changes that had a huge impact. Surf shops at the time only carried surfboards. Mike, Ronnie, Bobby, and Jamal recognized an opportunity and decided to change that. They added soft goods to the mix – other things surfers might want like wetsuits and apparel.

It wasn’t overnight, but the market responded positively. As the shop grew, the family became a fixture of the Huntington Beach Community – hosting local surf contests, sponsoring local skateparks, and investing in local high school surf teams. They also made notable contributions to revitalize downtown Huntington Beach – conceptualizing the Surfing Walk of Fame in the concrete outside its entrance.

The family has expanded to eight different locations around Southern California. They also continued to embrace change. Their online e-commerce platform serves surfers around the world.

“I’m proud of the name we’ve developed, the hard work of the shop we’ve made,” says Bobby Abdel. “It’s one of the most known shops in the world. It’s such a close family. Everyone, no matter where you are, we’re all connected to each other.”

While the first-generation Americans don’t surf (their kids do), their business acumen is razor sharp. Their store is a bellwether for brand resonance; sales at Jack’s can make or break a company.

“We have very good relationships with all the companies, because we’ve been dealing with them for the last 30 or 40 years,” says Abdel “We represent every brand in the highest capacity from A to Z. We don’t carry one thing or two things from the brand. We always represent the brand from the t-shirts to the shorts to the pants to the jackets. Everything.”

“When we took over in the early seventies, I never thought we would be even continuing that long,” says Abdel. “But thank God we’ve been doing so good with it. There is nothing else I would choose to do other than being in a surf shop again.”


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