Best Ever: TK Brimer, the Early Years...

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TK Brimer owns what is perhaps the most famous surf shop in the world, The Frog House. But that wasn't where it all started. For TK, his story goes back to Florida where he invented the yard sale … this is a story about how finding a surfboard changed his life. This is BEST EVER with TK Brimer, the Early Years, Part I.

(By TK Brimer as told to Skip Snead)

I grew up in Titusville, Florida, right between Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach. As a kid I was an entrepreneur at a very young age. My sister and I may have invented the garage sale in about 1959 when wewould take stuff out of our garage, or take things that mom and dad were throwing away, and set a store up in our front yard and people would drive down our neighborhood and stop, and often times take a little humor in the fact that we were out there trying to make our own store, and maybe buy something they didn't need. But I always, as a kid, made money. I mowed lawns, of course.

We'd sell Christmas tress … at Christmas time I'd go out in the woods and climb up a 40-foot pine tree and cut the top five feet off it and let it fall to the ground. That was a Christmas tree. I wonder how many trees are out there today that have no top on 'em? And I'd sell Christmas trees door to door and they'd look like crap, but then again, they'd look at 'em, and see a little kid selling a tree for five bucks and buy 'em. I always had a job, always had money, was always hussling for a dollar. My dad would always laugh at me and go, "Man, this kid's gonna be a businessman someday," and it turned out to be true.

I learned a huge lesson in 1961. Someone in my town bought a surfboard. I still have this epiphony in my mind. I see in my mind a guy in his '58 convertible Plymouth driving down my street with a red surfboard sticking out of the backseat and I looked at it and went, "Oh my god, that's a surfboard!" And I'd never seen a surfboard before, cause we were in Florida, and Florida was behind California in the developing of surfing. California was ten years ahead. I just went, wow, that's a surfboard, I live by the beach, I could be surfing! I knew who that kid was and within a week he let me catch a wave on that board. He shoved me into that wave, and I decided I needed a surfboard of my own. His surfboard was called a "Surfboards by Kahuna, Daytona Beach, Florida" and the guy who shaped 'em didn't know how to shape, they looked like crap at that point. I didn't realize it because I had never seen a surfboard at that point, but it was a pretty poor shape. But when I went to buy a board I couldn't afford a Kahuna surfboard, but this guy was talking about a "pop-out" coming called a Coastal. A pop-out is a board that comes out of a mold and it was cheaper, but to my bonus, it was shaped by some guy out here on the West Coast who built the mold who really knew how to shape a surfboard, and I'll tell you right now, those pop-outs worked better than the customs Kahuna did. So I paid about $130 for that board, which was cheaper than the custom. It was still a lot of money, so much money that I had to borrow from my dad $130.

Like I said, my dad knew I was a businessman. I'd borrowed money before and always paid it back. So he goes, yeah, I'll loan the moneyand he said, come on, let's go. And he drove me down to a place called Atlantic Finance, or whatever, and I'm going, what's this? And he goes, we're gonna borrow money, you know, show you how to borrow money. And we went in, and he cosigned the loan to get me $130 and they gave me this payment book that had like 22 $12.88 a month payment stubs. I had to pay #12.88 a month, every month, on that dog-gone loan. Well it taught me a huge lesson: First up, I added up all those $12.88 and it came to about $210 to borrow $130 and that blew my mind. Secondly, when it's summertime and everybody needs their lawn mowed, well, I could come up with $12.88, it's not hard. Well, we were making $2 a lawn back then, maybe $2.50 on a big one, and you could come up with the $12.88. But in the wintertime, when the lawns weren't growing, $12.88 was a big nut to crack every single month for a guy in the seventh grade. That's a tough gig. So I made myself a promise that I've kept to this very day: I will never have a payment book as long as I live, and to this day at 65 years old, I've never made a card payment in my life. I paid cash for a car, if I need to buy one. Any my wife drives a brand new car but I paid cash. And I never do anything on a time payment, if I got a credit card, I pay it off cash at the end of the month.

It was an amazing business lesson my dad taught me. And it also taught me to live below your means, because it's no fun to be under the stress of debt. Anyways, so that's what I was like as a kid.

So anyway, now suddenly I had the best surfboard in town, I had the third surfboard in our town, and the best one because mine wasn't shaped by Kahuna, and so I became the best surfer in my town real quickly. I didn't stay the top surfer forever, but I became the top surfer real quick, and it gave me self esteen.

I fell in love with the surfing, and even started a surf club at Titusville High School and we called ourselves the Sunrise Surfing Association and my buddy Richard Alexander and I started it, and within a year I got thrown out of the club because a power struggle happened with other members, and the Sargeant of Arms would start fining me when I'd speak out of line in my own club. Fining would be like .25 cents, or maybe .50 cents for saying something really bad. But those fines ended up totalling like 25 or 30 bucks, and I finally, went, F%$k you, guys, I'm out of your club, out of my club, for not paying the fines.

I'd like the early 60s in Florida to be like the early '50s in California. For instance, if we were driving down the road, you'd see a car parked at the beach with surf racks on it, and you'd see somebody surfing, you would stop right there behind their car, paddle out, shake hands, and be thrilled to run into somebody else that surfed. There was a big brotherhood, as opposed to today, guy's are going, "hey, don't surf around here, you're no local, beat it!" Back in those days it was like someone else to surf with. It was real exciting.

I did a little competition surfing early on. My biggest claim to fame was the very first ever East Coast Cape Canaveral Easter Contest, it still goes on. But I was in the inaugural one, must've been 1964 and I wasn't that good of a surfer, but I made it to the semifinals, which meant I'd gone through two heats to a semifinal, and in the semis I was taking a small wave that was about knee high, which was mostly what we surfed back in Florida, and going towards the pier I fully slipped and fell flat onto my back onto the board and assumed a coffin position and shot through the pier doing a coffin. It was totally unintended, fell down on my ass, just closed my eyes almost, and shot through the pier and it got me a big ol' wave score and it put me into the finals. It was hilarious. I got a radio interview, and all sorts of congratulations, and in the final, in a heat of six people I came in sixth. But that was probably my highlight for about a 40-minute period between heats I was a big surf hero on the beach going into the finals, and that was fun.

What kind of kid was I as a youth? I didn't make very good grades in school cause I never really cared too much of the school. I would skip school to go surfing, sometimes.

My town was actually 18 miles away from the water. Titusville was on the Indian River but to get to the beach you'd have to drive across Cape Canaveral, and it was about an 18-mile drive, no stop lights, no stop signs. High speed all the way out. My buddy and I used to leave our surfboards hidden down on the beach, so then we could hitch hike up from school and surf. You know, this was the olden days, there was no one out there to steal your boards. You could've left them laying out on the sand and no one would've gotten it. We'd hide 'em in the bushes, and one day we skipped out of school at lunch and hitch hiked out to the beach and we got out to the beach, and the surf was looking good, and we didn't have trunks or a wetsuit, so we just went naked and left our clothes piled on the beach. By the way, surfing naked's not that much fun. It hurts. But we had our surf session, and when we came back to the beach, our clothes were gone. And now we're 18-miles away, no towels, no nothing, but we carried our surfboards, one on each side of us and walked from the surf spot to the main parking area, and as we got to the parking area we recognized the car of the truant officer and he was laughing and goes, hey I thought you guys would show up, and he had our clothes folded up on the hood of the car and took us in, drove us back to school and we had to do a bunch of detention.

Then my dad gets a job in Huntington Beach, CA. He got transferred from Cape Canaveral where he was a rocket scientist to McDonnel Douglas and my mom and dad were super concerned that socially,because I'd basically been in 2nd to 12th grade in the same building pretty much in Titusville, Florida, that they arranged for me to stay with friends so I could finish out my last semester of high school in Titusville and graduate with my lifelong buddies. And I went, No way! I'm outta here!"

(Read Part 2: TK Moves to California in the next issue of Ghetto Juice magazine #30)


Posted by: Ghetto JuiceGhetto Juice at: 05 Jul 2014 15:57




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TK Brimer owns what is perhaps the most famous surf shop in the world, The Frog House. But that wasn't where it all started. For TK, his story goes back to Florida where he invented the yard sale … this is a story about how finding a surfboard changed his life. This is BEST EVER with TK Brimer, the Early Years, Part I.

(By TK Brimer as told to Skip Snead)

I grew up in Titusville, Florida, right between Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach. As a kid I was an entrepreneur at a very young age. My sister and I may have invented the garage sale in about 1959 when wewould take stuff out of our garage, or take things that mom and dad were throwing away, and set a store up in our front yard and people would drive down our neighborhood and stop, and often times take a little humor in the fact that we were out there trying to make our own store, and maybe buy something they didn't need. But I always, as a kid, made money. I mowed lawns, of course.

We'd sell Christmas tress … at Christmas time I'd go out in the woods and climb up a 40-foot pine tree and cut the top five feet off it and let it fall to the ground. That was a Christmas tree. I wonder how many trees are out there today that have no top on 'em? And I'd sell Christmas trees door to door and they'd look like crap, but then again, they'd look at 'em, and see a little kid selling a tree for five bucks and buy 'em. I always had a job, always had money, was always hussling for a dollar. My dad would always laugh at me and go, "Man, this kid's gonna be a businessman someday," and it turned out to be true.

I learned a huge lesson in 1961. Someone in my town bought a surfboard. I still have this epiphony in my mind. I see in my mind a guy in his '58 convertible Plymouth driving down my street with a red surfboard sticking out of the backseat and I looked at it and went, "Oh my god, that's a surfboard!" And I'd never seen a surfboard before, cause we were in Florida, and Florida was behind California in the developing of surfing. California was ten years ahead. I just went, wow, that's a surfboard, I live by the beach, I could be surfing! I knew who that kid was and within a week he let me catch a wave on that board. He shoved me into that wave, and I decided I needed a surfboard of my own. His surfboard was called a "Surfboards by Kahuna, Daytona Beach, Florida" and the guy who shaped 'em didn't know how to shape, they looked like crap at that point. I didn't realize it because I had never seen a surfboard at that point, but it was a pretty poor shape. But when I went to buy a board I couldn't afford a Kahuna surfboard, but this guy was talking about a "pop-out" coming called a Coastal. A pop-out is a board that comes out of a mold and it was cheaper, but to my bonus, it was shaped by some guy out here on the West Coast who built the mold who really knew how to shape a surfboard, and I'll tell you right now, those pop-outs worked better than the customs Kahuna did. So I paid about $130 for that board, which was cheaper than the custom. It was still a lot of money, so much money that I had to borrow from my dad $130.

Like I said, my dad knew I was a businessman. I'd borrowed money before and always paid it back. So he goes, yeah, I'll loan the moneyand he said, come on, let's go. And he drove me down to a place called Atlantic Finance, or whatever, and I'm going, what's this? And he goes, we're gonna borrow money, you know, show you how to borrow money. And we went in, and he cosigned the loan to get me $130 and they gave me this payment book that had like 22 $12.88 a month payment stubs. I had to pay #12.88 a month, every month, on that dog-gone loan. Well it taught me a huge lesson: First up, I added up all those $12.88 and it came to about $210 to borrow $130 and that blew my mind. Secondly, when it's summertime and everybody needs their lawn mowed, well, I could come up with $12.88, it's not hard. Well, we were making $2 a lawn back then, maybe $2.50 on a big one, and you could come up with the $12.88. But in the wintertime, when the lawns weren't growing, $12.88 was a big nut to crack every single month for a guy in the seventh grade. That's a tough gig. So I made myself a promise that I've kept to this very day: I will never have a payment book as long as I live, and to this day at 65 years old, I've never made a card payment in my life. I paid cash for a car, if I need to buy one. Any my wife drives a brand new car but I paid cash. And I never do anything on a time payment, if I got a credit card, I pay it off cash at the end of the month.

It was an amazing business lesson my dad taught me. And it also taught me to live below your means, because it's no fun to be under the stress of debt. Anyways, so that's what I was like as a kid.

So anyway, now suddenly I had the best surfboard in town, I had the third surfboard in our town, and the best one because mine wasn't shaped by Kahuna, and so I became the best surfer in my town real quickly. I didn't stay the top surfer forever, but I became the top surfer real quick, and it gave me self esteen.

I fell in love with the surfing, and even started a surf club at Titusville High School and we called ourselves the Sunrise Surfing Association and my buddy Richard Alexander and I started it, and within a year I got thrown out of the club because a power struggle happened with other members, and the Sargeant of Arms would start fining me when I'd speak out of line in my own club. Fining would be like .25 cents, or maybe .50 cents for saying something really bad. But those fines ended up totalling like 25 or 30 bucks, and I finally, went, F%$k you, guys, I'm out of your club, out of my club, for not paying the fines.

I'd like the early 60s in Florida to be like the early '50s in California. For instance, if we were driving down the road, you'd see a car parked at the beach with surf racks on it, and you'd see somebody surfing, you would stop right there behind their car, paddle out, shake hands, and be thrilled to run into somebody else that surfed. There was a big brotherhood, as opposed to today, guy's are going, "hey, don't surf around here, you're no local, beat it!" Back in those days it was like someone else to surf with. It was real exciting.

I did a little competition surfing early on. My biggest claim to fame was the very first ever East Coast Cape Canaveral Easter Contest, it still goes on. But I was in the inaugural one, must've been 1964 and I wasn't that good of a surfer, but I made it to the semifinals, which meant I'd gone through two heats to a semifinal, and in the semis I was taking a small wave that was about knee high, which was mostly what we surfed back in Florida, and going towards the pier I fully slipped and fell flat onto my back onto the board and assumed a coffin position and shot through the pier doing a coffin. It was totally unintended, fell down on my ass, just closed my eyes almost, and shot through the pier and it got me a big ol' wave score and it put me into the finals. It was hilarious. I got a radio interview, and all sorts of congratulations, and in the final, in a heat of six people I came in sixth. But that was probably my highlight for about a 40-minute period between heats I was a big surf hero on the beach going into the finals, and that was fun.

What kind of kid was I as a youth? I didn't make very good grades in school cause I never really cared too much of the school. I would skip school to go surfing, sometimes.

My town was actually 18 miles away from the water. Titusville was on the Indian River but to get to the beach you'd have to drive across Cape Canaveral, and it was about an 18-mile drive, no stop lights, no stop signs. High speed all the way out. My buddy and I used to leave our surfboards hidden down on the beach, so then we could hitch hike up from school and surf. You know, this was the olden days, there was no one out there to steal your boards. You could've left them laying out on the sand and no one would've gotten it. We'd hide 'em in the bushes, and one day we skipped out of school at lunch and hitch hiked out to the beach and we got out to the beach, and the surf was looking good, and we didn't have trunks or a wetsuit, so we just went naked and left our clothes piled on the beach. By the way, surfing naked's not that much fun. It hurts. But we had our surf session, and when we came back to the beach, our clothes were gone. And now we're 18-miles away, no towels, no nothing, but we carried our surfboards, one on each side of us and walked from the surf spot to the main parking area, and as we got to the parking area we recognized the car of the truant officer and he was laughing and goes, hey I thought you guys would show up, and he had our clothes folded up on the hood of the car and took us in, drove us back to school and we had to do a bunch of detention.

Then my dad gets a job in Huntington Beach, CA. He got transferred from Cape Canaveral where he was a rocket scientist to McDonnel Douglas and my mom and dad were super concerned that socially,because I'd basically been in 2nd to 12th grade in the same building pretty much in Titusville, Florida, that they arranged for me to stay with friends so I could finish out my last semester of high school in Titusville and graduate with my lifelong buddies. And I went, No way! I'm outta here!"

(Read Part 2: TK Moves to California in the next issue of Ghetto Juice magazine #30)

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