Fort George Surf Shop: A proud First Coast staple for over 40 years


In an age of big box retailers and ecommerce growth, Fort George Surf Shop is an anomaly and proud of it.

Located on Heckscher Drive a half-mile south of Huguenot Park and the popular Jetties surf spot, the vintage surf store encompasses a mere 1,000 square feet and employs just two people — business owner and founder Jim Rodgers and his wife Debi.

Yet, what the shop lacks in size and grandeur, it makes up for in 40-plus years of history and good old-fashioned customer service.

“That’s why I can stay in business against the Internet,” says Rodgers. “The Internet can’t provide that. A big store can’t provide that. Here, it’s not that busy, so you always have time to interact.”


A good old boy’s surf shop


A Brentwood Projects native, Rodgers grew up hitchhiking with his friends to surf the Jetties.

After falling in love with Fort George Island and becoming tired of his hitchhiking ways, he decided to start a business in the area to move closer to his favorite surf spot and stay afloat financially. The humble beginnings of Fort George Surf Shop were born, with the business opening in 1974 in the island’s original post office and a former World War II Army barracks.

“It was a good old boy’s surf shop,” laughs Rodgers, who bought the building for $11,000. “We were basically just surfer guys who came to the Jetties. The Jetties was a basic surf crew. It was no man’s land. … Back then, we were the ‘Redneck Riviera.’”

The shop experienced its ups and downs over the next 40-some years, says Rodgers.  At the onset, he and his partner built up the business together. They would run the shop during the summer and work as laborers and carpenters in the offseason in Amelia Island, learning skills that helped them invest more into the surf shop.

In the 1990s, tragedy hit when the shop burnt down due to arson. Rodgers and company rebuilt the business in 60 days. Later, Rodgers sold the business to a new owner who relocated it. Rodgers bought it back in 2015 and returned it to its original location on Heckscher Drive.

Now in 2018, Fort George Surf Shop reflects the business’ journey, with pieces of its 44-year history found throughout the shop. Surfboards from the 1960s and 1970s line the ceiling, and photos of Rodgers, the Jetties crew and the original shop decorate the walls. Customers yearning for more history can look through a photo album that’s readily available for viewing, while tracks from the Eagles, Beatles and other classic rock fixtures play overhead. Also at the ready for Rodgers is a list of the shop’s thousands of loyal customers who receive discounts for their consistent business over the years.

Simultaneously, the store is home to the latest in surf industry trends. The shop’s 60 by 12-foot boutique room features men’s and women’s apparel, surfboard leashes and wax, sunglasses and more. Its adjacent storage areas hold up to 150 surfboards, 15 stand up paddleboards and a handful of kayaks. The business is also home to a website,, that includes information about the shop and a surf forecast

“This is what I had in mind all these years,” says Rodgers as he glances around the shop. “It’s just taken a while to get here.”