The long wait is over, and as of Sunday, Jan. 15, Surfer [The Bar] is now open for business in Jacksonville Beach! After kicking off the soft opening over the weekend, attendees seemed thoroughly impressed with the decor, drinks and good food.
We recently spoke to owner Greg Saig, who you might know as the man behind the Salt Life Food Shack brand, on how he brought such an international icon like Surfer to the First Coast.
How did the original idea to bring Surfer [The Bar] to Jax Beach come about?
Greg: A couple of years ago, I was contacted by Surfer Magazine with the idea to build upon the concept that was started at Turtle Bay on the North Shore of Hawaii. They saw what I did for the Salt Life Food Shack brand and trusted in me to do the same for Surfer. I convinced them that with our demographic and strong surf culture that this locale would be a great starting point for the first one in mainland America.
Why specifically did you guys decide on Jax Beach?
Greg: I choose Jax Beach not only because I happen to live here and have surfed here since I was 12, but for the surf culture that exists in this town — and not just right here in Jax Beach, I mean all of North Florida. From St. Augustine to Main Beach, we have a surf culture that runs many generations deep. We have great colleges like Flagler, JU, UNF, FSU and UF — all with strong surf teams. Then, add in some of the best surf shops in all of Florida. It is not by luck that Sunrise Surf Shop has won the National Surf Shop Challenge surf contest multiple years.
What do you hope Surfer [The Bar] will bring to the community? What’s the goal?
Greg: Surfer Magazine was started over 60 years ago and is now a worldwide brand that has been the bible to surf culture and the industry for decades. Every surfer has held that magazine in their hand at one time or another and dreamed of the epic surf featured within, sparking the inner desire of adventure that surfing creates. Surfer [The Bar] will bring to the community a brand that will create a place where we can enhance and uplift our surf culture. One that Jax Beach already has a strong foundation of, yet one that we can greatly build upon for the future.
The goals we have are to let this brand work for us in the community. Great sports brands attract other great brands, athletes, musicians and artists. This is the exact reason Rip Curl (one of the longest-standing surf brands with over 30 pro-surf athletes) will soon be opening a shop in our building. From time to time, we will welcome all surf brands and athletes to come visit this great coastal community we have.
To the people who are still upset about Freebird’s closure, what would you say to them?
Greg: I understand how change invokes unknown feelings, and that takes time to better understand. However, I grew up in this town, dated a girl for 5 years who was related to Allen Collins of Lynyrd Skynyrd. I too am a long-standing fan of Freebird and what it brought this community for 15 years. The owners of Freebird are great ladies, yet they wanted to move on in life. I respect that and will always pay tribute to Judy Van Zant and Freebird Live. In the future, I hope to work with Judy so we can have some Freebird Live nights and feature some good ol’ Southern rock and roll.
Surfer [The Bar] is currently open between 2 p.m. and 2 a.m. On Saturday, January 21, the hours will be 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.