The story of Ron Jon Surf Shop

February 24, 2020 | Surfing
Ron Jon Surf Shop: East Coast's first surf shop was founded by Rob DiMenna in 1961 | Photo: Ron Jon Surf Shop

Founded in 1961 by Ron DiMenna, Ron Jon Surf Shop is one of the oldest and most iconic stores of its kind in the United States.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, surfing transcended this point and became a way of life, touching fashion, films, and especially music.

It was glamorized in movies like "Gidget," "Beach Party," "The Endless Summer"; made legendary in music from The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean and became the identity of pop culture for the era.

But all this was based on the West Coast, and surfers on the East Coast wanted that same great lifestyle and custom surfboards Californians had.

In 1959, Reverend Earl Comfort invited his neighbor Ron DiMenna, a former Marine working at his father's grocery, for a surf session.

DiMenna immediately fell in love with surfing and wanted to buy a custom surfboard from California.

His father's advice was simple: "Buy three, sell two at a profit, then yours will be free." And that was precisely what he did.

First, he started selling boards out of his parent's attic.

In 1961, the young entrepreneur opened Ron John Surf Shop in a trailer park in Ship Bottom, Long Island Beach, New Jersey.

It was the first in the region, and the sixth in the country after Jack's Surf Shop (1957, Huntington Beach), Dive N' Surf (1956, Redondo Beach), Katin (1954, Huntington Beach), (Hobie Dana Point (1954, Dana Point), and O'Neill Surf Shop (1952).

It didn't take long for the surfing lifestyle to explode on the East Coast, and his tiny little surf shop became the surf Mecca for all who lived along the Atlantic beaches.

In 1963, DiMenna opened a second shop in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Ron Jon Surf Shop, Cocoa Beach: the world's largest surf shop | Photo: Creative Commons

The World's Largest Surf Shop

The original Ron Jon Surf Shop on Long Beach Island is now a four-level surfing emporium with a huge selection surfwear, sportswear and beach gear, active lifestyle apparel, and boardsports equipment.

It even features one of the world's largest surfboards more than 20 feet in length.

"One of a Kind" Ron Jon Surf Shop's two-acre flagship store in Cocoa Beach is the world's largest surf shop and is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

It attracts 1.5 million visitors every year.

You'll find not only surf gear, but also snowboarding, windsurfing, skateboarding, bodyboarding, wakeboarding, diving, waterskiing, jet-skiing, rollerblading, camping, and bicycling equipment.

The store is located just 2.5 miles away from the Kelly Slater statue.

Ron Jon Surf Shop played a crucial role in the expansion of Hang Ten, the surf company founded by Doris Moore and Duke Boyd, in 1960, in Seal Beach, California.

The addition of stores in Fort Lauderdale, Key West, Fort Myers, Panama City Beach, Clearwater Beach, Orlando, Orange Beach Alabama, Ocean City Maryland, and two locations in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, bring the Ron Jon surfing mystique closer to loyal followers in those areas.

Ron Jon Surf Shop: the famous logo has been kept untouched since 1961

The Ron Jon Surf Shop shop logo and name has been recognized around the globe for 60 years.

It's been spotted on the Space Station Mir 200 miles above the Earth.

Ron Jon Surf Shop gives away 2 million free stickers annually; some of them were even found in one of the long slender legs of the Eiffel Tower, in Paris.

Every day, the brand is seen on vehicles ranging from 1965 Rambler convertibles to today's modern hybrids.

This brand recognition has led the company to establish several licensing agreements resulting in Ron Jon Surf Shop stores in airports (Orlando, Tampa, Miami, and John F. Kennedy International Airport), as well as stores in Cozumel, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Las Vegas, and the Ron Jon Surf School, all extensions of the brand.

Today, 48 percent of the multi-million sales correspond to Ron Jon-branded products.

The multiple Ron Jon Surf Shop highway billboards found across the country celebrate the beach and everything it has to offer.

Interestingly, there's no "Jon" associated with the history of the brand - the "Jon" rhymes with Ron, and that's why the founder made it that way.

Ron DiMenna: one of the rare photos taken of the founder of Ron Jon Surf Shop | Photo: East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame

Ron DiMenna: An Eccentric and Low-Key Businessman

The founder of Ron Jon Surf Shop - also known as Joey Norton - is a private person who rarely concedes interviews and doesn't want his picture taken.

In 2008, Duke Boyd wanted to include DiMenna in his book - "Legends of Surfing" - but the entrepreneur refused to be photographed.

However, the world's biggest surf retailer will always be remembered as an eccentric person with unusual tastes and extravagant hobbies.

In the 1970s, the East Coaster became enchanted by... dynamite. Suddenly, he started exploding New Jersey Pine Barrens and blasting dog food containers in the Bahamas.

Throughout his life, Ron DiMenna had a close relationship with the authorities. He was arrested several times for driving under the influence and spent nearly 18 months in New Jersey state prisons.

But people who know the surfing millionaire say he's "a nice guy and a brilliant businessman."

In 1978, DiMenna was inducted into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame.

Today, the Ron Jon Surf Shop founder is still an enigma to his employees and lives in a 42-foot long luxury motorhome customized with a paint job that makes it look like an old 1940s woodie station wagon.

Ron and his wife Lynne founded Surfing's Evolution & Preservation Foundation, a charitable organization that works to keep the beaches healthy and safe.

The organization supports events and programs that promote coastal education and beach ecology.

The nonprofit sponsored Florida's "The Endless Summer" specialty surfing license plate with proceeds going to beach cleanups and lifeguards.

The Endless Summer: Ron and his wife Lynne DiMenna sponsored Florida's license plate

Ron Jon Surf Shop Locations | Official Stores

Cocoa Beach, Florida
Key West, Florida
Ft Myers, Florida
Panama City Beach, Florida
Clearwater Beach, Florida
Pensacola Beach, Florida
Lake Buena Vista, Florida
Orange Beach, Alabama
Ocean City, Maryland
Ship Bottom, New Jersey
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Ron Jon Surf Shop Locations | Licensing Agreements

Orlando International Airport
Tampa International Airport
Miami International Airport
John F. Kennedy International Airport
Puerta Maya Ron Jon Surf Shop, Mexico
International Pier Ron Jon Surf Shop, Mexico
Ron Jon Surf Shop, Turks & Caicos Islands
Ron Jon Surf Shop, Las Vegas

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