Frank Crippen and North by Northwest Surf Shop

Something About Surf Shop Owners

You already know that anyone who works in a surf shop is automatically a good surfer, one, and automatically cool, two. Too. What’s apparent to me is they’re sort of automatically, and sometimes cruelly, honest.

Really, is being honest cruel?

I’ve been going into Frank Crippen’s Port Angeles store, North by Northwest Surf Shop since I got back more fervently into surfing nine or ten years ago. Yes, he automatically thought I was a Kook. And he was right. My skills hadn’t instantly come back after years of neglect. My wave knowledge was still there, but muscle memory…

Of course, I did drop a few local PA names. “Hey, you know Darryl Wood?”

“Of course. He came in here this morning on his way to…”

“His way where?”

I think Frank actually rolled his eyes. He wasn’t going to tell me, fifty-something formerly (and only self-professed) real surfer.

Fine. “Cold water wax.”

“Only kind I carry. Sex?”


Sexwax. Oh, yeah. Now, what I do appreciate about Frank is his website,

I can access the available cameras (nothing on the Straits), get a forecast, get the actual buoy readings. I check it at least daily, sometimes multiple times.

By cruising through his shop occasionally through these years, my surfing progressing so very slowly, and by seeing him on several surf checks in the area, and by always giving him a report on where I surfed and how much better it could have been, and complaining about all those Seattle surfers who read the same forecasts… somewhere Frank has gotten a little friendlier.

Oh, not discernibly friendlier. I have, being honest myself in my assessments, said Frank lacks people skills.

This doesn’t mean he can’t make a sale. I witnessed him sell about three hundred bucks worth of wetsuit and gear, some for skiing in the nearby Olympics, in about one minute. The brother of the guy trying on the wetsuit broke out his card. Maybe it’s all because he seems difficult to impress.

“And a beanie?”



So, okay, here’s the Frank Crippen Quote:

No, first, I have to say that I told Frank that Al Perlee, owner of The Surf Shop in Westport, when I told him I wanted a smaller (than my 9’4” piggie model) board, had told me, “No; you won’t be happy. You’re too old, too fat, and you don’t surf enough.”


Okay, now Frank’s Line: “It’s easier to get a bigger board than to get in shape.”

So, even you Seattle surfers: check out and support your local Straits surf shop. Maybe you can impress Frank; I’m still working on it.

Mostly I want him to link to nxnwsurf

Archie took this photo after I bought some new gloves. Yeah, the ones in the photo. “They’re thinner, but they keep you warmer.” “How long do they last?” “No gloves last forever.” We were on our way back from surfing at… somewhere on the Straits. Ask Frank; let me know if he tells you. Let me know if he rolls his eyes.

Hey, I forgot to ‘tag’ Al Perlee. When you’re down in Westport, tell him I have mentioned him several times on Now, Al is actually about my age; not sure how big a board he rides. And, he was right; I’ve gone bigger; it was either go big or go home.

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