Surfer’s Stomps: Watermans: Safe House for Surfers

Published On July 1, 2015 » 482 Views» By Eddie Solt » Home Slider, News
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IMG_4156All photos by Mark Kawakami

In the thick of the bar scene on Hermosa Beach’s Pier Plaza, it’s easy to get distracted by the beats of electronic fuzz and chirps, high heels, and designer drab.

Even with the beach and the Strand a mere 100 feet away, a pseudo-club scene emerges late nights. On the southeast side of Pier Plaza, under the ownership of Jeff Bellandi, Watermans: Safe House for Surfers rides a different wave.

“The idea of including ‘Safe House’ in the Watermans name is based on the surf companies houses on the North Shore,” Bellandi said. ”Each surf company has their own ‘surf house’ for their team riders.”

Originally from Santa Cruz, Bellandi began surfing at age 12. After graduating from Aptos High in 1985, he took a “small” vacation to Hawaii.IMG_4198

“I ended up moving to Hawaii and enrolling in the community college,” he said. “I ended up getting caught up in surfing the North Shore and not going to school.”

After sustaining a knee injury, Bellandi move back to mainland to rehab his knee.

“Me and some buddies from Santa Cruz moved to Santa Barbara and enrolled in the city college,” he said. “I began doing physical training on East Beach.”IMG_4204

Bellandi gravitated toward volleyball after meeting Karch Kiraly (multiple gold medalist) on the beach courts and began playing with his crew.

“After a couple of volleyball matches, I focused from surfing to volleyball,” Bellandi said.” I advanced real fast and turned pro in 1996.”

While on the AVP tour, Bellandi traveled all through Australia, Italy, Canary Islands, and Brazil.

After meeting and befriending volleyball legend Eric Fonoimoana, Bellandi received major advice that changed his life.

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Bellandi’s constructed pieces of Watermans in Bali and is heavily influenced by his experiences there.

“Eric is born and raised in the South Bay, a mecca for beach volleyball with a lot of top AVP guys coming from the area,” he said. “He said if I wanted to be a pro I had to to move to Hermosa Beach and I did.”

Bellandi retired from the AVP tour in 2001 at 33. It gave him time to get back to surfing.

“A few of us brought boards while competing on the AVP,” he said. “After the AVP, I traveled all over the world and back to get back in tune with surfing.”

In the early 2000s, Bellandi partnered with Chris Pike, Fletcher Dragge from Pennywise, and David Swagget to open up his first restaurant,Los Muchachos, on Pier Avenue. His experiences in the restaurant industry, traveling, and within the local surf culture collectively shaped his next vision.

“I was ready to design a restaurant that was a reflection of what’s going on today in surfing, skating, and the waterman lifestyle,” he said. “On the menu had to be the best of the best cuisine I tasted all over the globe. The menu had to be on the healthy side of things, what the waterman’s lifestyle thrives on.”

Bellandi’s next step was connecting the dots and making his concept a community. In 2008, Watermans: Safe House for Surfers was born.IMG_4171

“The local surf community got involved like Spyder Surf’s Dennis Jarvis and Dickie O’Reilly, Yani Lange, Matt Singley, Rip Curl’s Pat Murphy, Body Glove/ Dive n’ Surf’s Billy and Robbie Meistrell as well as Scott Daley, Danny and Sunny from ET Surf, Mike Balzer, Camp Surf’s  Tommy Ostendorf and Chris Brown, Channel Islands’ Richard Silva, Sector Nine’s Jex McCartney, Jeff Miller from the Jimmy Miller Foundation and Hippy Tree’s Josh Sweeney,” he said. “Without their support, Watermans wouldn’t be what it is today.”

With such input, the interior dedicates its look to being surf shop-esque.

“Basically whatever is happening in our local surf shops is exactly what’s happening at Watermans,” he said. “From the surf videos being streamed constantly to the local surf companies sponsoring tables and wall signs with surf photos of their team riders.”IMG_4176

Surf Industry Night has been one of the venue’s more popular events.

“Watermans has been the home base that brings together the local surf companies that at times can be very divided,” Bellandi said. “It brings together familiar faces who have developed into family.

Watermans has also given back to the local surf community by sponsoring the South Bay Boardrider’s Club, Spyderfest, Spyder Snowfest, the D-Man festival, and the  South Bay Surf Series.

“In the six years of Watermans,” Bellandia said, “I’m most stoked that we managed to stay with the local people in sponsoring events and being their gathering place.”  IMG_4213

 

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