Surfing runs through the veins of everyone here in Clatsop County whether one is a surfer or not. Our land borders and connects us into the great Pacific Ocean with several well-known and secretly known amazing surf spots. Generally, if you don’t surf yourself, you know someone who does or at least see plenty of racks strewn with boards driving around the local roads.
Getting out on those big cresting PNW waves takes grit and effort but if you ask Josh Gizdavich or Jack Molan about surfing they’ll tell you it’s a lifestyle. Almost like a calling. Gizdavich and Molan were best friends from the start and still are to this day. In the 70’s they were surfing companions and spent tons of time together.
Molan recalls, “Back in those days there weren’t any surf shops here at the coast. Just Mrs. A’s Surf Shop in Portland, Oregon run by a 50 or 60-year-old lady.” Not super convenient to be at the coast and have to drive to Portland for some wax then make the trip all the way back to the coast just to catch some waves.
Molan goes on to describe days of selling wetsuits out of his very own living room while Gizdavich was selling surfboards out of his attic. As Molan and Gizdavich got tired of the lack of gear for watermen/women in the area they decided to start a shop together of their very own. The conversation was simple, “Let’s start a shop! Let’s do it!” They both agreed and in August of 1980 CLEANLINE Surf was born.
The premise was simple, ‘We’ll sell what we use.’ It was legit hand to hand engagement keeping their integrity intact with all of their customers and surfer friends. When an authentic shop opens and isn’t just hawking junk but is actually invested in only selling ‘the good stuff’ one can feel the difference.
Cleanline Surf brings this difference to the forefront. Cleanline is all about taking care of their people. People become customers and customers become family. The Cleanline family has spread far and wide across the globe. Which seems only natural since the business was started by these two best friends who were practically family already.
As Gizdavich and Molan got Cleanline rolling in 1980 the same year they also both got married and started their own families. The shop opened at 719 First Avenue with 1.5 rooms in Gizdavich’s dad’s old doctor’s office. Their first official sale was two bars of wax for $1. The receipt still hangs on the wall in the current Seaside shop.
Gizdavich recalls, “We started with try-on suits.” At first, wetsuits were not in back stock. There were only four wetsuits on hand in different sizes. Customers would come in, try on the wetsuit and say ‘I’ll take it!’ But then either Molan or Gizdavich would say, ‘Ok! We’ll have to order it for you.’
Really, in the beginning, starting a surf shop was ALL about surfing. Gizdavich fondly remembers, “We opened after the tide. Hours started 12-5.”
As the business continued growing and days became longer Molan recalls, “I would work 9-1 so Josh could go out surfing. Then we’d switch and Josh would work 1-5 so I could go surfing!”
Customers started coming from far and wide all over the Pacific Northwest. Back before the days of social media, email marketing, or even branding in general Cleanline had its own pipeline. Treat our fellow surfers well and they’ll tell others about us. Which they did and the store just kept growing and growing.
In 1981 a clutch decision was made. After a fun year of getting the business off the ground Molan and Gizdavich inherently knew that Cleanline was going to be a success, but that also it’s success would probably only support one family, not two. So the decision was made for Gizdavich to man the ship solely.
Molan went full time into being an Alaskan Sea Fisherman/Captain manning his own ship which he pursued for 34 years. His moniker is now Capt. Jack and he currently travels the U.S.A. sharing stories, photography and good laughs about all those cold wet treacherous years out at sea.
Although the decision was tough at the time there were zero hard feelings. Both Molan and Gizdavich remain best friends to this day.
Cleanline has grown exponentially over the years expanding to a second location in Cannon Beach in the mid-1990’s. One of their biggest triumphs was the purchase of their new building in 2010 which just happened to be the old Seaside Public Library. It’s now the iconic surfer’s pit stop right on Highway 101 across from Broadway Middle School.
The other huge triumph has been the success of CleanlineSurf.com’s Internet business that went online in 1999. Orders come in from all across the globe. That little surf shop that started in two best friend’s living room’s has now gone International.
“It’s so cool to see orders come in from Russia, Thailand, or New Zealand,” says Gizdavich.
When asking about how Cleanline has been successful over the years Gizdavich wholeheartedly defers to his crew of employees, “They’re family.” The family of employees at Cleanline which started at two now holds a summer crew of 30-40.
Humility is in El Jefe’s (The Cleanline crew’s term of endearment name meaning ‘The Boss’ for Gizdavich) blood. When asked about his growth with the business and becoming such a successful businessman, His reply?
“I’m just a surfer.”
Surfer’s take care of other surfer’s, like family. One to another, embracing and becoming family, like employees. This thread of humility and care runs deep. It is the essence and history of Clatsop County’s Iconic Cleanline Surf Shop.