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Allow me to spare you from the disappointment of hyperbole—there is no surfing in Ohio. Much like  jumbo shrimp, the Hell’s Angels, and Christian Scientists, the popular apparel brand SURF OHIO presents a playful contradiction. What began as an OU grad studiously creating a pastiche design for a bootleg Beach Boys touring tee—then reading “Surf [...]
Danny Hamen

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Allow me to spare you from the disappointment of hyperbole—there is no surfing in Ohio.

Much like  jumbo shrimp, the Hell’s Angels, and Christian Scientists, the popular apparel brand SURF OHIO presents a playful contradiction. What began as an OU grad studiously creating a pastiche design for a bootleg Beach Boys touring tee—then reading “Surf Olentangy”—eventually became one of the most iconic surfing brands out of the Midwest, worn onstage by the likes of The Black Keys, Guided by Voices, and even by members of the surfin’ icons themselves, The Beach Boys. The brand made its way into television shows based in Ohio before product placement even existed, their wall of fame including photos of Michael J. Fox, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ron Howard, among others, proudly sporting SURF OHIO garb.

So how did this happen?

Well, let’s call it a series of fortunate events…

As long as Ron Kaplan can remember, he’s had an obsession with the California Myth—that iconic ’60s zeitgeist sold by the Wilson brothers of West Coast surfing, street rod culture, beach parties, and tiki bars.

“Being born and raised in Columbus, and attending Whetstone High, part of it may have been the allure of something that was out of reach,” Kaplan said. “Given the choice, I was always painting hot rods, beach scenes, surfers in the curl—the things that accompanied the soundtrack of my life at that point in time, the early and mid ’70s. I was likely the only Ohio subscriber to Surfing and Surfer magazines in 1974 and 1975, and couldn’t get enough of the contents, the images, even the advertisements.”

It began with a satirical piece he wrote while attending Whetstone High School in 1976 about a fictitious Hawaiian transfer student, a column that became the genesis of the “Surf Olentangy” idea that struck him as a t-shirt design later that summer.

The next year, Kaplan attended OU as a design major, creating a handful of moderately popular designs, including the infamous DISCO SUCKS tee. He wanted to complete the coastal prophecy by attending UCLA, and planned a move to gain residency before enrolling. His dad, a former OSU fencing coach and then a professor in OSU’s Health Ed Department, not so subtly knocked that idea off its board.

“[He] knew an unfettered year in Southern California might send me on an errant path. Since I had literally grown up on Ohio Se’s campus, he offered to pay for any other state school of my choosing in Ohio.”

He trekked down to Athens to check out the campus, and while there, popped into a concert, too. It was The Beach Boys, of course, which seemed to help seal the deal, even though he had to switch to graphic design from radio/TV when he got there.

“I hadn’t bothered to research and arrived to find that they had no computers!” he laughed.

As he was now miles away from his beloved Olentangy, Kaplan decided to change the name to SURF OHIO, and Kaplan had a hit, selling his design to hundreds of students ready to head out of town for summer break.

After graduation, Kaplan worked out of his parent’s garage, earning a small cult following, working odd jobs and making connections to get his brand to a larger audience. Eventually, his big wave arrived in 1978. After seeing a Dispatch article about a young L.A. musician named Sterling Smith from Gahanna who had become the tour and studio musician for (guess who? The Beach Boys). Kaplan, still, ever the dorm-room hustler, tracked down the phone number for his parents and called his mom. They arranged,  ahead of a Beach Boys outdoor show at Edgewater Raceway Park near Cincinnati, for Sterling to get some SURF OHIO shirts and give them to the band. It would take a few years for Kaplan’s connection to complete with the band itself, but Smith came through on his end, sporting the SURF OHIO proudly from behind the keys.

“I still have the photo I took with my Kodak Instamatic,” Kaplan said. “I had no idea that I’d eventually meet them all and often over the next 40 years! But Sterling was the guy, and he soon helped me meet and present SURF OHIO shirts to Jan & Dean, too, when they played the Ohio Theater in 1980. A local kid helping an even younger local kid.”

In 1982,  Kaplan opened his own design firm, Kaplan Graphics. By that time, surf culture was creeping into the mainstream, and retailers took notice, including members of the Ohio Film Commission, who were happy to help get his shirts on screen.

After years of commercial success, annual SURF OHIO beach parties, (most famously taking place in the now renamed “Wyandotte Lake”) and producing versions of SURFs for 22 Ohio locales and 15 other states/cities, including SURF AUSTIN, SURF CHICAGO and more, Kaplan found a new viable career in 1996, fulfilling Warbird Aviation Art commissions, writing for Flight Journal magazine. Unable to fulfill both roles, especially when he landed a development director role in 1998, Kaplan simply could not stop to create the new SURF OHIO artwork.

So SURF OHIO lay dormant.

That is, until someone else took notice in 2007.

This time it was an even younger local kid helping out.

With the 30th anniversary approaching, Kaplan realized surfohio.com was available and grabbed it, a motivating factor to bring back the brand. Then his former partner called him about someone who wanted to pay HOMAGE.

“He said some young kid from Bexley named Ryan Vesler was asking if he could do some SURF OHIO shirts for his mail order company. I said, ‘Well, let’s talk…”

That meeting was just as serendipitous and successful as the one 30 years earlier with Smith. Vesler was running HOMAGE from his parents’ basement—something Kaplan could certainly connect to. Not only would he assist Kaplan in reviving the brand, but he’d “supercharge” its return, selling the retro one-color 1980 designs as far away as Japan and Europe, and landing them on the backs of Ohio’s burgeoning rock stars.

“Ryan was certainly key to introducing the concept to a whole new generation,” Kaplan said. “It was fun to get reports and photos from Ryan and fans as various contemporary celebs were seen wearing SURF OHIO—the Black Keys, Guided by Voices, Walk The Moon, and pro surfer Rob Machado among them.”

Now, SURF OHIO is sailing into its 40th year, which, along with any major milestone, means one thing: new merch. Fortune smiled upon this momentous event as the 100-year-old brewing company out of Baja, Pacifico Beer, sent out an email inquiring about a partnership without even knowing that the milestone for the brand was on the horizon.

“The 40th anniversary aspect was icing on the cake, or the head on a beer, so speak. Both are iconic surf brands with legacies going back decades—Pacifico is from Baja and the West Coast surf scene, and SURF OHIO in the Midwest. It was meant to be as our interests are aligned, such as supporting Hero USA and its river cleanup events.”

I guess all that’s left to say is simple: surf’s up Columbus, the old school legends are back.

Visit surfohio.com to find all new SURF Ohio shirts, hats, beach towels, stickers, and more. Oh, and The Beach Boys are playing at the Ohio State Fair, Wednesday July 25.

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Arts & Culture

SoHud Collective provides fresh, stylish open-air experience

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The fear of ever going back inside of a building that’s not your home has become a general widespread worry. Open-air markets and garage sales are going to be a hot commodity this summer, and one new company has already taken a proactive and stylish approach to fill that need for consumers.

SoHud Collective is one of the first Columbus-based companies to corner this emerging market. The boutique pop-up shop, founded on the principle of friendships formed around fashion, art, and plants, hosted their first event on Saturday, May 23. 

And oh yeah, free lemonade.

An assortment of deep vintage finds at an incredibly reasonable price will leave you walking away with at least one purchase. The first installment took place on the corner of Hudson and Summit, across the street from Evolved Body Art.

The idea of a pop-up shop at this corner may be a new idea, but the format has been around for ages. Why SoHud Collective is important right now boils down to the consumers’ desire for an out-of-house experience and the employees’ obvious shared compassion for each other and thrifting.

“Fashion has been the glue to our friendship,” said the SoHud Collective, made up of Taylor, Connor, and Hayden. “We thrift together, we borrow each other’s clothing, and we send each other pictures of our outfits before we leave the house.”

A company formed on friendships in the SoHud region, the group behind this passion project has a specific goal in mind when passing down their used goods: keep the SoHud community stylin’. 

“Some of us have lost our jobs due to Covid-19, and this was a great way to keep our spirits up and redirect our attention to something that truly fulfills us,” the SoHud Collective said.

The items featured in the monthly pop-ups are passed down from an assortment of thrifting havens. Closets. Basements. Other thrift stores. Grandmas.

From shoes to shirts, Atari systems to board games, SoHud Collective is elevating the thrifting experience in the time of coronavirus.

“Currently, our focus is on elevating our display and merchandising technique to really give the people an experience and a fierce outfit and home decor to create that perfect photo for Instagram, the SoHud Collective said.”

SoHud Collective would like to thank Evolved for letting it use its parking lot for May’s edition of the pop-up. With a goal to have an installment of SoHud Collective once a month, the pop-up shop will return to the same location on June 27 (11 a.m. until 7 p.m.) and 28 (11 a.m. until 4 p.m.). 

A charity table where all proceeds will go to clothing the homeless LGBTQ youth in Columbus will be present as well. 

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Community

Curbside Concerts brings live music, hope to those in need

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Can’tStopColumbus took a quick pause when the pandemic shut down the world and asked two questions:

  1. Are we sure we're solving the needs of everyone in our community during this time? 
  2. Are we not just coming up with ideas based on our own experiences?

Our elder community was one of the major demographics to have stricter socially distancing guidelines suggested to them. Holidays and birthdays went by without hugs from grandpa or grandma’s cookies.

Out of the need to fill that missing love in the life of American seniors, the idea of Curbside Concerts was born. Anyone is able to jump on the Curbside Concerts signup page and request a concert for an elder, sick people not able to leave the house, or a simple celebration.

Sending a concert telegram is free, and you can also leave a message for a loved one and suggest what type of tunes the organization-selected Columbus-area musician.

So far, the feedback has been inspiring. 

“People cried. I cried. We cried. It was beautiful,” said Zach Friedman, one of the service’s founders and creators. “We had a powerful idea on our hands, and the amazing power of the #Can'tStopColumbus community to scale it and bring it to life.”

To date, Curbside Concerts has had over 50 volunteers. Their job is to drive around a Columbus musician and their equipment with trucks provided by Ricart Automotive. It’s a road trip around the Columbus area, delivering concerts to those who may just need their spirits lifted. It’s like a non-depressing version of Inside Llewyn Davis.

Support has come from all ends of the Columbus creative community, including The Columbus Foundation, Greater Columbus Arts Council, Streetlight Guild, and What? Productions. Through these organizations, musicians are able to be paid for a route that usually lasts five to six hours. 100 percent of the donations they receive on their route also goes to the musicians.

Friedman is asking people to keep requests to older audiences.

“Working with local musicians to perform curbside at people's homes is the vehicle or medium, but the real thing we are doing here is connecting those to older people they love, with an authentic and emotional experience to send love over,” Friedman said.

We found out pretty quickly how much as a collective that we take live music for granted. Live streams have been a temporary, dulled-down replacement. You realize how long people have been robbed of the experience when you see a musician pull up in a pickup truck, set up in five minutes, and serenade neighborhoods with songs like “Lean on Me” and “What A Wonderful World.” It starts off with a message to one house and then resonates down the street, like the citizens of Gas Town rushing to The People Eater for even a drop of water.

Photos by Zak Kolesar

For most people, it was their first taste of live music since mid-March. While we may want concerts to return as soon as possible, its productions like Curbside Concerts that display the emotional power of music.

To request to send someone a concert, follow the link here: https://sendaconcert.herokuapp.com/request

To volunteer for Curbside Concerts, follow the link here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040b45abaa22a4fb6-curbside

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Arts & Culture

Loop Daddy invades Columbus with first-ever drive-in tour

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The return of live music is going to be one of the trickiest industries to transition back into business as usual, if that will ever be the case. We’ve seen people getting creative, building concert stages within their own homes via live streaming. Some have participated in virtual festivals, probably the sector of live music to take the biggest hit.

But when an industry made up of innovative creatives always trying to come up with the next big idea is faced with incredible hardships, they respond with quick-witted imaginative solutions.

One of the first trends that popped up in the revolution of bringing back live music was the implementation of drive-in lots. Luckily for Columbus, the darling of the internet DJ scene Marc Rebillet aka Loop Daddy will be taking his first-ever drive-in tour through the Buckeye state in mid-June.

Captivating audiences with his participatory DJ scratching and immature antics, extremely goofy sex appeal, and sleazy porno stache, Rebillet was an act poised for a breakout summer before the pandemic shut music concert venues down. If you have access to a car, though, you’ll still have a chance to catch the wild virtual sensation.

On June 14, Rebillet will be pulling up to the South Drive-In for the third stop of his Drive-In Concert Tour. Rebillet will also be showcasing short films as part of his drive-in experience.

As far as sound is going for these events, a lot of drive-ins are opting to go the radio transmission route to encourage people to stay inside of their vehicles.

A very few grouping of tickets remain, which include three-person and four-person car passes. Tickets are running $40 per head (plus additional fees), which seems to be the average across the new wave of drive-in concerts. Two-people/one-car tickets have already sold out.

If you don’t want to miss out on this unique opportunity, act right now. Tickets can be purchased at:

https://nightout.com/events/marc-rebillet-drive-in-tour-columbus-ohio-south-drive-in-presented-by-hotbox/tickets.

Social distancing guidelines are outlined at the point of purchase.

The South Drive-In is located at 3050 S. High St. Doors open at 8 p.m. with the show beginning at 9 p.m. Attendees need to arrive before 8:45 p.m. A portion of ticket sales will be donated to the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

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