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Retail at High Tide

A beachside printing business has evolved into a staple in Virginia Beach’s Sandbridge community.

By Jennifer Morell, Contributing Writer

Surf and Adventure Co. offers locally printed retail merchandise that is specific to its location.

October 5, 2017

At first glance, Virginia Beach,Virginia-based Surf and Adventure Co.’s past appears rather complicated. But based on the retail shop’s current status, it seems that its history has positioned the printing business for a solid future.

Charting the past of the business, located in the coastal community of Sandbridge, goes something like this: It was established in 1974 as Ocean Rentals, operating alongside Sandbridge Lifeguard Saving Service. The latter closed in 2005. Ocean Rentals owner Rob Lindauer established Sandbridge Eco Sports, a retail storefront, in 2000. However, in 2006, he changed the name to Surf and Adventure Co. to better reflect the lifestyle of area residents.

“Surf and Adventure Co. is the culmination of decades of passion for the outdoors,” says Alex Smith, the company’s marketing communications manager. “We want our customers to enjoy Sandbridge as much as we do. Whether in surfing the waves of the Atlantic, paddling the quiet waters of Back Bay or rambling through the trails of Virginia Beach, we strive to share positive outdoor experiences with our customer, while raising the next generation of youth within our community.”

Surf and Adventure Co. offers a variety of kayak tours that launch directly into Back Bay from a private dock. It also provides standup paddleboard (SUP) lessons and tours, surf lessons and camps, ocean kayaking experiences and bike excursions. During peak season, the company employs more than 100 people in various roles.

The Retail Push
Smith says the retail side of the business allowed Surf and Adventure Co. to offer a friendly and positive environment for all customers. “When they visit our location down here in Sandbridge, it allows us to really establish a strong brand presence for locals and visitors alike,” he says. “We also have been able to support many local businesses by selling their products in-house. All in all, it has helped create a stronger image and better experience for everyone who comes into Surf and Adventure Co.”

It’s a natural marriage, really. Beach and surf shops have enjoyed a long tradition in the retail world, and T-shirts, in particular, have been a cornerstone of that market. Just like in many seaside communities, such shops add to the culture of seasonal vacation spots. Smith says Sandbridge Beach is a renowned travel destination that has its own culture and vibe. The shops are ideal for retail business, since they are unique and offer one-of-a-kind merchandise. Surf and Adventure Co. is an embodiment of that.

“We offer locally printed retail merchandise that is specific to our location and our backyard: Sandbridge, Virginia Beach,” Smith says. “Who doesn’t love going on their favorite annual beach vacation and getting something special that will bring them memories for years?

“We offer a wide selection of in-house designs that allow locals to represent their homes and local surf breaks,” he adds. “At the same time, we bring visitors’ vacations back to life. Having local gear in surf shops really has been a long tradition in the United States, and I don’t believe that will change anytime soon.”

A DTG Boost
Surf and Adventure Co. currently offers in-house direct-to-garment (DTG) printing and custom embellishment. Lindauer’s team first decided to implement the DTG process after encountering several problems obtaining private-label T-shirts to stock each summer. Turnaround times weren’t sufficient, Smith says, and orders and designs were pricey if not ordered in bulk. In-house DTG printing allows needed flexibility to accommodate an unpredictable market and demand of the summer vacation season.

“We have been able to really inspire the creativity of our staff by having an in-house DTG printer,” Lindauer says. “That creativity has raised motivation throughout all of our company.”

Lindauer says customers now tend to favor products from local businesses as opposed to purchasing prestigious national brands.

“Having our own printer has really allowed us to be successful and push our brand in ways we could not before,” he says. “For example, we can now easily test new logos without having to put in a bulk order through a main distributor. Being able to print five T-shirts and test them in our shop is a complete shift from having to put in a 100-shirt printing order in hopes that our customer base would fall in love with that design.”

However, no business is immune to growth challenges. Since Surf and Adventure Co. is working with DTG technology, maintenance occasionally can slow the company’s turnaround time.

“So far, we have had a great experience with the printer and, as long as we stay on top of our DTG technology maintenance and supplies, and communicate to our customers, we are able to create positive experiences, even when challenges do arise,” Smith says.

The company also recently decided to offer embroidery, but still is implementing that process.

Being Social
Smith says the best way to know what Surf and Adventure Co. will do next is to regularly visit its social-media networks, where he and his team constantly update followers and friends on the shop’s “next big thing.”

“In today’s retail market, web presence is key,” Smith says. “We currently are on Facebook and Instagram, and we have a blog that is linked to our website. Having a presence on social media not only informs us of the latest market trends and events, but it allows us to truly engage and communicate with our customers. At the end of the day, that is our goal.”

Jennifer Morrell is an award-winning writer who has written for a number of national consumer and trade publications. To comment on this article, email Jennifer at

Surf and Adventure Co. at a Glance

Company Name: Surf and Adventure Co.
Address: 577 Sandbridge Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23456
Founded: 2000
No. of Employees: 100-plus during peak season
Decorating Methods Offered: Direct-to-garment printing, custom embellishment
Company Website: