A Surf Shop’s Pilgrimage to Amagansett

Last month, Pilgrim Surf + Supply opened in Amagansett Square, at the site formerly occupied by Innersleeve Records
Eric Degenhardt, left, the manager of Pilgrim Surf + Supply, posed with a customer, Susan Jackson, and the store’s owner, Chris Gentile, in the newly renovated shop at Amagansett Square. Morgan McGivern Morgan McGivern

   Williamsburg, the Brooklyn neighborhood that exploded in popularity in the late 1990s, has come a long way — literally. As hopeful residents were priced out of its traditional borders, adjacent neighborhoods filled up and gentrified, pushing the neighborhood’s uber-cool phenomenon in every direction but west, where new high-rise buildings stop at the East River’s edge.

    A dozen or so years ago, the Surf Bar opened in a tiny storefront, its Ditch Plain inspiration impossible to overlook. Soon, it relocated to a larger space, where steaming clam chowder and beer are served in an outdoor garden complete with sand.

    In 2007 in Williamsburg, Chris Gentile and a partner opened Mollusk, a hard-goods store serving New York-based surfers. Early last year, he launched Pilgrim Surf + Supply, a store situated, like its predecessor, a stone’s throw from the river.

    Last month, Pilgrim Surf + Supply opened in Amagansett Square, at the site formerly occupied by Innersleeve Records, which moved to Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. Here, Mr. Gentile and Eric Degenhardt, the company’s “manager extraordinaire,” have established an inviting and personable shop for the surfing and outdoor lifestyle.

    “There are a lot of surfers in New York, transplants from another wave-rich land — Australia, California, Hawaii,” Mr. Gentile said of his Brooklyn customers. He had long been enamored with the South Fork, he said, as it reminded him of his native Rhode Island, where his uncle, Lou Mazza, was among a tiny handful of surfing pioneers in the early 1960s.

    “I always loved the idea of moving out here and having a shop, but the one thing I was very cautious of was making sure that we were going to contribute something that wasn’t already there. There’s a lot of surf shops in the area, great shops that I have a lot of respect for, but nobody was really addressing the things that we were addressing in Brooklyn.”

    That, he explained, is Pilgrim’s mission: “My goal is to find things from other places in the world that are totally relevant to the surf culture that exists in New York, but didn’t necessarily come from that. That’s how Pilgrim evolved — along with the boards.”

    The boards, standing tall in the late-summer sunshine, were made by the sport’s giants, among them Jim Phillips, Josh Hall, Gary Hanel, Marc Andreini, Renny Yater, Tyler Warren, Brian Bulkley, Ellis Ericson, Fineline, Mandala, Hydrodynamica, and Anderson.

    “They’re all hand-shaped, beautifully crafted boards from some of the best shapers in the world,” Mr. Gentile said. “It’s almost like a folk tradition that’s been passed down from master to apprentice. There’s a lot of culture embedded in that, and, in a way, I feel like our shop and what we do is gate-keeping that culture, making sure that’s something that’s passed on to the customer.”

    The shop enjoys a personal connection with Mr. Phillips, a renowned craftsman of surfboards, that stretches back to Rhode Island and Mr. Gentile’s uncle. “He’s from California, but would come to Rhode Island in the ’60s and shape his boards. Jim ran into a family friend who had a boatyard and then he met my uncle and some of his friends. They had a nice little run of making those boards there.”

    Mr. Phillips, said Mr. Degenhardt, “is one of the best board shapers of all time, just judging from the boards that I’ve seen come through here.”
    “It’s not like you’re just coming in and buying a surfboard,” Mr. Gentile said of the shop. “You’re buying a handcrafted object that somebody spent their lifetime evolving. That goes for everything: The brands that we bring in here have a level and a layer of social responsibility that they bring to it, and are built really well and with a lot of passion.”

    Clothing, accessories, and cosmetics on display demonstrate the global mind-set of its proprietor: Industry of All Nations, Norse Projects, Armor lux, Nomadic Thread Society, ace&jig, Bantu, Stanley & Sons, Battenwear, Makr Carry Goods, Juniper Ridge, Summer Bummer, Retro Super Future, Salt, and Ferens are represented, along with ubiquitous brands like Vans and Patagonia.

    “Oddly, a lot of the people we have these brands from are surfers too, but they’re not making surfwear, necessarily,” Mr. Gentile said.

    A table of art books, he said, “is a huge part of what we do. They’re sometimes a bit non sequitur, but I’m a visual artist, and we have a lot of friends that are visual artists. There are a lot of parallels between what it is to be an artist and what it is to surf, and there’s a lot of humility in both.”

    The business is also collaborating on a wetsuit with a Japanese company bearing the ironic name Rash, and will launch its own clothing line next year, also in collaboration with a Japanese partner, Beams.

    “We’re selling their line, too, Beams Plus,” said Mr. Gentile, “and another Japanese line called Sunny Sports. We’re like a test kitchen, in a way, but when we bring a brand in we like to show the breadth of their line.”

    On Saturday, Pilgrim Surf + Supply, with a co-sponsor, Vans, premiered “The Ductumentary,” a documentary film about Joel Tudor, a decorated competitive surfer, and the Duct Tape Invitational, a competition he founded that was held in Montauk in 2010. With Mr. Tudor in attendance, the film, along with “Kook Tour,” was screened in Amagansett Square.

    Williamsburg, like Montauk, long ago “arrived” in the popular culture. More recently, denizens of the former have discovered the latter. “Our customer there is really similar to someone out here — someone that can appreciate art, craft, something that’s made with a little bit more integrity,” Mr. Gentile said. “Amagansett, having a really strong community base, was a great place for us to come and be a year-round business. We’ve been so pleased with how welcoming it’s been so far. It’s been great.”