The Sunset is not sunny. That’s a common misconception. We endure a lot of gray here. But to have the proximity to ocean and city is something very special. I’m a surfer, and after living away from the ocean for a bit, I knew I wanted to be in an area where I didn’t have to get in a car to experience the waves every day. That’s what’s unique about San Francisco. The Sunset feels like a small town, removed from the city. It isn’t crazy urban, yet I can get downtown in about a half hour on the streetcar. When we came to the Sunset, I fell in love with its surf culture. I had lived in Santa Cruz in the late ’90s, and the surf culture there is more mainstream. In San Francisco it feels very fringe. The Outer Sunset attracts artists, musicians, surfers, and eccentrics.
When my wife and I first moved out here in 2000, it felt a bit isolated—like a forgotten part of the city. It was hard to find a place to have a nice dinner. There was no gathering spot. It felt disjointed. But then these two places opened—Mollusk Surf Shop and the Pizza Place at Noriega—and they both became community centers. You started seeing all of your friends there. That gave my wife and me the resolve to buy a house and fix it up. Now we walk down the street and we’re always saying hi to people we know.
Two years ago Josh Duthie, Luke Bartels, Jeff Canham, and I opened Woodshop. Josh has a real eye for vintage chairs that have to be brought back to life. He finds them on the side of the road and reinvents them but keeps their original character. Luke makes furniture out of wood salvaged from the area. Jeff is a graphic designer and a sign painter. We’re all surfers who love this neighborhood, and we had shown and sold our work at other shops far from the ocean. When we found an old gym on Noriega Street, three blocks from the beach, we renovated it. There is a gallery space in the front room and a workshop in the back. I keep about 10 of my hand-shaped boards in the shop for customers to take down to the beach and test. We couldn’t afford to have a place like Woodshop in the heart of the city, and being able to walk to where we work and where we surf is important to us.
What’s been exciting about living out here is being able to watch the community evolve. There are more artists moving in and people doing creative, interesting things. We don’t have much out here. It’s a short list. But what we do have is awesome. And you can surf year-round. The ocean never goes flat. Woodshop, 3725 Noriega St., woodshopsf.com.
Read more about Danny Hess’s favorite places in the Sunset neighborhood:
1. The Pizza Place on Noriega
2. General Store
3. Noriega Produce
4. Devil’s Teeth Baking Company
5. Tuesday Tattoo
6. Trouble Coffee Company
7. Mollusk Surf Shop
9. The Riptide
10. Surf Spots
Photo by Erin Kunkel. Map by Walter Baumann. This story appeared in the January/February 2012 issue.
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