Honoring the founders that shaped the San Diego Lifestyle
Here we honor the original thinkers, innovators and disrupters who shaped the lifestyle that's now synonymous with San Diego. They built a business on passion, to share with their San Diego neighbors - and ended up creating a brand that exported San Diego vibes far beyond the confines of the county. Without their vision and grit, San Diego’s Sports, Active Lifestyle, Health & Wellness industry wouldn’t exist - and an organization like ours wouldn't be possible.
This is our tribute and chance to share the stories of companies, past and present, who’ve built and shaped our San Diego Lifestyle community. Those receiving this recognition, are a founder or brand who began in San Diego county and pioneered a path to a better product or service – or blazed a trail all their own. These companies are ingrained in San Diego and have made our city a better place because of their presence. Sustainable businesses and great communities are built on passion and those we honor below, are living proof of just that.
A Legendary San Diego company and a market disruptor, Callaway introduced science to the art of golf club manufacturing. When Ely Callaway’s “Big Bertha” driver hit the market, it changed the game forever, replacing the prevailing small wooden club heads with larger cast metal woods that featured bigger “sweet spots.” The result allowed more golfers to have more fun, by simply making it easier to hit the ball successfully. The succeeding model, called the “Great Big Bertha,” was named the “Greatest Golf Club of all Time” By Golf Digest. With these break-through clubs, Ely realized his vision of making golf more fun, for more people and the company remains one of the leaders in the global golf business today.
Callaway Golf now consists of 5 powerful brands — Callaway, Odyssey, Toulon Design, OGIO and TravisMathew, that together offer golfers all over the world everything they need – clubs, balls, bags, apparel, footwear, bags, accessories – to play better and enjoy the game. Callaway still maintains the “Number 1 Driver in Golf” and is played by a wide array of the top golfers in the world including Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Jim Furyk, Annika Sorenstam, and Michelle Wie.
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club
Dateline La Jolla 1936: Bing Crosby and La Jolla local Bill Quigley form the Del Mar Turf Club. One year later, Bing greeted guests personally on Opening Day and it was literally “off to the races.” By the 40s, the Del Mar track was the place to be and be seen. Crosby’s Hollywood friends came by private aircraft landing near what is currently the 5 freeway, while direct service by Rail from Los Angeles further expanded attendance. At the time, horse racing was second in popularity only to baseball. Famous people, famous horses and famous jockeys all converged on San Diego.
Beginning in 2000, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club 's marketing team created a major shift. Realizing they had to attract a more diverse audience, they drafted a multi-faceted ad campaign that made Del Mar a fashionable destination, attracting more women and a younger crowd to the track . The majority of the creative didn't show horses and they adopted the slogan "Cool as Ever" to label the new "Del Mar Scene" that is a fusion of racing, society, food, music and special events. Today’s Del Mar is one of the most successful tracks globally with an annual economic impact in excess of $100 million. The Club is one of the largest seasonal employers in the county with the Facility being owned by the State Agriculture District 22 and leased by the Del Mar thoroughbred Club. In 2017 Del Mar had the honor of hosting The Breeder’s Cup, one of the most prestigious events in the global Sport of racing.
What could be more San Diego than the classic beach cruiser? And what could be more authentically San Diego than an original beach cruiser brand available in classic pedal style or new E-bikes? Meet Electra, Encinitas’ home bike brand.
In a few short years Electra Bicycle Company has become the leading lifestyle bicycle brand in the U.S., with more than 200 designs for those ready to outrun boring. Electra is exporting the San Diego Lifestyle around the world with the most comfortable and beautiful bicycles on the market today, fueling their growth throughout Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America. Their signature collections – Townie®, Loft™, Amsterdam®, Cruiser, Kids’ and Go! E-bikes – come in a variety of color palettes and playful personalities. While Electra is serious about making bikes, they aren’t so serious about riding them, making them the official bike of nothing official. But you can’t be a “local” without one!
You really can’t talk about the San Diego lifestyle without mentioning watersports - ocean, swim, surf & paddle…just for starters. Hobie Alter changed the way entire generations interacted with the water, and it all started here in 1950 when Hobie convinced his dad to move the family Buick out of the garage, replaced by a pile of balsa wood, soon to be surfboards. What ensued was the birth of an industry. Hobie and his buddy Grubby Clarke went on to invent foam surfboards, with a lineup of riders that was a veritable Who’s Who of surfing greats. Phil Edwards, Joey Cabell, Corky Carroll, Micky Munoz, Joyce Hoffman, and Herbie Fletcher are just a few of the champions who supported the distinctive Hobie diamond logo over the years.
Hobie didn’t just create toys, he created a way of life with a new perspective of our watery world. His vision has since expanded to included sailing with Hobie Cats, r/c Gliders, skateboards, yachts, and numerous patented innovations in kayaks. The dream born on the beach in 1950 has become reality not just for Hobie but for new generations of water lovers, all of whom continue to spell fun in the sun, the surf and the sand with a flying capital H. San Diego is proud to see Hobie still going strong at their headquarters in Oceanside.
Inspiration can come from many places, including rejection! Founder Tony Finn’s college professor counseled him to “forget the idea of a surf board towed behind a boat. It will never work.” Liquid Force, the real pioneer in the sport of Wakeboarding was born that day, the same day college ended! Tony teamed up with Jimmy Redmond and they jump started a new sport, a new company and finally a new industry…all here in San Diego.
In 1995 Liquid Force set up shop in Encintas. The product lines expanded to boards, gear and apparel, and the company sprouted new divisions for wakeskating, wakesurfing and kiteboarding. Within a few years, Liquid Force was THE global force, and remains so today.
“It was a long journey, but I learned to never, ever give up. Don’t listen to the nay sayers; listen to your inner voice and make your dream come true” ~ Tony Finn
There’s something magical about a San Diego garage - In 1992, two of San Diego’s most successful entrepreneurs, Pam and Beaver Theodasakis were hard at work in their garage crafting up the first product offering from prAna. The goal was simple: make functional, stylish and sustainable apparel products that reflected the founders passion for yoga and climbing. A full decade before the onset of conscious consumerism, sustainability and LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) Pam and Beaver saw a new way to outfit the active communities they loved. They went “all in” and both the yoga and climbing community responded bringing life to this mega brand.
Today, prAna, is the mark of authenticity at the peak of outdoor activity. Prana, Sanskrit for the ”subtle force of life,” has become the not so subtle force in a market that embraces those early fundamentals that Pam and Beaver helped pioneer years ago. Climb on, San Diego!
Can you think of San Diego without thinking of the beach? When you think of beach footwear, what comes to mind? Most likely a flip flop and for that you can thank Reef, one of the most iconic beach brands in the world today. REEF was founded in 1984 by two brothers from Argentina, Fernando and Santiago Aguerre, who wanted to share their love for surf travel and beach culture with the world. They created a high-quality sandal that could keep up with their active (ahem, party) lifestyle and moved to San Diego to manage the REEF brand and produce the iconic sandal that made REEF what it is today.
Many years later, REEF is still at it, encouraging people around the world to embrace the fun, freedom and spirit of the beach while living life by one simple rule: Beach Freely. Whether you’re surfing, BBQing, metal detecting, sand castle building, day drinking, guitar playing, or just hanging out, you can beach any way you want. Reef designs products that allow you to bring that beachy comfortable, relaxed and free feeling to any environment, even if you’re miles from the salt and sand.
Man meets fish taco. Man eats fish taco. Man falls in love with fish taco. Such was the case for Ralph Rubio, co-founder of Rubio's. As a college student, Ralph made regular pilgrimages to Mexico's best beaches to surf, sun and socialize, just exactly like many of us locals did. And like us, it was on one of these trips that Ralph sat down at a seaside taqueria and met his true love. He was hooked on the fish taco.
Unlike the rest of us, Ralph took action. With the help of his family, Ralph opened his first Rubio's, a walk-up stand in Mission Bay, San Diego. It was at that walk-up stand that America had its first taste of the fish taco. Soon, they too were hooked. As word of Ralph's fish tacos spread, so did his business. One restaurant quickly expanded to three, and before long, San Diego's best-kept secret was out. Rubio's started a fish taco phenomenon that spread from coast to coast. Each new restaurant brought not just The Original Fish Taco® recipe, but also Ralph's commitment to fresh and high quality ingredients. A commitment that has become as synonymous with Rubio’s as the taco that made it a coastal favorite. And “hats off” to Ralph for his vision and drive: he is one of San Diego’s true pioneers in exporting the culinary side of the San Diego lifestyle!
“Grab your board and go sidewalk Surfin’ with me!”
Jan and Dean were on to something way back in the 60’s, but it took Sector 9’s Founders Steve Lake and Dennis Telfer to really make it happen, San Diego style. Faced with every grom’s challenge to “get to the beach,” Lake, Telfer and their buddies decided to transfer their love for surfing and skateboarding to create the ultimate longboard to surf the streets of La Jolla… the rest is history. From back yard start-up to a full scale manufacturing facility in San Diego, Sector 9’s long boards were soon famous and sought after for their arcing, powerful turns and their high speed capability. Today Sector 9 is an industry leader with a full collection of skate boards, trucks, wheels, apparel and accessories. And, if you’re feeling old school like these guys did in ‘93, Sector 9 can provide you everything you need to customize your ride… and hit the beach in style…. nothing better!
SKLZ was founded here in San Diego by SDSI Chairman, John Sarkisian. It all began when John came across a product called the Hit-A-Way that was essentially a baseball tied to a rope – flash forward and the Hit-A-Way is the most successful baseball swing trainer of all time.
After John’s initial meeting with the inventor, he took the product home, tied it to a tree in his front yard and gathered product validation by seeing how long his children would be entertained by it. After several hours of continuous use and countless swings, he knew the product had serious potential and came to an agreement to bring the product to market. From there, SKLZ worked to sign on Reggie Jackson as a product ambassador, elevating the brand and the product to new heights. Due to the massive success of the Hit-A-Way, SKLZ expanded into other sports and now offers a full range of training products for baseball, soccer, football, basketball, golf and more. Today SKLZ is the standard for programming and training equipment to enhance athletic performance for all athletes, from novice to professional.
How do you stay at the forefront of San Diego lifestyle trends? “Well,” reported Sun Diego’s Founder Dave Nash, “you look for emerging brands that will set the trend.” and that's exactly what Nash’s Sun Diego has done since 1984.
With multiple locations across the county, Sun Diego has been voted “Best Surf Shop” nine times by the San Diego Union Tribune Readers Poll. And SIMA (Surf Industry Manufacturers Association) has voted Sun Diego “Retailer of the Year” and “Women's Retailer of the Year.” Many iconic surf brands have grown their presence across the country by passing through Sun Diego’s doors. Anyone committed to looking good while enjoying the Southern California sun and coastal living, knows the Sun Diego name.
Surf Cup Sports
Drive down The 5 in Del Mar… to the west you see the Del Mar Race track and to the east a wonderful expanse of 22 emerald green soccer fields… Surf Cup Soccer, home to an amazing business that's not so local anymore. On the surface Surf Cup Soccer seems to be a place to play soccer or maybe join a league. A closer look would uncover one of the more successful sport endeavors in Southern California. The economics are impressive: Surf Cup Sports reaches 200,000 participants annually and each year more than 490,000 people attend Surf Cup Sports organized events in San Diego, generating 125,000 booked hotel rooms, more than the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and second only to Comic-Con.
Surf Cup Soccer is a social force as well, having played a major role in player development at the local, national and international level. Athletes of all ages and cross their fields and take home memories of San Diego. Most importantly, Surf Cup Soccer is one of the largest overall sources of athletic scholarships in the USA, including the Number 1 source of women’s’ athletic scholarships.
In 1996, twin sisters Izzy and Coho Tihanyi were on a mission - to break down barriers and prove that chicks do in fact surf. Many called them crazy, but the Surf Diva twins changed the trajectory for females’ surfers - and it started right here in La Jolla, California. What began as two sister’s passion for surfing, grew into what is now the largest surf school on the West Coast. But they didn’t stop there - the Surf Diva retail store is one of the highest rated local surf boutiques for fashion and they spread internationally with their Surf Diva Costa Rica Surf Adventure. This week long surf camp gives women and girls the opportunity to slow down, connect with nature and improve their shredding skills in the consistent surf of Costa Rica.
Today Surf Divas teaches men, women and children of all skill levels and physical abilities to surf, and has created more than 800 local jobs since it opened its doors. You go girls!!