Heritage Surf and Sport is South Jersey’s premiere surf, skate and apparel retail destination. The shop was founded over 45 years ago by East Coast Hall of Famer and renowned surfboard shaper Dan Heritage. The shop’s birthplace was in Sea Isle City New Jersey, where it still serves the surf community today. You can also find Heritage surf shops in Ocean City and Margate NJ. Heritage Surf and Sport’s mission is to provide all its customers with the largest variety of premiere surf and skate products on the market today. Through the help of their friendly knowledgeable staff, patrons of Heritage will experience the meaning of the phrase “only a surfer knows the feeling”. We invite you to browse and discover more about Heritage and its tradition of serving the South Jersey shore communities.
Dan Heritage, Age 18, 1962
Dan’s interest in surfing began after reading an ad in Popular Mechanic on how to build your own surfboard. Having spent many summer days in the Jersey surf as a kid, he had a real love for the ocean. With a few friends, he sent away for materials and instructions. After testing out their skills (if you could call it that) on three foam boards they proceeded to try their hands at glassing. After the glassing of only one board they were evicted from the basement to the garage. There they finished the others. After a few weeks of work Dan was ready to test his work. It took only a half hour to break his board in half in the shore break.
Dan opened up a rental concession in Ocean City NJ and ran a small store in his home town of Vineland about 40 miles from the beach.
With increasing love and enthusiasm for the sport, he opened up his first store in Sea Isle, NJ. The store was named Little Wave Surf Shop, in jest of the small waves by which our coast seems to be mocked. Little Wave was one of G & S’ first distributors on the east coast. Inventory at the store included lots of surfboards; from Harbor Ventura Plastic Poparts and Tanaka.
Dan worked full time as a production supervisor in a chemical laboratory to support his wife and two children. He surfed every chance possible while not running the shop. Weekly contests became a challenge with shop sponsored teams competing vigorously against one another. He coordinated several competitions and never missed qualifying for the East Coast Championship in Hatteras along with his team.
Dan Heritage began manufacturing boards on a full time basis. Because of limited experience in board manufacturing on the east coast, Dan had to teach all of his employees every aspect of the process. This included shaping, glassing, sanding, pinning and glossing. He became known as one of the best pin men on the east coast. Everything Dan accomplished was self-taught. He worked endless hours with a persistence and determination to be the best he could. He was never afraid to try new ideas. When Ross Houston opened up the first Surf Expo in Virginia Beach, Dan was among the first supporters. He was considered one of the east coast’s few avid supporters of the surf industry.
Dan built his main retail location in Sea Isle City, NJ. It was then that his wife and children began getting involved with the business. Skateboards had been making a big comeback. While Dan made wooden and fiberglass kicktail decks, the rest of the family was assembling, packaging and shipping them to other dealers. Since Dan’s Dad was an artist and photographer in the advertising field, he lent his expertise in the promotion of Little Wave’s products. “What better name to give your boards than your own?” he said. Dan’s dad then designed the family crest logo for the first Heritage Surfboard decal. From there after Little Wave was known as Heritage Surf & Sport.
A second retail location was established in Ocean City, NJ. With the business growing, everyone in the family found themselves involved. Dan taught his son Brian how to shape while Barbara, his wife, taught daughter Tracy how to run the shop. About 500 boards a year left the Heritage plant. Most were sold at our own store while others were wholesaled at other locations up and down the east coast.
A third location was opened in Stone Harbor. With three locations, Heritage Surf & Sport became a source of local pride for east coast residents. Heritage Surfboards are being distributed throughout the East Coast and employing a small group of core surfers and shapers in the area.
Tracy completes her Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from the University of South Florida and meets the man of her life Jim Hennessy. Jim formerly employed by Honeywell in Florida moves to New Jersey to join the Heritage family business. Tracy and Jim put their education background to work and begin buying for the three stores. Tracy and Jim are married in September of 1987. It is not long that they recognize a better growth opportunity and decide to relocate the Stone Harbor shop to Margate NJ. They also expand the Ocean City location to embrace the growing female market.
After nearly two decades of shaping surfboards and working with chemicals and resin, Dan began to scale down the manufacturing operations. As one of the early pioneers of surfing in the east, Dan retired in ’89 due to health reasons. His son Brian, continues to shape boards for the family stores. The shops continue to be family oriented. In fact, Dan’s wife Barbara along with Brian, Tracy and new son-in-law Jim continue to carry on Dan’s dream. Dan continued to check in on the family business occasionally but preferred to spend most of his time near the ocean. In his remaining years Dan seemed to have caught more fish than he did waves.
Brian continued his Father’s legacy of showcasing the east coast surf talent by creating a strong surf team and promoting them through contests and surf travel. One of the ways Heritage ensured the development of local talent was to provide an amateur contest series from 1993-1997, while always supporting the local ESA chapter events and sending athletes to the East Coast Championships. Jim and Tracy welcome the birth of their first child, Brittany in April 1990. Barb and Dan are proud grandparents. Two more children, Cory and Taylor are soon to follow making up three of the Hennessy family 4pk.
In February of 1996 Dan received a letter from the staff of Surf Expo. It was an invitation to attend a ceremony in his honor. During the ceremony Dan was inducted into Greg Noll’s East Coast Surf Legend’s Hall of Fame. Longtime Ocean City manager Randy Young takes over the reigns at the Margate location. He helps to start The Pearl Classic Surf Contest in Longport which leads to 14 years of developing the best talent from Absecon Island. Those who directly benefit from the Pearl include team riders Frank Walsh, Ben Graeff, and Zack Humphreys.
In February of 1997 Dan Heritage passed away. Today, Heritage Surf & Sport continues to thrive on the determination and pride established by its founder. The family decided a perfect tribute to Dan’s memory was to rename the Heritage contest series to the Dan Heritage Memorial and run it as a pro contest to enable local surfers to surf against the best in the world. It grew to a ASP 3 star WQS event that drew world class surfers such as Tom Curren, Bruce Irons, Rob Machado and Ben Bourgeois. Although the event stopped in 2004 due to unrealistic financial pressure from the ASP it is still on of the most impressive South Jersey traditions to date.
Ocean City and Margate expand to keep up with the growing surf market, including a brand new surfboard room. Along with the growth of all their stores is the growth of the Heritage family management team and the Hennessy’s family with the addition of their youngest daughter Dara. Tracy and Jim continue their involvement in running the Ocean City Surfing Association in which all of their four children participate and often bring home trophies. Popularity of the surf lifestyle is at an all-time high and Heritage helps to spread the message through surf lessons, contests and fashion shows.
Sea Isle City expands to the second floor with the addition of a new board room. With the support of longtime partner Oakley, Brian launches a Junior Pro event that runs from 2003-2008.
Margate opens a new women’s section, as all of the stores cater more to the growing market of women surfers and fashion. Randy and Kevin continue to work with the Margate Recreation Department and Jewish Community Center, providing surf lessons for area youth. Brian and Jaime welcome their first offspring, son Brett. Brian continues to run local contests, the Heritage Pro and Oakley Jr Pro. Brittany Hennessy keeps the family tradition alive with 2 NSSA high school state championship titles. Barbara still advises and consults as needed, while enjoying more time for travelling. A trip “down under” provided an opportunity to visit well-known surf beaches and surf shops where creative designs were impressive.
The Ocean City store expands to a second floor board room to showcase the area’s most comprehensive collection of surfboards including Channel Islands, Firewire, Lost, Bing, Kookbox and a slew of other top quality brands. The “stairway of fame” on the way to the boardroom presents a history of surf memorabilia and Jim’s very impressive vintage board collection is prominently displayed. Brian and Jamie welcome their daughter Brooke to the Heritage family. Brian finally retires from the running the big contests and focuses on the Sea Isle store, shaping surfboards and raising his family. Heritage’s commitment to a strong surf team pays off in three Northeast Surf Shop team challenge titles (2008-2010) and the opportunity to surf at the final national event in Huntington Beach, California. Randy continues to get more involved in the community by joining the Margate Business Association and developing more events for the city’s visitors and residents.