Meet Your Neighbor: Ryan Heavyside

12345010259?profile=RESIZE_710xRyan Heavyside builds custom surfboards and sells Nomad brand clothing at the shop that has been in his family for 55 years. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

When Nomad Surf Shop owner Ryan Heavyside was approached about being the subject of a Meet Your Neighbor feature as a means of getting him better acquainted with his neighbors along A1A, his response was, “There aren’t many people in this neighborhood I don’t know.”

Ever since his grandfather Richard Heavyside bought the building at the corner of Briny Breezes and Ocean boulevards in the early 1960s and leased a 75-square-foot space to Ryan’s father, Ron, to craft and sell surfboards, Nomad has served both surfers and hundreds of thousands of others who have sought to sample a touch of their carefree lifestyle.

Few have embodied that lifestyle more than Ryan, 39. From a modeling career that stretched from his mid-teens to just a few years ago, to a long stretch as a pro surfer, to growing the Nomad brand into an international success, Heavyside embodies the images made famous in Beach Boys songs.

“South Florida is a special kind of place for all of it,” he said.

Heavyside recently picked up a vintage T-shirt that dates to the three businesses that operated on this County Pocket property just south of Briny Breezes some 55 years ago.

“There was Heavyside TV repair, a Pure Oil gas station and in the back Dante’s Den, which was a rock ’n’ roll joint that blasted live music until 5 a.m. My grandmother, who lived upstairs, used to sleep with cotton in her ears. That was a crazy time on this corner.”

The TV repair shop and nightclub eventually were swallowed up by Nomad, and Ryan’s mother, Beth, helped turn the business into a success.

“She passed when I was 12 but she was the reason that our retail business grew,” Ryan said. “My dad (who died in 2018) started building surfboards, but the retail side came from my mom. The way we survive in this business is the clothing side. Surfboards don’t have much of a profit margin. She kept up with the trends.”

While other retail businesses have succumbed to rent increases and the quest to turn every inch of coastal real estate into housing, Nomad carries on.

“The blessing is we own the building and we’ve been in this location for so long,” Heavyside said. “With the inflation in rents since COVID, you’re in business awhile and the landlord says, ‘Sorry, I’m adding a couple zeros.’ It changes the perspective.”

Nomad’s busy season begins in November and typically runs through Easter. Because Nomad is the only bona fide surf shop between Delray Beach and Stuart, its handful of parking spaces likely will be full for a while.

“There’s not many surf shops who build their own custom label through the shop,” Ryan said. “You can walk in and order a board for your own height, weight, color. Now we’re collaborating with people with art and color. That’s kind of a specialty thing. We’re in a kind of specialty retail spot.”

— Brian Biggane

Q: Where did you grow up and go to school? How do you think that has influenced you?
A: I’m straight from the Boynton Beach area, born at Bethesda Hospital, so I’m as native as it gets. I went to St. Joseph’s School up through eighth grade, then Atlantic High School for a couple years and then got home-schooled, which brought me into the business. The home-schooling gave me more freedom timewise and that’s when I started getting into modeling, which gave me a lot of opportunities to travel.

Q: What professions have you worked in? What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
A: I started modeling at 15 and went into my mid-30s, so that was 20 years of that lifestyle. When I was very young my mom wanted me to get into it and I laughed it off, but later on I saw it as an opportunity to build up my savings. The magazines were everything then but now everybody just flips through their phones.
I was also a professional surfer, was on the U.S. Surf Team for one year and otherwise just did it on my own schedule. Competing is kind of a rough go; you’ve got to really be into it, and I look at it more from the enjoyment end.
Every day in this profession, running the shop, is a proud moment to carry on our legacy, being here 55 years — that’s pretty special to keep going. We still build our own surfboard labels. I actually shape all those. I manufacture those boards. It’s cool to do that custom. And we’ve gotten big on making our own brand of clothing. This is the only place you can get the Nomad brand. We do our own artwork.

Q: What advice do you have for a young person seeking a career today?
A: What you put in is what you get back. The work ethic these days has changed. You get the kid who’s really after it, you see that, and then there’s one who kind of lags. We’re blessed here, we have a good crew.

Q: How did you choose to make your home in the County Pocket?
A: We’ve always had a house in the pocket, the old-school wood house where my mom and dad lived. My brother lives in that house and I live in another house on the beach. We also have a Nomad rental beach house where people can book it, have surf lessons and enjoy the lifestyle.

Q: What is your favorite part about living in the County Pocket?
A: The commute to work is good. It’s pretty laid back, one of the last old Florida neighborhoods. There used to be a couple in Deerfield Beach, but they’re gone, so the next one is probably up in Stuart or even further north. It’s got that old Florida feel, which is hard to come by these days. It’s kind of got that island kind of style.

Q: What book are you reading now?
A: I read more The Surfer’s Journal, which is one of the last print magazines that deals with surfing. It’s got short stories but a lot of old ones from the ’70s to newer ones. It’s a bimonthly, glossy cover, a specialty magazine out of California.

Q: What music do you listen to when you want to relax? When you want to be inspired?
A: I listen to a lot of reggae when I’m chillin’, that’s always been kind of a go-to being from Florida. But inspired, when I’m in the shaping room shaping boards, a lot of old school like Jimi Hendrix, stuff like that. It puts you in that zone. Those big old-school tunes kick in, you get kind of a level of energy kick in. Also, the Rolling Stones, the Zombies, all those classic rock bands with the big tunes.

Q: Have you had mentors in your life? Individuals who have inspired your life decisions?
A: The biggest has been my father. Him creating this place, he was always so crafty on building boards, old-school cars. Very big-hearted. He always knew the lady from baseball, or the lady from the bank, and anything to do with surf, he’d remember these people. It was programmed in him to be that guy. Especially since he passed the business down to me.

Q: If your life story were to be made into a movie, who would play you?
A: At Nomad every day is like a movie, so I’d probably play myself. But if it was an actor, I’d say Johnny Depp. That whole pirate thing kind of blends with the surf theme.

Q: Who/what makes you laugh?
A: My wife, Taylor. She knows how to turn something serious into a better situation. We’ve laughed a lot over the years. Especially with my dad around, there was always a joke. We’ve been married three years but been together like 12. We’re hoping to become first-time parents next year.

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  • I know Ryan --one of nicest, kindest and friendliest persons ever -and same for Taylor

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