San Diego’s surf culture is steeped in legendary names. Woody Brown, Pat Curren, Mike Diffenderfer, Carl Ekstrom, Larry Gordon, Linda Benson, Richard Kenvin, Joel Tudor–the list of iconic men and women who've shaped the current surf culture here goes on and on. Among that storied catalog is Joe Roper, the owner of Joe Roper's Surfboard Repair located in Kearny Mesa—just a short drive from the area in which Roper grew up surfing.
Throughout his life, Roper has been seen slotted in lefthand tubes almost as much as he's been enveloped in a cloud of resin. Before he started his longstanding ding repair career, Roper grew up surfing Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach and quickly graduated to (and dominated shortly thereafter) places like Big Rock, Windansea, and the reefs around La Jolla. In the mid-'70s, Roper made a name for himself on the North Shore by charging Pipe with style and poise.
Roper was naturally drawn to the magic of surfboard design. At the age of 12, he was fixing his own dings and glassing boards. He then started fixing his friends' boards. The pursuit only grew from there. Now, Roper's brought broken boards back to life for San Diego surfers for over 40 years.
Roper himself is like a walking surf encyclopedia. Take a visit to his dust-filled shop, and you'll feel as if you're taking a step back into that history. His walls are adorned with aged photos of Pipe drainers and Big Rock thumpers. He has board racks filled with old boards that he's carefully restored for collectors. His rafters are stuffed with shapes and designs of every size, shape, and color. And, of course, he's got a tale to go along with each one.
In the edit above, you'll see we had the pleasure of visiting Joe in his shop earlier this year and hearing the stories of one of San Diego's favorite characters.