Words and Interview by Beau Flemister.
Call it charisma, call it charm, but some people just have that magnetic “je ne sais quoi” quality about them that attracts good vibes. Such a person is the tall and stylish South African co-founder of Venice Beach’s “General Admission” boutique men’s shop. From pro surfer to STAB mag US publisher to business owner, we had a chat with this gentleman that’s always done things in the surf industry differently. Which is something we respect – a lot. And wouldn’t ya know, they sell our boards there, too…
So Dooma, let’s start from the beginning. From pro surfing through the present with General Admission, what’s been your path in the surf industry?
Ah man I’ve been pretty lucky to get to this point in my life, especially considering my lack-luster surfing ability [laughs] But, yeah, I was surfing full time for Billabong and they suggested moving to the USA. At the same time Jordy Smith was thinking about doing it so we chatted about it and thought it would be a good idea. Anyway, as I got there the ole GFC (Global Financial Crisis) hit and surfing was in the works of wiping away the middle class which was bad news for me. I was lucky enough to secure a sponsorship with Rusty and start my blog “Dooma’s Rumors” which gave me a point of difference I think. Anyway, from there I got an opportunity to work at Quiksilver and I figured it was time to get a skill or figure out what to do next. This was a big wake up call and seeing people lose their jobs and shit gave me the dose of reality I needed. After a few years there STAB offered me the gig to launch it in the USA and it was too good of an opportunity to turn down so I jumped at it. We decided to open STAB in Venice so I packed my stuff and moved up solo from Orange County. After a few months of living in Venice, I met a fellow South African and he had the idea for GA (General Admission). Two years later and we’ve got a store in Venice…
Awesome, and what was your role at STAB mag?
Pretty much everything and anything that needed to get done, not really a fitting title but maybe US publisher? It was perfect for me, and I was learning the sales side of things, marketing and most of all learning how to think a little differently and outside the box. Before STAB, I never considered myself as a creative person and always thought that you had to be born with it, but turns out it can be learned. Not to say I’m super creative, but I am compared to how I once was.
And then how did you and your partner decide to start GA?
My partner, Gav, had sold his biz and was sort of looking for the next thing to do. At the time there was no cool mens clothing stores in Venice and he had the idea to create something different. We got along great and thought it would be cool to do something together. We started brain-storming ideas and drinking in his garage once a week and it sort of evolved from there.
So what is GA in your own words, or should I say, what’s the concept?
We still ask ourselves this everyday but at the end of the day I’d say it’s like a modern day or high-end surf and skate shop. Sort of what the kid off the beach evolves into, much like ourselves. We grew out of the surf brands. We’d like to represent everything that is California or L.A., think: surf, skate, street wear etc. It’s basically a shop of everything that we love.
Right on. And what do you love about Venice that drew you to live there and open up a store?
My favourite thing about Venice is its history and culture. To me, it still has that level of unpredictability—sure, it’s gentrified—but it’s still a little edgy and that reminds me of home. With the store, we’d love to mash old and new Venice and preserve a bit of its culture.
Was it difficult opening GA in Venice as two dudes from South Africa? Like, do you ever get any shit for that?
Ah, we get a little shit here and there but fortunately through surfing we’ve been able to make friends with the locals and get the support of the community. We work at it too, though, and hire local guys, give local businesses a place to sell their goods and mostly, respect those that were here before us. I think if everyone that came into Venice did this it would be a different scene and they’d get welcomed in.
Who inspires you, personally, style-wise?
Ah man after the passing of Dylan Rieder, I think that guy might have inspired me more over the last week than anyone. I wish I had got a chance to meet him. What inspires GA is rad people, man. People that are out there doing their thing and saying f--k it to the rest of the pack that’s doing the same thing.
What does the surf world lack in terms of style or fashion?
I think the surf world needs to get away from fast-fashion. They (Quik, Bong, Volcom) need to stop trying to keep up with Zara or H&M and do their own thing like they once did. Own beach culture again and stop trying to appeal to everyone. Skate does a good job of that and it’s like skate wear is leading the charge now in the street wear world. Look at Thrasher; it’s nuts....
What do you dig in terms of style and fashion?
Anyone can buy expensive clothes or take someone’s look and replicate it, but good style to me is taking bits and pieces and putting it together to look good. I’m not sure I have it but so often you like someone's style because they’re confident in what they’re wearing. That, to me, is good style.
What does GA offer Venice that’s different from other guys?
I’d like to think we have something for everyone, whether your style is surf wear, skate wear or contemporary. We have a curated selection for everyone and I think that’s something that’s slightly different. Also, I think our vibe. We care about the in-store experience a lot.
What’s the future of GA in Venice and beyond?
Hopefully, a few more stores around the world but first we need to nail this concept and there’s a lot more work to be done. Telling people’s stories better. We have a coffee shop that just opened up in an Air-Stream in our parking lot, so that’s really exciting.
What’s GA and Haydenshapes’ relationship like…or how do they make sense together?
To me, Haydenshapes just makes sense. We represent similar values in aesthetic and quality. We love that Hayden is creating his own path in the industry and we thought who better to partner with on the surfboard front than Haydenshapes. His boards look so good hanging in our window and anyone that cares so much about their craft is going to be successful. Also, the waves in Venice are shit and Hayden has mastered the board from 2 foot to 10 foot…
Looking for the best coffee in Venice? Get it right here at 52 Brooks, Venice, CA! General Admission serves fresh caffeine daily and have teamed up with the crew from Madcap Coffee. They also stock the best Haydenshapes board selection and spread in LA.
Images were borrowed from @generaladmis52ion Instagram and the web.
We'd also like to shout out Lone Wolfs Objects De Surf - located on the outskirts of Venice / Marina De Rey CA. Find them here...