Surf’s always up at Antwerp’s hub for wave catchers

Summary

The Haven boasts a selection of locally crafted surfboards, clothes, equipment, art and more

Surfin’ Antwerp

A surf shop is something you’d expect on a beach in California – not in Antwerp. But that’s exactly where Haven has found its unlikely home.

Haven is a surf concept store with a penchant for design and craftsmanship that aims to attract surfers, as well as non-surfers, with a carefully curated selection of clothes, equipment, art objects and more.

The creative minds behind it are Filip Van Moerkercke, who runs a local PR agency and is the manager of the Flemish band Arsenal, and John Roan, one of the band’s core members.

Van Moerkercke got the idea for the store during his travels to New York, Paris and Tokyo. “Paris doesn’t have a beach either,” he says. “So why not try this in Antwerp?”

While Roan only discovered his passion for surfing a couple of years ago, Van Moerkercke first caught the bug when he was 12, while trying to ride the waves at the Portuguese coast on an air mattress.

Off to sea

In the world of surfing, there are those who only surf during the holidays, and then there are the hardcore types, who never miss an opportunity to catch the waves. Van Moerkercke clearly belongs to the latter.

“The Belgian and Dutch coasts have great spots for surfing,” he says. “With a wetsuit, you can do it even when it’s only 2°C outside.”

Paris doesn’t have a beach either, so why not try this in Antwerp?

- Filip Van Moerkercke

Against all expectations, Flanders actually has a significant surfing community. “If you go to Blankenberge, for example,” says Van Moerkercke, “you’ll probably find 30 or 40 surfers, even when the weather isn’t so great. On a sunny day, it’s double that.”

Van Moerkercke describes Haven as a genre-crossing, multifaceted concept that lies a bit off the beaten path. The store is supposed to appeal not only to regular surfers, but also to Antwerp’s art and fashion crowd. “We wanted to find a compromise between these two worlds,” Van Moerkercke explains. “About half of our customers don’t surf at all.”

As you walk into Haven, you feel as if you’ve just entered a design store rather than a typical shop for surfers. The focus is on small brands that stand out through craftsmanship and pay attention to fair trade and durability. 

Good vibrations

“The boards you find here are not produced in a Chinese factory, but are handmade by shapers who know the demands of the North Sea,” says Van Moerkercke.

The shop explores surfing in all its aspects: there are travel books and magazines, body lotions, hand-loomed eco-friendly cotton beach towels, surf wax kits made out of beech wood, sneakers and more.

There’s a certain lifestyle that comes with surfing, and we wanted to build a store around this culture

- Van Moerkercke

“There’s a certain lifestyle that comes with surfing, and we wanted to build a store around this culture,” says Van Moerkercke, who launched the concept as a pop-up store in March last year.

The year-long test was so successful that the temporary experiment turned into a permanent affair. “It quickly became clear that there was a demand for this kind of shop,” he says.

As the project grew, so did the team. The two founders were joined by Marc Bleys, creator of the fashion label Bellerose, and local surf photographer Wouter Struyf.

The leap from pop-up to permanent this spring also included a move to a much bigger location, one perfectly suited for hosting events, which Haven organises on a regular basis. They include concerts, film screenings and exhibitions, turning Haven into a hotspot for surfers and culture vultures alike.