May 17, 2023 3 min read
May 10th 2023
A new San Clemente boutique, Severson Originals, is an ode to the surf family’s rich past in the quaint coastal town.
The Severson family have been part of the San Clemente community since the 1940s, when Hugh Severson, a traveling salesman for ACDelco auto parts, moved his family to the seaside town from Los Angeles, “quickly adjusting to the slower pace” of life by the coast. His sons, Joe and John, did what San Clemente youth did, they got into surfing and became lifeguards.
Both became intertwined in local surf culture and their influence is represented throughout the boutique.
John Severson was a famous fixture in the surf world, a filmmaker who created early-era surf movies such as “Surf Safari” and “Big Wednesday.”
Then, in 1961, he created SURFER Magazine, which started as a 36-page magazine with photos, cartoons and sketches to advertise the release of the movie “Surf Fever,” but grew into a long-running publication.
Joe Severson, now 79, helped glass Hobie Alter surfboards in Dana Point as the surfboard maker was getting started – it’s the reason a few perfect-condition Hobie surfboards can be found at the shop.
Benji Severson, who teamed with brother Daniel to open the shop, talked about how the store’s logo is inspired by a photo of their father, Joe, in his youth, plucked from a 1961 Capo Union yearbook image that showed him riding a wave.
“This is something we can live with for a long time,” he said of the silhouette design they created. “It’s honoring our dad, so that’s cool, too.”
The boutique is a mix of beach-inspired attire, art and memorabilia. Paintings from the brothers and other family members dot the walls and have been printed on apparel.
“Our idea is to be able to tell the family story through the brand, but also reach out to a new generation as well,” Benji Severson said.
Aloha shirts, a throwback to the surf style of yesteryear, have vintage designs – one print has SURFER Magazine covers splashed across it.
John Severson, called the “father of surf media,” sold SURFER in 1972 and moved with his wife and two daughters to Maui, where he lived out the rest of his days painting and taking photos.
In 2020, a bronze statue was erected in Dana Point to pay tribute to the surf icon, who died in 2017.
“He’s super influential for myself, my artwork and my brother’s art work, and for countless artists and writers,” said Benji Severson.
Severson Originals apparel has already been on shelves at select shops in the area, including Hobie Surf Shop, Jack’s Surfboards and Stewart Surfboards, but Benji Severson said he’s excited to have a shop the family can call their own.
“I want to be a greeter, if you want to find out about the family, rad. But if not, I want to help you find a good place to eat, find a good place to surf, entertainment,” he said.
The goal, ultimately, is to inspire others, he said. “How can we inspire through our art, surfing and attitudes of aloha?”