Ohana Board Shop was created by husband and wife team, Arun and Anne-Michelle Frances in 2005. It was built on Arun's childhood dream: to create a local surf and skate shop where people from all walks of life are welcome. A place where locals can talk about their latest waves and travelers can share tales about their surfing adventures. Where little groms have a shop to grow up in and seasoned customers always have a place to call home.
Their strong connection to family and community is what has driven the Frances Crew to reopen after a three year hiatus.
Growing up in the somewhat coastal town of South San Francisco, I was raised with surfing at my fingertips. I lived only ten minutes from the waves in Pacifica; my future playground. When I was ten, my brother introduced me to surfing. My first time up on a board, and I was hooked. I needed more. I wanted more. My parents drove me to the beach every day after school. I have fond memories of their VW Vanagon parked alongside the beach, where they would support my obsession with surfing until dusk. I lived for the weekends when they would drop me off at the crack of dawn, I would surf session after session with my closest friends until the sun went down, and count down until I did it all over again. I would eat, sleep, breathe surfing.
When I wasn’t surfing or couldn’t make it to the beach, I “cross-trained” by skateboarding and BMXing. I remember the days when my friend, Kenny, and I would pretend that the curb was a wave, and we would sidewalk surf. Or, we’d ollie on and off the curb, and that would be our version of a floater on a real wave.
Every day after school, I would get home and grab my wetsuit, board, towel, and put them on the lawn while I skated in front of my house waiting anxiously for my mom and dad to head to the beach. I would even get our dog, Rocky, ready, so we’d get moving faster, and I’d have as much surfing time as possible. I did not know how much I needed this sport in my life until I look back and recall that surfing and skateboarding were all I ever wanted to do. If I wasn’t doing either one of these sports, then I would be watching a surfing video, flipping through a skateboarding magazine, or visiting surf and skate shops with my parents to see and feel the latest product.
One day, my parents took me to a surf shop while we were on a trip. When we walked into the shop, I got a weird vibe that left me feeling like we weren’t welcome. Even at a young age, that didn’t make sense to me. We were there looking to buy something, and I couldn’t comprehend why they didn’t want us there. As the years went by and I began visiting shops with my friends, I noticed that it was the norm for skate and surf shop employees to give you the cold shoulder, to barely acknowledge you, and to put off the I-have-better-things-to-do vibe. That bothered me more and more, as I could not understand why it was so hard to say a simple “hello.” I remember thinking to myself, “I would love to have a shop that people could walk into and feel comfortable. No bad vibes, no attitudes, and where beginners aren’t intimidated and want to ask questions without feeling dumb.” We all start out as beginners, and I believe it’s about helping each other get to the next level by means of a strong sense of community and support.
As much as I loved surfing and needed to find a time for it in my life every single day, I also realized that external pressures were telling me I had to “grow up,” and I couldn’t keep the same-old-job that gave me a rad surfing schedule, but not necessarily a great plan for my future. I decided to return to school and get a full time job in the computer industry, as it was the time of the dot.com boom. I had a wife and daughter to provide for, and I needed to make more money to give us the life that everyone told me we needed to have.
It didn’t take more than a few years in the industry for me to realize that “fitting in” and “being like everyone else” was not the life for me. Cubicles and computer screens, user error and angry bosses, being stuck indoors all day with no hope of breaking out, and I had pretty much had it. I was lethargic, disillusioned, and my job was sucking the life out of me. I realized that money didn’t matter anymore because I needed to have more joy in what I did. Living for only the weekends with my family wasn’t enough to get me through the never-ending week.
We took things back to basics, and it all became so clear and simple. I loved to surf and skate, so why not open a shop? A resurgence of Arun began to appear. A new life and brighter future lay on our horizon. Sure, maybe we wouldn’t make as much money as we did in high tech, but we were both willing to sacrifice the idea of “the perfect life” for a much more real, tangible life where we live to its fullest without the unnecessary possessions that everyone told us we needed to have in order to be “successful.”
I started to compile my list of what I wanted in a shop, and most of it was based on my experiences at other shops. I wanted my shop to be relaxed, to have a family feel, to offer a laid back atmosphere that focused on fun and serving our customers with good vibes and top-notch customer service. We've always shared this with our employees and emphasize the importance of treating people with respect, kindness, and gratitude.
After a three-year hiatus and adding a fourth child to the mix, Anne-Michelle and I are so proud to bring Ohana back to San Jose. I've always wanted a shop where people can come by to talk, to see the latest gear, and to feel comfortable knowing that their children are welcome, too. Our focus is on creating a connection within our community, and we intend to do that by offering a morning coffee bar, year-round surf camps, day date surf lessons, beginning my own custom surfboard line, Arun Frances Signature Surfboards, and continuing our after school skateboarding programs, as well as my wife's new venture Barre-ga: Barre Fitness on Standup Paddleboards. Our new space will become the headquarters for all things board and water related. We hope you will enjoy the evolution of Ohana as much as we do.
Ohana means family.
Family means no one gets left behind.
Ohana means connection, community.
Ohana Board Shop is where you’ll find both.