When Brett Telinger was a wee lad in middle school here in Sarasota, he found himself in the library at school, drawn to a book that displayed guys making surfboards. Intrigued and hooked from just a few page flips, Telinger started putting his feelers out there to figure out how to get into making wave-riding vessels himself. “My aunt knew this guy, Juan Rodriguez, from going and getting old boards at garage sales. He had his own shop in town, One World Surf, and has been building boards here for the last 50 years or so. He’s pretty known throughout California and Hawaii with some of the founding fathers of surfing.” Telinger later found himself at a local surf contest with his dad where he met Rodriguez for the first time. A week later, he was in One World Surf shop sweeping the floor of sawdust and apprenticing under Rodriguez’ wing. On Telinger’s 13th birthday, Rodriguez gifted him his first legit longboard—further cultivating his love for noseriding rollers breaking off of the jetties. “Through him, I just kept meeting cool, older surfer guys and bumming rides to the beach. I found there’s a small, tight-knit community here. It’s sort of this hidden gem in the rough—an unlikely, unexpected spot for the reach it’s had,” he says. “The Gulf Coast is like a tree that has branches that reach out to all these other places in the world. There are multiple generations that have grown up learning on the beaches here, they’ve traveled and been all over the world, some have moved on to bigger things [waves], and some are still here, but they’ve all started out on, or have been impacted by, Gulf Coast surf.” Telinger now has his own brand and studio here, dubbed Gum Surfboards. Adopting the traditional board-building tactics he learned as a kid, by using his “caveman hands,” as he likes to call them, he creates custom shortboards and logs. Everything from carving, shaping, painting and glassing, Telinger’s designs pay homage to the nostalgic ’60s to ’70s transitional surf culture. And the tiny but mighty surfing community palpitating from Anna Maria Island down to South Venice Jetty can spot a Gum in the lineup in a heartbeat. Much of his commissioned work largely comes from word-of-mouth business, a loyal local following who place more attention and care into what they’re riding in the water than on the road—eager for the next touch-and-go cold front swell or passing tropical storm to grab their prized Gum and jump in their barely operable pickup to catch a few before or after work. “We don’t get waves all that often, so when we do, it makes it that much more special, the community becomes like family.” — B. MATTIE Board Shaper and Founder of Gum Surfboards,,, @gumsurfboards

Favorite Spots to Surf

Florida’s West Coast central region will always be my favorite. It’s my home and is best suited and most conducive for longboarding. Think from Treasure Island to Nokomis and down to Captiva. 

For more convenient and consistent surf when it’s totally flat here, head to the east coast of Florida, between Fort Pierce and Jacksonville. The drive over is a straight shoot on State Road 70 and is so pretty early in the morning driving as the sun is coming up over the cow pastures as the fog is burning off.

Rincon, Puerto Rico, is great when Florida is going through a dry spell and you want to get a taste of some more tropical waters, foreign breaks. It’s a quick-and-easy, usually cheap, flight you can pull off in a two to three day trip. In peak season, there are fun, friendly waves to ride all along the northwest side of the island. 

Training Tips

Living here, we don’t have waves all the time, so you have to find other ways to cross-train. Stretching is important, yoga is really good, any sort of cardio activity or biometric-style calisthenics. I enjoy doing martial arts for balance and to challenge my brain. Jiu-jitsi, in particular, is good because it requires a lot of strategy—your opponent is always changing and unexpecting, like a wave. You never know what’s coming at you, so you’re always adjusting and trying to read the next move before it comes. Wolfpack Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Martial Arts, 3627 Webber St., Unit B, Sarasota, 941-350-9606, Learning how to read the online surf reports on Surfline or Magic Seaweed, which tells you the wind knots and direction, swell feet, and times of low and high tide, calculated by nearby buoys.

Beginner Tips

The nice thing about surfing is that once you get all your equipment, there’s no membership fee to keep going. Play make believe surfing before you go out. Put your board in the sand and practice paddling and popping up before actually getting into the water. It’s not a bad idea either to invest in lessons with a local surf shop or coach who knows the breaks. Naji Taha is a professional rider for the local ZAP team of Venice and offers skimboarding and surfing lessons at Manasota Beach, Middle Beach, Englewood Beach and Nokomis Beach. Contact, 941-468-6723, @najitaha191 for one-on-one lessons. 

Some safety tips. Don’t have your board in front of you walking out into the breaking waves. That’s how people get smacked in the face by their board and get hurt. It’s just as important learning the techniques to get out past the break as the actual surfing portion. It’s also important for people to be realistic with themselves on their skill level. If you’re just learning, try and surf farther down the beach away from the main peak where the more skilled surfers will congregate. It’s not a bad idea to read up on surf etiquette and understanding the general guidelines to keep in mind when in the lineup.

Nourishment + Snackage

An insulated tumbler for lots of water to stay hydrated is a must.

Definitely a Publix sub, a bag of Goldfish, maybe some fresh-cut fruit and an iced coffee from Perq or Buddy Brew. Maybe grab a pizza from Origin Craft Beer + Pizza Café after a tiring session.

Top Gear

I try to shop American-made companies like Birdwell Beach Britches boardshorts, Xcel wetsuits and George Greenough - True Ames surfboard fins.  And when I can, I support local. I love the guys over at Compound Boardshop. If you ever need anything surf-related, you can get a YETI cooler or tumblr, Sticky Bumps surf wax, a rashguard, Sun Bum sunscreen, Dakine surf leashes and roof rack straps. They also have this awesome beach tent setup you can get for those long, hot days in and out of the water when you need to escape the saltwater and sun. Compound Boardshop, 3604 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota, @compoundboardshop.  GUM Surfboards: Magic Sam / Reverse Log / Mini Planning Hull