It was in February 1981 that Don Tarrant opened a small surf shop known as Zodiac Surf & Skate. The Shop was located in the Acme shopping center in the heart of Belmar. Although Don grew up surfing in the Seaside Heights area, locating his shop in Belmar was really an easy choice.
In the 60’s & 70’s many shops flourished in Belmar. Manatee, Hobie, Challenger and West Winds to name a few. Many surfers in New Jersey in the 60’s got their first surfboards in Belmar. Led by East coast and NJ Surfing hall of famer, Cecil Lear, Belmar became the first municipality to designate a full time surfing beach during the summer season. It was that history and energy that drew “DT”, along with brothers Tony and Michael, to open a surf shop there.
Zodiac grew modestly in inventory as well as popularity with in the next few years. In 1984, Zodiac moved across the parking lot to the Pyanoe Plaza to a store that was twice the size. During this time Zodiac Surfboards was also born. Working out of airplane hangar at Allaire Airport in Wall. DT along with longtime friend, Jim “Smitty” Smith produced hundreds of handcrafted surfboards during the next few years.
In 1986, brothers Tony and Michael decided that they wanted to go on their own way. Don decided that this was the time to move to Hawaii. They closed Zodiac.
After an extended stint in Hawaii, he returned to the east coast and opened Eastern Lines Surf Shop on Main Street in Belmar in October 1986. Again He spent the next few years growing as a staple in the New Jersey surf scene, aided greatly by the longtime business relationships with O’Neill and Billabong.
In 1992 Don got the opportunity to move the Shop to the current Beachfront on Ocean Ave. Having this extra space and utilizing their new beachfront location coupled with the summer Belmar crowds, the business grew very quickly. Don also petitioned the Belmar Town Council to move the small surfing beach to a greatly expanded location that sits directly across the street from the shop. This surfing beach location has become one of the most popular surfing beaches at the Jersey Shore.
Eastern Lines has been very fortunate over the years to make many great friends in the Belmar area. Bill Simone, Michael Boroznoff, Harry Harsin, the Buckley brothers, Benji Schwartz, Guy Peterson, Brian Lloyd, Dave Cesareo Billy McCudden and Danny Stockdale are just a few among the many friends and family members of the Shop. Many of these customers’ sons and daughters have worked along with us and have helped our core values get passed on from generation to generation.
During 1997, along with partner Kim Mayer, they opened Eastern Lines 2 on Grand Central Ave. in Lavallette. Again the decision to open the shop in Lavallette was based partly on the fact of its rich surfing tradition and legacy. The shop was on the corner of Brown Ave, which coincidently was also the Lavallette surfing beach.
April 2001, DT moved the Shop one last time. This time just 3 doors south on Ocean Ave. The brand new building was 2 stories and close to double the square footage. The second floor’s huge window offered a dramatic view overlooking the surfing beach. It became the perfect area to house all Surfing, body boarding and eventually stand up paddle boarding hard goods. The window has become a huge favorite of locals and visitors alike. From there, no matter the season or the weather conditions, it is the perfect location to view the surf conditions.
In 2003, Don teamed up with lifelong friend and former ESA/CNJ Director, Scott Goodwin to bring a Pro Surfing event to Belmar known as the Belmar Pro. Over the next decade, after Labor Day when the summer tourists were gone for the season, thousands of “locals” and Surfers alike would fill the beaches between 17th and 18th Avenues to watch Surfers from all over the world compete. The Belmar Pro has grown to be the 2nd largest contest on the East Coast. As the contest grew, more and more divisions and events were added, including the WSL Fins Jr Pro, WSL Longboard Pro, Womens Pro, Masters Pro and Lengends Pro. Many local businesses, especially Fins Tropicali Restaurant, have supported us and allowed us to bombard their establishments with surf music, fundraisers and, well, sometimes surfer pranks! The event continues to run every year being New Jersey’s largest and most anticipated surf contest.
After completing her Bachelors in Business Management at Stockton University in 2009, Don’s daughter Darby joined the Shop full time. With her lifetime around the shop, Darby was primed to step in and take on the managerial role. It is with excitement that Don talks of her future role with EL, “It is my hope that she will eventually be comfortable taking over complete control and allow me to be her advisor. Not only to ensure the growth of Eastern Lines, but to preserve the history of the shop”.
It is in reflection that Don Tarrant speaks, “I am very lucky to have been doing what I love for 40 years. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would have been this lucky for doing what I love for so long. My philosophy has always been based on the simple words: Soul, Tradition & Experience…..”As we continue to move forward I hope we never lose sight of those ideals”!