UNIV is a tiny pillbox of a shop in Encinitas, California, across the 101 from this really great pointbreak called Swamis. It’s pretty darn hip inside — which is interesting because they haven’t redecorated in six years of operation. UNIV is just ahead like that.
The shop is small but impeccably stocked. Every square foot offers up some limited-release shoe, or stuff from UNIV’s own private label, or a shirt that feels like heaven even as it stings at the register. But it doesn’t sting that badly, and quality is always worth the dime.
We visit Tim Swart, founder and proprietor, to learn about UNIV. Tim can surf on anything you throw at his feet and he has volumes of knowledge ready to be shared. He worked at Transworld. He worked at Airwalk back when Airwalk was sweet, more like Vans or DC and less like Airwalk. He worked at Spy. He worked at a creative agency in Los Angeles. He started the bag brand Clive, which used to reign supreme in the field of carrying things. Tim is really smart. He has this to say about UNIV:
Tim Swart: “When we started in 2006, I didn’t want it to look big. I didn’t want it to look polished. I wanted to create a space where — I know Encinitas isn’t New York, it’s not Tokyo, it’s not LA, it isn’t even Chicago — but if we can create a space here that’s cool, that represents things we like and is a window to the world, we can inspire kids in the local area and we can sell products that they would have never seen.
UNIV was the collection of all the things I had done, with just a dotted line to surfing and action sports — which is my passion, but UNIV was something completely off of it. We haven’t done a lot of things that were entirely surf. We’ve done little wetsuit collaborations and certainly sold some of the brands, but more it’s just our passion. It’s what fuels us every day; it’s what we talk about; it’s what we do. Our goal is just to stay in business and stay alive. We’re just trying to figure out how to go surfing more.
I think surfing’s at a point now where so much has changed, and there’s all these different scenes. Art has become a key ingredient and culture has become a key ingredient. The feeling of surfing and the sensation of it is still the same, and there’s always the search for waves and exploration, but now there’s also this thirst for culture. It’s cool to see a generation that’s willing to put that back in."More from UNIV at www.univ-shop.com