Ex-Pro Longboarder Julie Cox Founded Traveler Surf Club So You Can Surf More
Cox turned 18 years of surf industry lessons into one the most exciting surf businesses in California.
By Gabriela Aoun - March, 2021
More than a decade after the start of her professional longboarding career, Julie Cox moved from Southern California to San Francisco, ready for a different pace. “After 10 years of worrying about sponsors and photoshoots and getting into magazines and getting exposure, it was so nice to not be in that anymore,” she says. “San Francisco was low key, the environment was so wild and with challenging surf, it was a really nice change.”
There was one part of Cox’s new life, however, that she didn’t enjoy. On cold winter mornings after surfing Linda Mar beach, about 10 miles south of San Francisco in Pacifica, she’d throw a towel down on her carseat, blast the heat, and drive the 20 minutes back to her apartment in her wetsuit. With no yard to store her log, she’d schlep her board up the two stories to her place, often banging it on the narrow walls of the stairwell, before finally jumping into a hot shower.
“I didn’t love changing in a cold, freezing, dirty parking lot with the wind blowing,” she says. “As surfers, we’re tough, we can handle it, but I just thought that hot showers at the beach would be amazing.”
Her quick dash home to warm up after surfing also meant that she wasn’t creating the community that she craved after moving to a new city. “I would drive straight home, I wasn’t staying there hanging at the beach getting to know anyone.”
Cox grew up surfing Malibu, and was on the Roxy team from 2000 to 2008, competing on the professional longboarding tour. She competed all over the world, and was ranked 5th for three consecutive years between 2005-2007.
In between events, she’d hustle to pay the bills, teaching surf lessons in mainland Mexico, founding her own board line, Jule Collection, with Jed Noll, and working at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside. In San Francisco, she worked for other surf brands, managing stores and helping them open new locations.
In the 15 years she’d spent working in the surf industry, Cox had been taking note of different needs that weren’t being met by the surf industry and trying to fill them. In the days before social media, she founded the Women’s International Longboard Association, so that female surfers around the world could discover and network with one another. She launched her board line after realizing how many of the women she coached were eager for guidance on what type of equipment would best suit their surf style and conditions.
Later, in her time working at Bay Area surf shops, she realized many customers had a need for board storage. “People who would travel from New York to San Francisco on work trips,” she says, “would want to surf and they would be happy to leave their board somewhere so they could access it.”
Cox knew how important surfing was for her own health and happiness, and through her personal experiences and those of her customers, a business idea began brewing that would create more community and convenience for surfers, ultimately enabling them to surf more and therefore live better lives.
She began taking a business class in the evenings after work to create a plan. Her plan sat on the shelf for over a year, until one day in 2016, she parked in front of a vacant storefront up for lease right across from Linda Mar. It was the perfect location for her idea. She talked it over with her wife, Rel Lavizzo-Mourey, and they decided to take the plunge, opening the first Traveler Surf Club.
Traveler is a membership-based clubhouse and retail shop for people to store boards and clean up after surfing. There are hot outdoor showers, private changing rooms, and personal storage lockers, all of which are accessible to members 24 hours a day. There are demo boards available for rent from labels like Bing and Ashley Lloyd. A vending machine stays stocked with wax, snacks and drinks, and common areas provide welcoming places to sit with a warm coffee and talk story with fellow surfers.
In 2019, Cox and Lavizzo-Mourey opened Traveler’s second location in Malibu, and just this past weekend, launched a third location in Pleasure Point. Members span the gamut from beginner to expert. Some members pass in and out quickly, just wanting a place to shower before work and to leave their board. Others have become friends, surfing together and having meetup events at the clubs.
After years of working in surf and riding for sponsors, Cox knew exactly what she wanted to carry-on from the surf industry into Traveler, and what she did not. For her, Traveler has been a way to reconnect with everything she loved about surfing in the first place. “To still be around surfing is so important to me, but I wanted to do it in my own way, surrounded by people who are stoked to go surfing, and who are doing it for the love of it,” she says.
Asked if it was difficult to open a female-owned business in a male-dominated industry, Cox says no: “If anything, hopefully we were a breath of fresh air for people because we were women.” While Cox and Lavizzo-Mourey make a point to carry female-owned brands like Seea and Kassia + Surf in the retail shop and take pride in their mostly-female staff, Traveler is for all surfers. “We just wanted it to be neutral, inclusive, friendly, warm, inviting,” Cox says. “It’s just a place to make it easier to go surf.”