Success looks different to everyone. For Tony Palaia success is doing what he loves most, for the people he loves most, and creating something out of nothing.
From a young age, art and music were always a passion of Tony’s, where even throughout his academic career at Salisbury University, he remained consistent with art classes, and sketching during his free time. With a degree in biology and chemistry, Tony took his science background and put it to great creative use.
Growing up outside of Baltimore, and spending many summers in Ocean City, Maryland, Tony quickly found a connection with not only the beach, but surfing, and the process of board making itself.
“When I started to tell people my plans, their first response was ‘Why would you want to make surfboards? You won’t make money,’” said Tony.
They could not have been more wrong.
This is not to say that the process and expansion of his business was simple, but great things take time.
After meeting his wife Meghan, founder of Timber and Vine Designs, they both decided to take a leap of faith and move to Puerto Rico.
“This was when I began working on surfboards as a career,” said Tony. “I started a business repairing surfboards, called Rapid Ding Repair. It grew quickly, because there was a strong demand for the service, and within the next five years I learned how to shape boards in my free time.”
From friends supporting the business to an increasing amount of outside interest, Tony began the brand NBD, No Big Deal. “I wanted to keep it lighthearted, not too serious, and embrace the fun,” said Tony.
In 2015, Tony and Meghan decided to head back to the East Coast, settling here in Ocean City, where they spent many summers.
As work followed this change of scenery, there was an immediate need for some rebranding, hence the shift of NBD to Palaia Surf.
“A lot of my friends were pushing me to rename the business, because they believed the idea of NBD was a little childish and outdated. With the help of Eric Plyler, graphic designer and owner of Dry Island and Plyler Premium, I was able to entirely reshape the creative outlook of my work,” said Tony.
Although the popularity of Palaia Surf grew, and continues to grow, Tony never lost sight of his passions.
“The designing aspect of what I do initially came from my interest in art, but also my affinity for mathematics. Beyond that, a big part of repairing and building surfboards is chemistry itself. We work with a numerous number of chemicals to create colors, and different composites for the boards. A surfboard is most often a foam core, which is whittled down into a blank, and once that shape is refined, it is then draped in fiber glass cloth, carbon, flax, or hemp, which are then saturated with some type of resin. Once that hardens, we sand that smooth, and you have a surfboard.”
Although Palaia Surf is focused on the artistic component of boards, Tony continues to involve himself in this building and rebuilding process of board making; where Rapid Ding Repair lives on.
“I just recently built a 1,000 square foot shop completely dedicated to this work, and I call it the Forge. I service accounts all up and down South Jersey with the repair work that I do. Building this space was one of my proudest moments. It was my own declaration of independence, and gave me creative freedom to do whatever and whenever I wanted.”
The culmination of design and construction all stemmed from a similar inspiration for Tony.
“In the beginning it was all about what I would want to ride. Surfboards span a huge range of sizes and shapes, and to an individual rider, they may be drawn towards an endless variety of waves to surf, styles, and feelings,” said Tony. “With that, I started making boards that fit the specific waves I surf, and how I ride those waves. Up to this point, I have not ventured very far from that, and my customer base has grown around this, and will continue to grow as I expand my reach. As for what I look to for additional inspiration; I am all about what is new, now and advanced.”
Getting people stoked is just the premise of Tony’s tagline; where he finds genuine enjoyment offering someone a tool, specifically created for them, that provides countless hours of joy and fun.
“All my life I have been determined to live a life of happiness, where work is not stressed too hard, and within my field, I am able to pass down something I truly believe in, which is the ultimate goal. I strive to create something from nothing that makes people happy,” said Tony.
The one-on-one experience that Palaia Surf offers is what draws the crowd, where Tony spends countless hours getting to know each customer’s specific needs. The personable yet professional relationships are a huge part of the gig.
Other than Tony’s personal love for his business, he is most grateful for the opportunities that allow him to support his family, Meghan and ten-month old Evie Eileen Palaia, and the ability to provide their daughter with a comfortable lifestyle near the sea.
As for Palaia Surf’s future, well that already seems to be in the works, as the growth of the brand and expansion into shops is just the beginning of Tony Palaia’s success.
For a deeper dive into Palaia Surf, check out the following:
Instagram(s): @palaiasurf & @rapid_ding_repair
Find this and more in the July magazine