‘It was time’: Longtime La Jollan Doug Marshall to retire from La Jolla Surf Systems

La Jollan Doug Marshall, who bought La Jolla Surf Systems in 1990, plans to retire soon.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

He bought the store on Avenida de la Playa in 1990, providing surfboards, bodyboards, snorkeling equipment, paddleboards and beach clothing and gear year-round.


After 33 years of outfitting visitors for a day at the beach at La Jolla Shores, Doug Marshall has decided to retire.

He bought La Jolla Surf Systems on Avenida de la Playa in 1990, renting and selling surfboards, bodyboards, snorkeling equipment, paddleboards, beach chairs, umbrellas, beach clothing and more to tourists and locals year-round.

“Everyone here knows him,” said Karen Marshall, Doug’s wife of 23 years. “This has been a very emotional and bittersweet decision for Doug.”

“It was time,” Doug said. “I’m pushing 70.”

He plans to sell the store and leave sometime after it sells.

Doug, a native San Diegan who was living in Pacific Beach when he bought La Jolla Surf Systems, has lived in La Jolla for 20 years. He started at the business — which originally opened in 1979 — also renting out personal watercraft, inline skates and snowboard gear.

“I realized after a couple of years I should just concentrate on surfboards and wetsuits” due to their popularity, he said.

Doug also gave surfing lessons for about 20 years and ran kayaking tours.

He and Karen took on a major remodel of the store about a year and a half ago.

“He has enriched many lives and has created a legacy that will always be remembered.”

— Karen Marshall, Doug Marshall’s wife

In his 33 years of running the business, Doug has seen his share of highs and lows, he said, but “the camaraderie with people” has kept him going so long.

Those people include locals at The Shores and years of repeat vacationers from across the country who love Doug and his passion for sports memorabilia, Karen said.

“He loves all animals, especially the local dogs that stop and get a treat from him every day,” she said.

Doug and La Jolla Surf Systems have been “part of the community, and the customers are always happy,” said Peter Blacksberg, who lives just above the store. “They come back after a great day of kayaking and seeing leopard sharks for the first time in their life.”

Karen and Doug Marshall plan to leave La Jolla Surf Systems.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Doug and Karen “get so excited to see these customers growing up through the years; they’ve been coming for decades,” Blacksberg said.

The visitors have included celebrities such as Joe Montana and Robin Williams, Doug said.

James Brolin and Barbra Streisand also browsed Doug’s wares once in the 2000s while staying at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club across the street, Doug said.

“They were in the store looking at stuff and this lady walked in and went, ‘Oh my God, it’s Barbra Streisand!’ They took off, basically running down the street back to the [club].”

The lows include being at the mercy of the sky, Doug said. “You have to worry about the weather.”

Tropical Storm Hilary, which blew through Aug. 20 during the busy summer season, “probably cost us $15,000,” he said.

Through it all, though, running the shop “is a labor of love,” Doug said. “If you think you’re going to become a multimillionaire selling wax, it’s not going to happen. You’ve just got to work hard.”

There is less work in Doug’s future, however. His post-retirement plans include getting to “play more golf and spend more quality time with my loving wife.”

“I know this ... will bring changes to Doug’s life,” Karen said. “But I do feel he has enriched many lives and has created a legacy that will always be remembered.” ◆