Surfing and Sailboarding in Delaware: Mike Ridings of Lewes Owns Liquid Board Shop and Surfed at Cape Henlopen as a Child
Mike Ridings, surf shop owner, Lewes (Pictured with his wife, Morgan, and their children: Tristan and twins Keira, left, and Sydney)
photograph by Jared Castaldi
Mike Ridings is living the life.
His home in Edgewater near Lewes is a 10-minute drive from any of his favorite surfspots. His wife surfs. His 10-year-old son surfs. His 5-year-old twin girls are learning. Everyone understands when daddy has to paddle out. And he owns a business, Liquid Board Shop, that allows him to catch almost every good swell that hits.
“There’s nothing like going into your own shop, looking at all those boards, sitting on the couch and doing your work in your sandals,” Ridings says.
It’s the kind of life he dreamed of when he dropped out of Brandywine High School in the late ’80s. He’d been bitten by the surfing bug as a 5-year-old at Cape Henlopen. “My buddies and me, we all wanted to live this exciting, adventurous life,” so Ridings shared rent in a trailer, worked a minimum-wage job on the boardwalk in Ocean City, Md., and chased waves up and down the coast. “It was a good time.”
But it was also a hard time. He moved back to Wilmington and worked in the computer field to increase his income. He found the area, equidistant from surfspots in Delaware and Jersey, a good launch pad for short surf trips. In Jersey, he had a mind-blowing session.
Days of high winds had pushed in a massive swell. Standing on the sand at Crystal Beach in Atlantic City, Ridings watched hulking waves explode into walls of whitewater. “I was frightened out of my mind,” he says. When he finally summoned the nerve to paddle out, he caught the wave of his life. “It was my first true stand-up barrel,” he says. “I remember seeing little pieces of stuff get sucked up the wave face, then I got spit out of the thing. It was incredible.”
Not that every good day has to be a death-defying challenge. Ridings’ other peak experience was a solid day of waist- to chest-high waves peeling for 100 yards at Herring Point, with few other surfers in the lineup—a rare occurrence since surfing hit the mainstream. “There were barrel sections, cutback sections. It was just bliss. That’s what you do it for.”