Paying tribute to the legendary surf spot known as “Killer Dana,” owners of the surf shop by the same name love to tell the Killer Dana story. The shop evokes memories of the roots of surf culture, part-owner Mike Foster says.
Lifelong Dana Point resident Gary Wright first opened Killer Dana in 1991. In 2008, La Jolla Group acquired the shop. The current ownership group, Killer Dana LLC—comprising Mike and Carrie Foster, and Steve and Lee Dunn—took over the store in 2017.
Over the years, Killer Dana has become a fixture in the local surf culture, as Dana Point Times readers have voted the shop as the recipient of our People’s Choice Golden Lantern for Best Surf Shop in 2022.
In fact, Killer Dana has been a finalist—either Gold or Silver Lantern recipient—for the category every year since the Best of Dana Point People’s Choice Lantern awards were launched 15 years ago.
Hobie Surf Shop has earned the Silver Lantern for Best Surf Shop. Over the years, Hobie has been a finalist in the category 14 of the past 15 years.
The Dana Point Times sat down with Killer Dana managing partners Carrie and Mike Foster to discuss the iconic surf shop’s history.
What does the name Killer Dana evoke?
Mike: Killer Dana is, by all means, a part of the beginning roots of surfing, not just in Dana Point, but throughout the world. There are other places that people refer to as Surf City and Surf Mecca, but Killer Dana was a break that was surfed long ago.
People would come from all over the world to surf it. It’s called Killer Dana, because they didn’t have leashes back then; if they lost their board, it would get into the rocks and would kill their board.
All of your world-class surfers from the ’50s, ’60s surfed there, and Hobie Alter and Mickey Muñoz and all of the core group. It started here, and so I think that’s what makes Killer Dana so infamous, is its deep, deep history in the surf community, and helped put Dana Point on the map. Dana Point was originally a fishing and hunting destination, and then it became a surf mecca.
What do you sell here?
Carrie: We try to have everything that the local surfer would need.
M: From surfboards, beach gear—we do a lot of apparel, a lot of the Killer Dana brand apparel—which is our bread and butter. People tend to like the brand; it’s not about Carrie and I, it’s about the brand, and it’s a great brand. We sell all of your beach accessories and beach gear, as well as cold-weather apparel.
C: The thing that sells the most, and we’re constantly surprised, is Killer Dana gear. It blows us away how people come in (from) all over the world to get it.
What sets Killer Dana apart from other surf shops?
C: I think our biggest thing is our vibe. Our customer service, we really try with the staff to have the customers come in and embrace them into the surf culture and enjoy them and just make them leave with a smile on their face and just have them have a great experience in here.
It’s not if they leave with a bag full of items, just that they enjoyed being in a surf shop and have a good experience. Because of that, they’ll remember the Killer Dana name, and they’ll come back.
One thing that may set us apart is our Killer Dana culture at work with our staff. We are like a family. We all look after each other, and a big thing to Mike and I is to mentor a lot of these kids. We want every younger adult to leave here better than they came, and that’s very important to us.
What brings customers back to Killer Dana each visit?
M: Having a very encouraging, uplifting experience. You never know what people are going through in life, right? So how they get treated when they come in, if they’re having a bad day or if they’re having an insecure day and one of our employees kind of is the cool surfer and snubs them, it plays on maybe what else is going on. So, it’s just, it’s the experience of coming into Killer Dana and feeling welcomed and no pressure to buy. We want everybody to walk in and feel like it’s home.
How does it feel to be recognized by the business community as Business of the Year?
C: Elated; I mean, to be recognized by the other businesses and for doing what we love and supporting the schools, which is just what we love to do, being part of Doheny State Beach Foundation.
We really do love Dana Point, and we really feel like we are a part of this town, and we want to support everything in it and every retailer and business in it, and we’re just excited to be part of it. And we just felt so incredibly honored.
Do you have a message for the Dana Point Community?
C+M: Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you.
Mike: What it has meant to us over the last few years, the support that we have gotten from the community, I don’t know that we can really put into words how it has affected us personally, to the core.