By Maiya Mahoney
In kindergarten, Kayla Zappone knew exactly what she wanted to do when she grew up: move to St. Augustine, go to Flagler College and open a surf shop.
Growing up in Satellite Beach, Florida, Zappone is no stranger to the ocean. Her father had her out on the nose of his longboard, even when she was still in diapers. Zappone’s parents, who are Flagler alumni, moved back to St. Augustine in 2015. Sunday family breakfasts at the beachside Kookaburra turned into crafting a family brand together, which led to the beginnings of what ultimately became The Where Salt Meets Soul Surf Stop, also known as The WSMS Surf Stop.
Since its official opening in June 2019, the shop sells a collection of new and repurposed clothing, surfboards, accessories, and features over 20 local artists and brands. The sister and brother duo, Kayla, ‘15, and Alec Zappone, ‘17, strive to promote community, positivity and surf in St. Augustine Beach.
“We wanted to create a cool space that goes back to how surf started,” Kayla Zappone said. “We wanted to bring it back to the importance of people first and the experience of coming into a space, not feeling pressured to buy something, but feeling welcomed in an inclusive environment.”
With the tagline “community promotes unity,” The WSMS Surf Stop, at 101 F Street, not only sells and promotes local artists, but also caters to the St. Augustine Beach community in many ways. Intern and employee of the WSMS Surf Stop, Adrienne Ruberti, has been able to sell her own film photography at the shop and witness the community come together.
“I love that we give a platform for local artists, especially in such a creative community, to showcase their paintings, photography and jewelry. It’s a platform for local artists to sell, get their name out, and show what their talents are,” Ruberti said. “A lot of my photography is based around ocean lifestyle, which fits with everything at the Surf Stop.”
During the summer months, Alec Zappone runs the WSMS Surf, Art, and Music camp for the younger generations. WSMS also hosts a variety of events at their shop, such as the Oldest City Longboard Union Club hangs and also hosts shop hangs every first Saturday to support local creatives. Walking into the shop, people can even grab a cup of coffee from their community pot and a free pump of sunscreen on their way to the beach.
“We wanted to create a community for the salt of the earth type of people. That’s what we wanted to embrace and embody with our brand,” Kayla Zappone said. “The St. Augustine community, as a whole, is incredible. The locals are all so supportive of each other, and even this tiny neighborhood here has been so welcoming to us. We want to be here for the community and bring that surf community back together.”
Together, Kayla and Alec Zappone work to create logos and designs for the brand, with Alec sketching out ideas and Kayla transferring her brother’s sketches digitally. The WSMS logo, designed by Kayla, represents the four pillars of their family.
“It’s a huge labor of love for our family because we all still work full-time jobs, but it’s been so rewarding,” Kayla Zappone said.
Having graduated from Flagler College in Fall 2019, Ruberti was able to become the WSMS Surf Stop’s first intern. As a business major, Ruberti was able to see the operations behind a local, family-owned business in St. Augustine Beach.
“It’s such a community-oriented surf shop, which is exactly what the Zappone family wanted it to be,” Ruberti said. “I’ve gotten to meet so many cool people in the surf community here in St. Augustine, as well as other local business owners. I got to dip my toes into the small, local business community in St. Augustine.”
Painted around the inside door frame at the surf shop are the words ‘positive portal,’ which the WSMS Surf Stop to Ruberti, is exactly that.
“I feel very at home here and I feel like that’s a common feeling that people feel when they come in. It’s a very welcoming and positive environment,” Ruberti said. “It’s my home away from home.”
For more on The WSMS Surf Stop, go to https://wheresaltmeetssoul.com or @wsmssurfstop on Instagram.