It was the 1960s. Surfing was just beginning to take off on the East Coast, and Frank Gunion was hooked.
“There’s a certain feeling that you get from riding a wave, where you’re basically feeling nature’s force and it’s powering you along,” he said.
For Gunion, there was no better place to surf than in Ocean City.
“As surfers, we had about a 10-block-long area that was just sand dunes and pine trees on the ocean. It was kind of like the glory days of surfing in Ocean City because we had so much room for it… It was very natural and outdoorsy.”
With a loan from his parents, he opened a small surf shop in Ocean City, which then remained a quiet Victorian town. It was called South Moon Under, and carried surfboards and apparel, all from Southern California. It was initially a “pop up” style shop, housed in a former chicken carryout between 32nd and 33rd streets on Coastal Highway.
The place provided a respite from the bleak realities he encountered in the news and in the classroom at George Washington University, where he was studying international relations. Gunion remembered debating the policy of “mutually assured destruction” in class one day. He recalled thinking, “What am I doing?…. I don’t want to spend my whole life debating nuclear weapons.”
He never could have imagined the shop would still be around 50 years later. In fact, South Moon Under has expanded, with locations in Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington.
Gunion said reports of drug use among surfers were greatly exaggerated. After all, one needs a sharp mind to stay upright. “If you’re surfing, you gotta be in really good shape. It’s a strenuous sport.”
Today, Gunion enjoys body surfing, though a shoulder injury keeps him off the board. And he still loves the beach. But Ocean City is too crowded. “If I’m gonna go to the beach, I’m gonna go to a place more like Assateague,” he said.