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San Clemente Journal

Severson Originals, Finding Your Own Style

Sep 22, 2023 08:31AM ● By Nina Welch

Benji and Gretchen Severson with their kids Eden and Thomas.

By Nina Welch

Severson Originals opened in early May of this year at 207 N. El Camino Real. This heritage surf shop, owned by brothers Benji and Dan Severson, showcases the Severson family artwork and Severson Originals branded products. “The brand, which was launched two years ago, is authentic and inspired from our history and heritage in surf,” says Benji.

This flagship location allows the brothers to do the job of telling their story through art, history, and unique product collections. The Severson Originals logo was created by Dan from a photo of their dad, Joe Severson, doing a soul arch bottom turn featured in his Capistrano Union High School Yearbook in 1961. 

The unique artwork of Joe, Dan and Benji is featured in cards and prints. The boardshorts, which sell out fast, are classically styled and made in Westminster, California. Logo icon trucker hats plus men and women’s T-shirts, and sweatshirts are abundant, and lined up in array of bright colors, a collection of vintage Hawaiian shirts is a must-see. There might even be a John Severson signature Kahala in the mix. 

Benji wants people to buy a shirt to wear out and about, to make memories, and just have a good time. He remembers his good friend and local artist Roy Gonzalez telling him. “You can’t dress like everyone else. You have to have your own style.”

The Severson family history is rich in surf culture. Dad Joe, age 80, was a lifeguard, surfer and artist, who now lives in San Juan Capistrano. Uncle John, who passed away in 2017, left his mark making some of the first surf movies, and by founding Surfer Magazine. Benji’s other siblings include older brother Simon, who surfed competitively and sister Ladeshia. Whether through marriage or friendships, surf legends in San Clemente are all connected. The Severson’s are eternally tied to another surf-legend family, the Paskowitz’s. Ladeshia was married to Abraham and Moses was married to a Severson cousin, Phaedra. 

According to Benji, growing up in San Clemente in the ‘80s was cool. He was eight when they moved back after living in Maui, San Diego, and Fallbrook due to his dad’s job as a carpenter. Benji attended Concordia Elementary School where all his friends were already surfing. Starting off on a Boogie Board, Benji quickly jumped on a surfboard and by the early ‘90s was competing on the Bud Pro Tour. 

During this time, the whole surf-skateboarding craze was exploding in San Clemente. The Bud Pro Tour included San Clemente legends like Jimmy Hogan, the McNulty brothers, Archy and Dino. Boards were changing. Wetsuit colors were vibrant. Who could forget Archy’s pink Lanty wetsuit. Professional surfer Martin Potter (Pottz) was also a big influence for the young surfers.
Today Benji still competes and helps coach the San Clemente Boardriders Club, with competitions up and down the coast. He and his wife, Gretchen, live in San Clemente with their two kids, Eden and Thomas. 

A visit to Severson Originals offers an opportunity to hang out with Benji and his dog Ruby, a beautiful, friendly Labrador. It’s a place to marvel at old photos, hear stories of San Clemente’s rich surf history, and to purchase some really cool stuff.

207 N El Camino Real, San Clemente,, (949) 388-0600

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