In the Lineup with Joe Serrao of Salvage Public
A seamless homage to authentic Hawaiian surf lore blended with modern lines and clean design, Salvage Public has become one of the Aloha State’s leading fashion labels. Recently, we linked up with Joe Serrao, one of the brand’s frontmen and founders, to talk all things surf, inspiration, and his favorite era in surf culture.
When it comes to your particular influences in the surf world, where do you look for inspiration?
I really just bounce around between eras and wouldn’t say one particular time frame is more inspirational than another. From the ’60s, ’70s, 80s, and ’90s—I really love them all. I’ve always been interested in looking through old family photo albums because those are as authentic of a representation as you can get. Those types of images are what started our branding before we had dedicated photoshoots to create our own content. We would pull photos from our personal family photo albums that captured Hawai‘i’s iconic surf and beach vibe. That approach to pulling details stuck with us to this day.
What’s your earliest surf memory?
We used to surf at Sand Island a lot as kids. Definitely not a great wave and not the best scenery on the island but, my dad grew up surfing there in the ’60s, so that’s where he took us as kids. It’s uncrowded and we’d have the whole family there in the water and on the rocks. It was classic. We would just cruise, eat, and talk story on the family camcorder. I still surf there occasionally for the nostalgia of it all.
Do you remember your first wave?
I donʻt really remember my first wave but it was probably on a boogie board out Bellow’s side. We camped there every summer as kids. It really was some of the best times of my life. Just being in the water all day and staying up all night.
Can you recall your last session?
My most recent sessions at Diamond Head have been pretty typical. Windy, slight chop, but still fun to escape the current world climate for a bit.
Do you have a favorite surf spot?
Anything between Suicides and Cliffs near Diamond Head stands out to me because I can sneak a session into my routine and it’s convenient to where I live and my office. I can get a fun quick session in and still go about my day and feel productive. I’ve been longboarding more the last five-or-so years and I prefer to go backside so I’m usually looking for a right-handed wave.
Was there a particular surfer that helped influence you?
No, not really. I honestly didn’t follow much of professional surfing growing up. So it was really just my core group of friends and cousins that influenced me.
What’s a life lesson that surfing has taught you?
Surfing has taught me perspective. I’m not really out there for the competitive sport of it so much as I am to enjoy the outdoors and connect with our environment. That moment during a sunset session, when you’re immersed in the changing colors of the sky…how can you not have more perspective on life, what’s important, and how to spend your time with that happening all around you? Surfing has allowed me to enjoy and participate in that positive perspective and observation.
From a design standpoint, surfing seems to be something that mainstream fashion gravitates toward every few years. But your brand, as a Hawaiian label that’s naturally rooted in surf, also leans into fashion. How delicate of a balance is it to incorporate an authentic nod to surf culture while also creating a brand that feels like it’s so much more than just surf?
Great question and that’s probably something we think about daily in our design process. It’s extremely delicate and it’s tough to portray both. We get a lot of customers that come into the store and are like “What kine brand is this?” Once they start looking around and we start talking story, that’s when the connection starts to hit home more. But it does take some time from the customer standpoint to look a little further. Since the aesthetic has design/fashion mixtures to it, it requires more attention and that’s what we want. The entire brand is a story-driven brand. It’s the reason why we made a certain piece, where we made it, the fabric selection, the naming of that item…that aspect of needed to portray something tangible. We’ve always planned to be a long-term brand so we understand the delicate balance that’s required to be authentic.
What do you see the surf scene looking like in Town in 20 years?
If you could go back to any era in surf lore and share the lineup with the locals of the day, what would it be and why did you pick that particular era?
The late ’60s and early ’70s really inspire me. When surf movies were really coming into their own. I’ve always loved the original The Endless Summer. To me, there seemed to be more adventure and discovery in that era. The energy of it felt so pure. It also seems a lot less crowded so there’s that.
Can you describe your favorite board?
Actually I’ve been riding my 9’6” longboard a lot that my buddy Toots shaped for me last year. Easy entry, reverse rocker, single fin.
If you could have any perfect lineup to just yourself and your friends for an afternoon, where would it be?
I’d have to go with Queens or Bowls. You can’t beat those two lineups when they’re firing.