Bringing back the legend of St. Christopher

Along the coast of California, within the salty water and sandy beaches, live surfers of all kinds fighting to conquer the ocean waves. Year-round, San Diego locals and tourists make their way to the beach to take in the sun and watch the surfers ride the waves.

Whether on a longboard, shortboard, hybrid or fish, surfers brave the Pacific waters with as little as a wetsuit or swimsuit as protection. However, besides their board and swimming attire, surfers might also be found - wearing around their neck, wrist, ankle or in their pocket - a small good luck charm, a Saint Christopher medallion, used symbolically as protection while facing the ocean waters.

The legend

The legend goes that St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, was, at 7-foot-5, a giant at the time. Because of his height and strength, would safely carry people across a dangerous river where many had died before and thus making him the saint of travel.

Although first worn religiously, the St. Christopher medallion began spreading throughout the California surfing community in the early '60s, and now has become popular for surfers, travelers and explorers of all faiths. People have been known to put it on key chains, in cars or on jewelry as protection. Some surfers have even given the medallion to their significant other as a symbol of "going steady."

A family matter

At a 1998 family party in Escondido the business idea surfaced to bring back to the surf community the St. Christopher charm, an item that had decreased in popularity since the '60s. Excited by the idea, Scott Gousha and another family member took charge of creating designs and marketing the charms to surf shops along the Southern California coast.

This led to the creation of Get Back Designs, more recently known as Get Back Supply Co., which is based in Escondido.

The charms, most often on necklaces, sold rapidly at the beginning, with surf and skate shops excited to have the legend charms in their stores. The charms differed from the traditional catholic medallions through use of color, shape, material and a print of a surfer on the back that catered perfectly to the surfing community.

After 17 years in business, owners Brenda Gousha and son Nick Gousha now run the company after their husband/father, Scott, passed away two years ago.

"My mom and I immediately stepped in and took over the business," said Nick. "For us it wasn't even a question if we should keep it going."

Since the early days of Scott going to surf competitions and shops promoting a small array of necklaces, the company now offers more than 60 different colors and products. The products are now found in more than 500 surf shops, and recently began distributing to other countries such as Canada and Spain.

According to Nick, the success of Get Back Supply Co. is largely due to his father's dedication to promoting the St. Christopher necklace and legend.

"It was just pure hustle on his part," said Nick. "It wouldn't have caught on if it wasn't for him and the hard work he put into the company."

In surf shops around San Diego you are likely to see Get Back Supply Co.'s St. Christopher necklaces displayed on an iconic surfboard display. These displays have been used since the creation of the company and were personally cut, shaped and smoothed by Scott in his own garage. Today the creation of the signature display remains a family tradition with Nick now cutting and sanding in his mother's garage.

"It's kind of a tradition. My dad started doing it when he started the company," said Nick. "It's just something I wanted to continue doing."

The jewelry

Since the creation of the traditional surfer necklace in 1998, Get Back Supply Co. has expanded to create three different charm sizes, each with a different portrayal of St. Christopher printed in the center.

A selection of materials used on the charms are also available, including silver plated, sterling silver or, the newly debuted, gold plated.

Each charm has more than 60 different color combinations. The medium -and large- sized charms also contain the company's signature surfer stamped into the back.

The medium-sized traditional St. Christopher surfer necklace is the company's most popular item and perfect for both men and women, said Nick. However, he added, the mini has been taking off and is becoming more sought-after among customers. The petite size works well for children, especially girls.

There is even a pet medal line, which features St. Francis, the patron saint of animals, as symbolic protection over man's best friend. According to Nick, his father was a big fan of dogs and frequently would be seen at surf shops with his two German short hair pointers sporting the charms on their collars. While not the best seller, the pet medal represents a sentimental aspect that Nick hopes to maintain in the company.

The future

Looking into the future, Get Back Supply Co. is focusing on further establishing its brand, not just the products.

"We're really trying to make it into a brand, a lifestyle," said Nick. "We're an outdoorsy brand and want to promote getting outside and being active."

Reaching out to younger surfers, Get Back Supply Co. has been taking advantage of social media to emphasize its brand image, showcasing pictures of those wearing its products from around the country.

"Instagram and Facebook are huge for us right now, we're really starting to get a following from the younger generation," said Nick.

When it comes to products, Get Back Supply Co. has been working to bring its line back to where it all started. According to Nick, they've been simplifying their selection and trying to focus on the legend of St. Christopher and all that it entails.

"Keeping it like the family owned business, where it started, is important to us," said Nick.

For more information, visit getbacksupplyco.com and follow them on Instagram @getbacksupplyco.

Source: DiscoverSD

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