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On our recent holiday in the beautiful Andalusian village of Las Negras (Cabo de Gata), the unthinkable happened; I fell in love with a surf shop. Having felt rather relieved at my husband not being able to bring any of his surf gear along, I simply rolled my eyes when he announced that he’d discovered a surf shop on day two of our stay… Trying to lure me into said shop with promises of it being “super retro style” and apparently “just my thing”, I finally went along.

P.S. Se puede leer este articulo en español aqui.

Walking towards El Capitán de las Sardinas, I had to hand it down to him though: in this charming fishing town, of all places, was the coolest surf shop (+ pub!) I’d ever seen. As it turned out, its retro styling is homage to so-called longboard surfing. For those new to the term as well: think California’s 60s/70s surfer scene, as in Big Wednesday (1978), to the tunes of The Seeds or The Ronettes. In fact, why don’t you just find them on YouTube and listen to it while reading on? It’ll sure transmit some of El Capitán de las Sardinas’s vibe!

We’ve got beer that’s as cold as your ex’s

For once it was my husband who had to get me out of a surf shop, rather than the other way around. I eventually plucked up the courage to approach El Capitán for an interview, which he kindly agreed to, despite being hyper busy attending his ever-growing clientele.

El Capitán, aka Carlos, the grandson of a fisherman, looks every bit the part, impressive beard, wooly hat and plenty of charisma to go with it.

Over the days that followed, we had the pleasure of getting to know him and his incredible story in more detail, while he showed us around the surroundings of Las Negras (¡Muchas gracias Carlos!).

Getting to know the Captain

El Capitán aka Carlos

What started as a casual interview, eventually turned into one of the most insightful conversation(s) I’ve had about entrepreneurship for a long time. While customers browsed enthusiastically in the shop, enjoying its relaxed atmosphere, Carlos told us all about his amazing journey. A journey that saw him loosing everything seven years ago, aged 35, after going bankrupt with a chain of surf shops around his native city of Almería.

“Sam” via El Capitán de las Sardinas on Instagram.

As a consequence Carlos turned his back on surfing all together, both personally and professionally. He didn’t surf a single wave for over two years and left for London to work as a bartender.

It was a dark chapter for the Captain, but thanks to stopping over in the British capital, he found his wife and partner-in-crime, Simone. Together they hit the road in an old ’65 Ford called “Sam”, and travelled along the sunny coast of France, Portugal and Spain. It was during this trip that the two found a new home in Cabo de Gata, where they tried their hand on eco-friendly living, while Carlos started his bracelet line You Me The Sea.

Carlos’s bracelet line You Me The Sea
 via El Capitán de las Sardinas on Instagram.

New beginnings

As is often the case, You Me The Sea outgrew the couple’s home, i.e.  living room eventually, and Carlos had to rent a studio space in Las Negras. While enjoying some surfing five minutes from his new workplace, he came up with the idea of starting a shop and pub dedicated to the aesthetics of longboard surfing. With the help of Simone, owner of the travel-inspired interior decoration and clothing shop We Follow The Sun (Agua Amarga), Carlos managed to turn his studio and a space next door into El Capitán de las Sardinas within 1.5 months - just in time for this summer season!

Ahoy! Captain Carlos & Simone ready for their opening!

That said, every piece that decorates both the shop, as well as the pub, had been sourced with great care and attention to detail. There are rusty anchors from beaches in Spain and France or Portobello Market…

…an old porthole that houses the latest collection of You Me The Sea

Carlos also fabricated some pretty neat shelving from repurposed pallets found around the area. And from an old harpoon hangs the Captain’s very own T-shirt and baseball cap line, a bestseller designed by Almerian silkscreen printing studio Sedanegra (get yours here!).

One of the original logos of El Capitán de las Sardinas’s own apparel line.

After a lot of hard work, Carlos could finally surround himself with his most favourite treasures, all of which are of the finest quality, such as the beautiful retro-style longboards by Basque company San Marcos.

don’t touch!

Or the custom-made neoprene jackets by Australian brand The Critical Slide Society T.C.S.S. (reason for our first visit to El Capitán de las Sardinas…).

Who’s a happy bunny?

Amongst other stylish accessories…

As well as Italian retro surfing and café-racer apparel brand Deus and Herschel Supply Co. backpacks, or eclectic travel bags from the markets of Marrakech…

…and quirky sardine tins and paella kits from Spain and Portugal.

Not to forget the cosy pub of course, where you can try the Captain’s amazing cocktails, along with a complementary “montadito” = a type of tapa prepared by Miguel, who happens to come from the land of tapas, i.e. the Basque Country…

Impressions from the pub via El Capitán de las Sardinas on Instagram

But there’s also great coffee to be had and scrumptious summer salads to be enjoyed, plus Carlos and his crew are known for throwing pretty decent parties and concerts too!

via El Capitán de las Sardinas on Instagram.

Although it wasn’t all plain sailing and running the bar for example had been pretty tense at times, it didn’t take long for El Capitán de las Sardinas to receive its well-deserved recognition.

It all began with Spanish photographer Elena Enrique’s stunning post on her blog El Apartamento Photography, after discovering Carlos and his crew by chance. What followed was beyond Carlos’s wildest dreams; Spanish brewery chain La Sureña contacted him to shoot a video documenting his story, which was viewed 55,000 times within the first three days of going live. See for yourself and watch the video below - I’m sure I’m not the only one having goose bumps every time I watch it!

via Vimeo (with English subtitles)

Shortly after, The Guardian recommended El Capitán de las Sardinas in a feature about Almería (29/8/15):

Capitán de las Sardinas is the creation of the charismatic Carlos who went bust in the crisis, languished as a barista in London, and has returned to try again. He’s pretty much a poster boy for surfing, for the powers of positive thinking and the rise of a generation of people in Spain who’ve had a tough time but are now the stronger for it.”

…And a week ago, Spanish radio station Cadena SER invited Carlos for an exclusive interview, which you can listen to here (3/9: 12.38 mins of track) in Spanish.

Furthermore, leading local newspaper La Voz de Almeria dedicated a front-page headline to the Captain and his crew who are helping to put Las Negras on the map.

El Capitán de las Sardinas caps & signed poster by one of
his longboard idols Greg Noll.

Fans are visiting Carlos literally from near and afar; most of them curious about what all the commotion’s about. While others, who faced similar difficulties, come for advice and a pat on the shoulder from the Captain. Even he admits having felt a little taken aback by his sudden fame, but as his motto goes…

“Ni cobarde, ni gallina,
soy el Capitán de las Sardinas”

“Neither coward, nor chicken,
I’m the Captain of the Sardines”

(old Spanish saying)

Words of wisdom from the Captain…

via El Capitán de las Sardinas on Instagram.

Five months on, what advice has the Captain for all you aspiring entrepreneurs out there?  “Someone once told me “The one who’s got the magic, doesn’t need any tricks”. He’s clearly got the magic and reckons that if you’ve got a good idea and you’re sure it’s going to work, you should simply go for it. “After all it’s us entrepreneurs who push this country forward again” he adds.

Follow the Captain!

Keep up-to-date with the Capitan de las Sardina’s latest adventures on his website, Facebook fan page or Instagram, or simply pay him a visit:

Centro Comercial Bergantin 4-5,
04116 Las Negras

Rarrr! It’s the Captain’s company carrr!

We’re driving back to Madrid with the Capitan on board while I’m typing this post. Admittedly a little sad about having to leave the place where we had spent such a wonderful holiday and made a fantastic new friend behind…

Obviously we’ll miss
the Captain’s little helper too!

All images by Consciously Sartorial, unless stated otherwise.

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