Nearly two years ago, Peter Belden quit his job, sold his car and put all his belongings in storage before leaving for Indonesia.
“I’m not coming back home until I figure everything out,” Belden said.
At the time, he wasn’t really enjoying his career. And he had feelings of discontent and emptiness after the death in July 2014 of his friend Ben Carlson, a lifeguard who will be honored with a statue being unveiled Wednesday night at McFadden Square in Newport Beach.
After leaving a data analytics job where he worked 10 to 12 hours a day, Belden — a former Newport Harbor High School water polo standout who played at UCLA — spent two months in Indonesia.
He had enjoyed his part-time work as a lifeguard and cherished his friendships and relationships with those in that community, but Belden knew something was missing.
After Indonesia, he moved to Australia for sixth months. He lived in a van. He surfed and, seemingly by chance, found his calling.
“I was surfing this one spot and I was frustrated that I had the wrong type of board and I was getting my butt kicked,” he said. “And I thought, ‘Why can’t I have access to a whole bunch of really cool boards?’
“The wheels started turning and I came up with this concept and ... the business plan. I came home about a month later and I got to work on it.”
Belden called his concept The Board Club, a surfboard rental center that offers its members a community feel.
Members pay a monthly $80 fee for unlimited access to more than 100 boards in a home that acts as a shop at 408 31st St.
“There is everything you want to ride,” Belden said with a smile during a grand-opening party May 26. “You can keep any board for up to three weeks. Maybe take it with you on a trip to Costa Rica, or you can even exchange three in one day.”
Belden said he struggled to find a home for The Board Club. He grew up in Newport Beach and worked as a lifeguard for 18 years and a Junior Lifeguard instructor for seven years. He knows the area and wanted to find the perfect spot.
“I spent two months combing the Cannery Village,” Belden said. “I finally threw up my hands and said it’s not going to happen. Out of dumb luck I was sitting and eating at Wild Taco and I saw the sign for lease [across the street]. It was crazy. It took this idea next level.”
Belden wants The Board Club to be a communal area for his surf buddies. Inside are surf photos, paintings, and, of course, surfboards.
Belden hopes his concept takes off and shows up near other beaches. For now, he’s excited about Newport Beach.
“I love Newport,” Belden said. “My job every day will be to run a surf club where all my friends and really good people get to hang out with me and talk surfing. I mean, if this really works, I’ll be the happiest person you know.”
Follow me on Twitter: @SteveVirgen