Catchin a cold at Toronto new surf shop

Aliya N Barnes in front of Elie Landesberg’s photo.
Photos by Sveta Soloveva 

Try on a juicy rash guard, flip through a surf magazine, grab a board of your dream and … go surfing!

Are the Great Lakes too cold for you? Don’t worry, Surf the Greats company got you covered. Their new surf shop and café at 276 Carlaw Avenue offers thick cold water wetsuits, surf booties, and mittens from Rip Curl. While the warmest gear keeps your body comfortable, the beach-inspired events and parties will take care of your mood. For example, until July 29th, Catchin A Cold photo exhibit showcases works from 16 artists who represent all five of the Great Lakes.

Hidden in the labyrinth of the building, the shop became one of many surfers’ favourite spots in Toronto even before it opened. Even while under construction, it hosted Toronto’s premiere of environmental movie Island Earth and welcomed adventure photographer Chris Burkard who was in to Toronto to present his surf documentary Under An Arctic Sky.

Now the shop is officially open and it offers everything surfers need for their soul and body, from surfboards, apparel, sun care, and printed matters to surf and yoga lessons, energizing drinks, and many exciting events like film screenings and live music concerts!

“The atmosphere is totally amazing,” said 20-year-old Aliya N. Barnes, who attended the grand opening party on June 29th. “It’s colourful and bright, but it still has a nice surf chill feeling. I feel like I wanna live here.”

Surf the Greats’ owner Antonio Lennert said that the physical shop is an extension of their online platform that brought many surf enthusiasts together through organizing beach cleanups and free yoga classes and offering surf equipment and lessons for the last three years.

“We started online as a media outlet to connect all different communities of surfers over the Great Lakes using hashtag ‘surf the greats’,” he said. “I feel like we’ve earned the community’s trust by giving, and now the community is giving back to us. That’s why now we have a home, and there’s so many people here and so much positivity. It just feels very special.”

Surf the Greats’ sign over the bar table is shimmers in its juicy colours, shifts from pink to blue and from blue to green. Dj Great Lake Shark (Ellie Landesberg) creates a tropical vibe with folktronica tracks until the band Gold Complex takes over with their live acoustic.

Gold Complex performs at the surf shop on June 29

Guests sample RISE Kombucha, order beer from Sweetgrass Brewing Co., and explore newly arrived surfboards and apparel. There are a couple of major brands like Vans Canada and Rip Curl, but Surf the Greats tries to stay local as much as possible and carries products from Montreal, Tofino, BC, and Toronto, along with their own brand.

Walking through the rows of beach bags and rash guards, the visitors occasionally stop and stare at the photos of Catchin A Cold exhibit. The sixteen photographs vary from black and white to colourful, and show surfers riding or waiting for waves, walking to and staring at the water. “What you see on the walls is a mix of professional photographers and people who go to beach with their phones,” said Lennert. “We tried to make sure that we represented all the Great Lakes, amateur and professional photographers, male and female photographers.” Surf the Greats announced the photo competition in the winter and, working with Vans Canada, selected the winning works out of 700 submissions.

Dj Great Lake Shark (Elie Landesberg) creates a tropical vibe at Surf the Greats’ grand opening party
“I took this photo in Scarborough, Ontario, in a very-very stormy day, and there was one surfer out in very turbulent water,” Elie Landesberg told Novella about his black and white photo. “Because the sky was so grey and the birds were blowing around the sky, I thought it was a metaphor for my life and for surfing to see somebody sitting insulated, so calm among so much turbulence and chaos.”
Lennert said Surf the Greats will host a new event every week. Many of them are free or by donation. Check out a screening of a the surf movie GIVEN on July 20, a wave forecasting workshop on July 29th, and beach yoga every Sunday morning.
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Yvonne Whelan Design




With an innate love for design, Yvonne Whelan follows her instinct to deliver all of her projects. She knows that our home speaks about ourselves much like the way we dress. Therefore, even that sometimes it isn’t an easy task, the ultimate intention of this talented interior designer is to create a place that projects and embraces the individuality if who lives in there.

How did your passion for design started? Is this something you’ve always wanted to end up doing?

Y.W: My passion for design has been there for as long as I can remember. Even as a young child, I had an unusual fascination with furniture, style and colours. I would want to be part of any décor decision being made at home… so much so that my parents would sometimes ask for my advice on things like exterior colours. I would also move my furniture around. I wasn’t exactly a neat child, but I was full of ideas.

You were in the fashion industry for a while and then you changed to interior design. What do you find more interesting about interior design vs. fashion?  

Y.W: I actually love both and I feel like both fields go hand in hand. You express yourself by the way that you dress and you also express yourself by how you live. I would say these two worlds are more alike than people think. It’s all about having a good base: you can accessorize your outfit and also your home. When designing a room, I tend to think: ‘will this room have longevity?’ That is important because unlike clothes, we can’t change our furniture and interior decorations daily. You have to plan for a space to work for years. I still love throwing in a bit of trend, but in small doses. That way when the fad fades, you can easily switch it out.

Do you remember your first project as an interior designer?

Y.W: I absolutely do! It was for a lovely couple who lived in Leaside. They wanted some help revamping their entire house. I volunteered my time and transformed the home. From there the phone started ringing. In this business, it is all about the referral so your work better shine. I was paid for every gig following, so it paid off.


What is the most exciting project you’ve ever worked?

Y.W: That is a hard question to answer, as honestly they are all exciting to me. The most unique project I worked on was the Q Studio in CBC. A new host, Shad, was coming in, and they wanted a new look that matched his personality. It was a little nerve-wracking, as we were up against some very large companies to win the bid, but we did. It was a new and unique experience for us.

What is the philosophy behind your brand?

 Y.W: The philosophy behind my brand is to let us Inspire Your Home. A job of a good designer is to listen to customers and give them a space that is reflective of them and more. You are hiring YWDesign to make your house a home. It is crucial to me that we do what we say and we make your space spectacular.

When a client contacts you, how does the whole process work?

 Y.W: When contacted by a client, we usually set up an initial consultation. That is meeting with the client and seeing the space or spaces that they are interested in changing. We talk about the job, take measurements etc., and usually provide them with a report on what we’ve discussed in the meeting. From there, the client decides if it’s a good fit. Then, we sign a contract to move forward and the work starts. Pretty easy breezy!


The most rewarding part of your job?

 Y.W: That would be making people feel happy, as cliché is that might sound. I truly want all my clients to love their spaces we have created for them. It is so rewarding to feel like you’ve done a great job and that people agree with your ideas.

And what would you say the most challenging aspect of it is?

Y.W: There are a few things that are challenging, like in every job out there. One of the biggest challenges is to have to rely on third parties. Things take longer than they always tell you, whether things are on backorder, flaws in products, trades not showing up, etc. It is also challenging when clients don’t let you do what they’ve hired you to do. The best spaces I have ever created are for the people who truly trusted me to deliver a room perfect for them. But I get it is sometimes hard for people to give over the creative reins but when they do, magic happens.

Someone you’d like to work for?

Y.W: I would love to do one of those makeovers you see on TV for a family who needs help but can’t afford it and it would really change their life. I just feel it would be so rewarding.

If you had to pick just one colour to decorate an entire house, what would be the colour?

Y.W: OMG, that is tough! I’d have to say blue. There are so many variations of it, that I think I would be able to pull it off.

If the White House weren’t white, it would be…

Y.W: Purple…No, I’m just kidding. It would be grey.

What’s next for you?

Y.W: Who knows? I like to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. I love a good challenge so, really, I’m up for anything.