Surfing is much more than just another water sport. Surfing is a commitment, a basis for community, and, more importantly, a lifestyle. Owner of Isla Vista Surf Company for 22 years, Joe Burke, was an avid surfer who understood the culture and spread these notions throughout the small college town that is Isla Vista and other Southern California cities, such as Santa Barbara and Ventura.
There are those who surf great and there are those that help others surf great, then there are those who dedicate their lives to achieving both, which seems to have been why Mr. Burke was such a special person. He had a love for waves so strong that he wanted to share that love with anyone and everyone that visited Isla Vista.
After buying the Isla Vista Surf Co. in 1989, Mr. Burke’s shop remained the only local retailer that aimed to satisfy the needs of surfers within the area for the following two decades. For many students and locals, Isla Vista Surf Co. was the most reasonably priced place and their favorite place to purchase their first surf gear. Hundreds of graduates of Campus Point, Depressions, Devereux, and Sands distinguish their quadrennial at UCSB with the swells that grind along the point and beach breaks that bracket Isla Vista. As operator of IV Surf Company, Joe Burke can be seen as the vehicle for the adopted love of surfing by many. IV Surf Co. was a small business that thrived in the center of the community and made the beach style living ever more present.
Unfortunately, due to the building owner’s refusal to renew Joe’s lease, Isla Vista Surf Company closed its doors in 2011, despite its profitability even in the years of recession. As one of the most profound promotional shops of surf in the Santa Barbara area, the sport took a tough hit, especially in the beach town of Isla Vista. Regardless, Mr. Burke was always thankful for having the opportunity to work with generations of college students who kept him thinking and acting younger than his years. He was ageless in his passions for surfing and the ocean, and his lively personality is reflected beautifully by those whom he shared his passion with.
To the surfing world’s dismay, as with the closing of his beloved shop, Mr. Joe Burke passed away peacefully on May 29th, 2013, after a brief illness. He is survived by his wife for 13 years and close friend, Debbie Mackie, his daughter, Caitlin, and his siblings Bruce, Brian, Marylou, Kevin, Nancy, and Johnny. A beautiful and honorable memorial service was held on June 16th, 2013, at the 6800 block Isla Vista Park, overlooking the ocean. Joe’s memory was cherished and loved, and after the ceremony, surfers rode waves out together to respectfully pay their goodbyes. Mr. Burke served as an inspiration to those who were lucky to meet and speak to him, and he was an all-around advocate for the sport of surfing. The Surf Channel would like to thank him for his personal contributions to surf and we can only hope that there are more people who are as dedicated to building a surf community as Joe Burke was.