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Updated: June 7, 2023

Surf's Up: Renovated York hotel evokes seaside culture of the '60s

hotel and old car Courtesy / Read McKendree A multi-million-dollar renovation of a hotel near a popular surfing site honors the legacy of a local surfing icon.

While the image of surfing in Maine might not evoke the same grandeur as legendary spots in Hawaii, the sport has an avid following off the southern coast, with some even braving the chilly waters off Mount Desert Island when a storm kicks up the waves.

In York, the newly renovated York Beach Surf Club brings back the name and laid-back atmosphere of a local surfing icon.

The new family-owned, 52-room hotel, at 780 York St. on Long Sands Beach, has undergone renovations that included being named York Beach Surf Club.

“Our goal with creating this project was to offer something entirely new for York and this area of southern Maine by creating a full-service property that offers a fun and laid-back atmosphere for guests and locals to hang out and immerse themselves in Maine’s surf and beach vacation culture,” said Taylor Perkins, the property’s owner. 

1960s surf culture

Surfing in Maine is nothing new. Apart from some secret spots scattered along the coast, much of the surf scene is focused from Higgins Beach in Scarborough southward. In York, Long Sands is the last stretch of uninterrupted beach before the Maine-New Hampshire state line. It’s considered one of the best beginner to intermediate breaks in Maine.In the 1960s, York was “at the frontline of the wave of ‘60s surf culture, according to the hotel’s website.

In 1963, L.F. “Sonny” Perkins, said to be the first surfer in Maine with a fiberglass surfboard, began the York Beach Surf Club “with a loose coalition of surfers/friends to represent the area in surfing contests along the East Coast,” the website says.

In 2020, Sonny’s son, Taylor Perkins, bought the York Harbor Motel at 780 York St. 

Based in York, Taylor Perkins has been a real estate developer for over 20 years, across multifamily, hospitality and commercial developments. He founded the Surf Co. as a holding company for his coastal real estate holdings, which includes the Sea Latch Inn, also in York.

Honoring a legacy

Perkins undertook a multi-million-dollar restoration of the York Harbor Motel. The Surf Co. drew up the design, which included the addition of a heated saltwater pool and pool bar, food and beverage program, and renovated buildings and bungalows. Perkins named it the York Beach Surf Club to honor the legacy of his father and the local coalition of surfers, according to a news release.

lob with stools and surfboard
Courtesy / Read McKendree
The York Beach Surf Club

The buildings underwent a Scandinavian-style redesign. A 1964 International Harvester milk truck was restored to serve as an outdoor bar. It’s expected that a restaurant will debut later this summer. A rooftop restaurant was designed by McKeithan Design Studios from Nashville, Tenn.

Room features include custom furniture designed by the Surf Co. Other design features include natural wood bands around building perimeters, designed to evoke stringers in a surfboard. Longboards dating back to the 1960s, surfed by the founding members of the York Beach Surf Club, are displayed around the check-in desk. In the lobby is a balsa surfboard that belongs to Sonny Perkins, signed in the 1960s by every living member of the club, along with visiting surfers.

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June 7, 2023

While Sonny was early he was not the “first” with a fiberglass board. My cousin Ben Hadsell brought his custom Ole (the name later was used on pop offs) from California and taught me to surf at our cottage at Drakes Island. That was 1959/60. We later started the Drakes Island surf club and many of us surfed for Surfer Crow’s team out of Ogunquit. It is great to see this era in Maine brought back to life. Good luck to Sonny’s son. Gordon Grimes

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