Saltwter Portrait

Surf's always up for Angelica Clemmer

Artist returns to Rehoboth Beach to open shop
June 13, 2017

Anglica Clemmer is coming home.

For about 20 years, the 1998 Cape High grad has moved with the seasons every six months – catching rays and surf in the summer, snow and skiing in the winter.

Clemmer, 38, was born in Chile and moved to Rehoboth Beach with her parents and two brothers when she was 9. She learned to surf when she was 12, and she spent her summers on the beach, renting chairs and umbrellas at the end of Hickman Street.

But with her high school diploma and a degree in graphic design from Delaware Technical Community College behind her, she was drawn to a higher elevation. "I really wanted to learn snowboarding," she said.

It helped that a group of her surf and skimboarding friends had made Telluride their winter home. She calls it a Dewey Beach connection. By age 18, she followed her friends and headed to the Colorado mountains.

"The minute I could go, I went. I would work really hard all summer long so I could go back to Colorado," she said. "I would snowboard all winter. I wanted to know how to get better and worked hard at it."

She spent her winter months traveling to snowboard competitions where she earned a sponsorship from a sunglasses and goggles company, Smith. But she always came home to Rehoboth Beach.

In 2010, she opened a surf shop on Wilmington Avenue about the same time as her artwork took off. With sponsorships from surf giant Hurley and board paint company BoardStix, Clemmer said, she found herself traveling more and more.

"I really felt that I had made it. I was like, I can't have a surf shop and be traveling all the time," she said. It just so happened someone made an offer to buy her out and she sold her shop. A strict noncompete contract with the new owner made it impossible for her to work at any surf shop in the vicinity, so she moved to surfing mecca San Clemente, Calif., and lived on a sailboat. She also concentrated on her artwork – a colorful array of modern art. Traveling to surfing competitions up and down the California coast, Clemmer painted surfboards and skateboards, and worked on her canvas paintings.

Clemmer also teamed up with West Coast surfboard-shaper John Tuttle and New Jersey's Brian Wynn. When they need surfboards painted, Clemmer heads to their shops to get the job done. Clemmer has kept her ties with Rehoboth Beach and Dewey, returning every spring and fall to visit her parents and participate in art shows. She has one planned for 6 p.m., Tuesday, June 20, at Go Brit, on Route 1 near Lewes.

But a piece of her always missed her Rehoboth Beach shop.

As chance would have it, the man who bought her store gave it up, and she recently slid back into the store at 26A Wilmington Ave., now named Gel Z Art & Surf. Her friend helped open the store Memorial Day weekend, and Clemmer will keep it open throughout the summer. She said she's going to concentrate on her artwork, but she will still paint surfboards and skateboards. Posters of rock stars are her latest creations.

With long, sunbleached hair, a deep tan and the wiry body of a teenager, Clemmer returns to the town where her passion for surfing started. Sharing it with others is always in the back of her mind.

"I would like to teach surfing lessons to kids to give them a love of surfing. It can change lives. It changed mine," she said.
When she's finished this season, she'll head back to the Rocky Mountains. A home in Minturn, Colo., that she shares with boyfriend Scott Kabel is waiting.

"Colorado is home base now," she said. "But I'll keep traveling until the snow starts, usually about December."