September is hurricane season. But count on the Canadians, and the surf community, to find point break in the city of Montréal. And that was precisely how Shaper Studios, a surfboard workshop and the commingled twin of September Cafe, found its name. In turn, the Quebecois surf community found a place to come shake out their blonde locks—insert shaka sign.
September is “a beautiful month in Montreal, with the start of fall, changing colors, changing seasons, new beginnings, crisp air,” says Mitch Martin, the cafe’s co-owner along with Hawaii native Nate Batara. “The word and the month evoke good feelings for anyone that lives here, and we’re happy to be associated with that.” But wait, Montreal has a surf community? That gorgeous Canadian coast, with rugged men and rocks, are hiding some of the best waters in the world. But without caffeine, the cold water peels a wetsuit right off.
“I was living in Vancouver for a few years, where I launched a DIY surfboard workshop with a friend,” says Martin. “Our shop was turning into a clubhouse and a gathering place for the local surf community. It struck me that this model would blend nicely with a cafe.” He then spent time visiting the coffee capitals of Portland and Seattle, finding inspiration and sweet love in the West Coast Third Wave culture. “When it was time to move back to Montreal, I had a good vision for our project there, as well as some friends that were keen to get on board and help make it happen. So we built September Cafe, which houses a surfboard workshop, called Shaper Studios. The two brands live under one roof,” says Martin.
Nothing like the infatuation with—and deep adoration for—surf, to collect enough energy for a workshop plus an inviting cafe. The Ville-Marie neighborhood is, of course, ever-so-pleased that in the year of Montreal’s 375th birthday, a whole community has found a place to come, ummm, hang loose. “We host events for Montreal’s surf industry—movie premieres, launches, and more—and our workshops offer classes where anyone can learn to make their own surfboard,” says Martin.
But how to choose a roaster to work with? Well, it’s easy—a fellow surfer, of course. “We work closely with Anchored Coffee out of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia—owned by Dean Petty, a surfer. So when I visit our roaster, we also make plenty of time to go play in the waves.”
But they keep the whole thing very minimal. Just the straightforward three facets—cafe, workshop, and retail. With a liquor license pending for some craft brews—once the coffee desire stops for the surfers. “The workshop [Shaper Studios] offers one-on-one and group lessons, and our retail section is stocked with surf and travel accessories, hats, books, and some clothing for sale. We keep it simple,” says Martin.
The cafe is eager to attract a bigger crowd of Montrealers interested in blonde roasts and, of course, a place to learn about surfing. “I believe this type of coffee is still quite new in Montreal, which is very much a traditional city that loves its dark, Italian-style espresso and associates filter coffee with McDonald’s,” says Martin. “So we have a job to do, and I like the challenge of getting people to appreciate a lighter-roasted, tastier, more vibrant coffee.” Seems like there are all ages and all walks of life here—perhaps Prime Minister JT will pop in next for an espresso and a new surfboard.
Daniel Scheffler is a Sprudge staff writer at large. His work has appeared in T Magazine, Travel And Leisure, Monocle, Playboy, New York Magazine, The New York Times, and Butt. Read more Daniel Scheffler on Sprudge.
Cafe photos courtesy of Olivier Blouin. Surfboard photo courtesy Benjamin Rochette.