Shaka Taco, founded in 2017 as a fresh food oriented taco establishment, is the ‘heart’ of Surf City for welcoming people to the beach and Surf City. Cody and his partners empower their employees to facilitate this ‘heart feeling’ at Shaka Taco as a hangout space for surfers and others who want to enjoy the beach scene. For the last 3-4 years now people come to just to hang out on the porch at the restaurant.
The Hurricane Florence damage level at the restaurant was significant but they were able to re-open 2 days after the island re-opened as a community-support place for people to listen to music and share hurricane stories– part of the process of a community getting back to normal.
Cody also co-founded Surf City Ocean Fest in 2019 as a fundraising event for the community to support the Red Cross, Boy Scouts and other local community service programs. In the year before COVID, Ocean Fest attracted over 6,500 participants. As Cody likes to say ‘You don’t have to get IN the ocean to celebrate its awesomeness. Some of the highlights of Ocean Fest take place in the heart of Surf City on our music stage and in our Vendor Zone and Beer Garden. We have five live bands, food and beverage vendors, local artists, plus educational booths dedicated to the protection and preservation of our ocean.’ Ocean Fest has raised tens of thousands of dollars over the years for community support.
Cody Leutgens is a Topsail Island thoroughbred. Growing up on the sands of Surf City, Leutgens attended Topsail schools K-12, obtained a bachelors from UNC-Wilmington, and a masters at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. His degrees are in creative writing, pedagogy and education, with other concentrations.
At UNC-W he organized a surf team which went on to win the National Collegiate Surfing title their first year competing. This was a pretty bold entrance to the national college surfing scene as UNC-W win was the first for an East Coast team. Who says the left coast has all the big waves!
Cody loves to write creativity and taught ‘Words with out Walls’ in Pittsburgh jails while a master’s student at Chatham University, then later as a volunteer at the Cape Fear jail as well as at Cape Fear Community College where he served as an English instructor after moving back to the island. About this same time he opened the Surf City Surf School in 2013, but now has changed his career focus to Shaka Taco and the Surf City Ocean Fest charity event.