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Freesurfing Vs. Competitive Surfing

Monday, December 1st, 2008

While the freesurfing vs. competitive surfing debate has been going on as long as I can remember, 2008 has seen the ongoing contrast of ideas and views on the issue reach a fevered pitch. Bruce Irons deciding to bail on the ASP World Tour, Kelly Slater continuing to establish his unimaginable legacy on that same tour, and Dane Reynolds having a debate with Dane Reynolds on his future with the Dream Tour are just some of the examples of why the freesurfing vs. competitive surfing debate has been especially fresh on our minds in ‘08.

rob machado big air

In my eyes this debate has always been an easy one. There’s plenty of room in this world for both to thrive. A healthy freesurfing movement allows guy like Dave Rastovich, the Malloy brothers, Jamie O’Brien, and Donavon Frankenreiter to continually blow our minds, each in their own respective way. I really dig the fact that it is becoming more common for the big boys like Billabong and Volcom to sponsor guys and just let them do their thing. I have the sneaking suspicion that we’re going to see truly incredible things from Bruce Irons as the gates of the WCT pen open up and he’s able to roam about the globe and single-handedly progress the sport in ways that only he can.

While Bruce goes about his business, the ‘CT will continue on without him. As it does, the storylines and the rich history it produces year after year will go on right with it. This is what makes competitive surfing such a beautiful thing. In fact, the whole motive for this post came as a result of 22 yr. old Michel Bourez’ victory at the first leg of this year’s Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. The Tahitian not only claimed victory with his inspired performance at the Reef Hawaiian Pro, but he also secured a coveted spot on the 2009 Dream Tour with his win at Haleiwa.

When you follow surfing, it can be easy to forget the real life aspects that take place with the surfers who have battled to get to where they are at today. Competitive surfing is full of inspiring stories of hard work, dedication, perseverance, broken hearts, and the realization of dreams. In the euphoric days following the Reef Hawaiian Pro, Michel Bourez told his story in his own words. In doing so, he once again reminded myself, as well as thousands of others, what it is that makes the world tour and competitive surfing so special.

michel bourez

“I still have that picture in my mind of coming in from the water and seeing the crowd and seeing all my good friends running down to see me and that was such a good feeling and something I’ll never ever forget. To win an event in Hawaii under that pressure was just incredible. I keep repeating myself here, as I still can’t really believe it.” -Michel Bourez-

So as far as the competitive surfing vs. freesurfing debate goes, it’s pretty simple….there’s plenty of room in my world for both. Hopefully this is the case for you as well. Both aspects of surfing are full of stories, images, history and so much more, all of which you don’t want to miss.

Posted in Surfing | No Comments »

Dusty Payne Claims Oakley Pro Junior Challenge in Bali (Video)

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

It had been more than eight years since Hawaii’s 19 yr. old surfing prodigy Dusty Payne last won an event. Although he’s finished near the top many times over this span, most recently with his 3rd place finish at the Oakley Pro Junior Challenge this past May at Trestles, the highly-touted Payne has been unable to find his way to the top of the podium. That streak came to an abrupt end today as Dusty surfed like a seasoned pro on his way to a huge victory at the Oakley Pro Junior Challenge in Bali. “I haven’t won an event in so many years,” said Payne. “It’s the best feeling in the world. That’s why I still compete.”

dusty payne oakley pro junior

Keramas was firing near 6-8 ft. surf for the final, and the chance to surf the flawless right was as equally rewarding for Payne as the $20,000 prize Payne will be taking back to Maui. “It’s the best contest I’ve ever surfed in,” said Payne,”It’s been my dream to surf a contest at Keramas. The waves were just so good, I’m so stoked with how it turned out.”

Almost as stoked with the results of the event was runner-up Marc Lacamore from France. Lacamore, a goofy-footer from Hossegor, jumped out to an early lead in the final but was unable to withstand Dusty’s methodical shredding at Keramas. Although he won’t be going home with the win, Lacamore was all smiles after the event and received $7,500 from Oakley for his efforts. “I’m really happy right now,” said Lacamore. “Although I didn’t win I still posted a really good result against the world’s best juniors. Dusty has been surfing amazingly all week, so to go up against him in the final was incredible.”
All of the boys put on quite a show in Bali and our hats are off to every one of them. Congratulations to Hawaii’s Dusty Payne on his impressive victory at the Oakley Pro Junior Challenge in Bali!

If you’ve yet to see just why it is Dusty Payne is turning heads with every wave he takes off on, take a look at this dirty little diddy from the Surfline Rising Stars series. The Nike 6.0/Volcom/Body Glove ripper is pure fire when he surfs!

Posted in Surfing | No Comments »

2008 ASR Recap

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Twice a year the action sports industry comes together to showcase and display what they have in store for the upcoming year. ASR, the Action Sports Retailers tradeshow, brings together not only the big players of the action sports industry, but gives up and coming brands the opportunity to launch their brands to the industries who’s who. One major difference that’s notable this year is the absence of the major footwear companies. Brands such as Sole Technology (Etnies, ES, Emerica), and Globe have opted out of attending the show. Being that ASR is heavily influenced by skate and surf brands, the absence of these brands is quite apparent. But this may be a grand opportunity for other brands to step up and shine in their place. With such a void of the presence, other themes and brands are catching people’s attention.

Noticeable surf brands that were showing what they could bring to the table were your obvious contenders, Quik, Bong, Hurley, Volcom, and Lost. There were a lot of other notable brands that also were making an unexpected presence at the show as well. Smaller brands that focus on surf like Ezekiel, Lost, and Fox all made the push to showcase their spring lines.

Since the main focus of the show is to highlight the spring lines, there was no shortage boardshorts, swimwear, walkshorts, tanks and tees. Bright colors and geometric graphics still prove to hold strong and look to continue through until next year. Neons and fluorescent colors seem to still highlight the slimmer shorter silhouettes of boardies and shorts. Always leading the pack and pushing the envelope with the boardshorts is Billabong. All the boardshorts on display looked to be leaning toward the shorter length, veering away from the standard over the knee boardies that have been the standard in the industry for many years. Jumbo all over graphics, mixing geometrics with animal prints, the Billabong assortment proved to be new and exciting while stilling to their roots as clean and wearable boardshorts.

billabong boardshorts

One notably cool disply on the ASR floor was the Quiksilver compound. They had a total of 4 booths at the show to exhibit their range of men’s, core, and woman’s divisions as well as a full set up for Roxy. Between this massive layout they displayed their timeline in boardshort history. The lounge exhibit held cases of boardshorts from the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and today to give buyers and visitors a like a brief history not only of what Quiksilver has brought to the surfing community, but how it shaped and set the standard for the industry throughout time. Most interesting of all was to see how the styles of today can truly be accredited to how things use to be as fashion has seem to come full circle within action sports.

quiksilver boardshorts

quik boardshorts

Though the show was much calmer this year, there was nothing subdued about the brands and activity that was still in attendance. It will be interesting to see how the industry moves into the Fall 2009 season. This week the east coast gets a taste of what is to come for the Spring 2009 season as we move to Orlando, Florida for Surf Expo.

Posted in Industry | 3 Comments »

$50,000 for One Air?

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

So what exactly is the footage of the gnarliest, craziest, most styled out air worth these days? According to (Billabong backed) Kustom Footwear……$50,000. That’s right, $50,000 is the apparent reward that will be handed down to the winner of the Kustom Air Strike. Without a doubt this is the richest bounty set for a contest that will be won by capturing the footage of a single aerial maneuver. The event is reportedly slated to begin this month and run until March 2009. Not much has been announced as far as rules and regulations or judging criteria go, just that the winning entry submitted will receive a cool 50 g’s for their efforts.

Kustom Airstrike

I thought Volcom was splashing the pot by offering up $10,000 for their Kick-Flip Off, but Kustom is clearly going above and beyond. It’s a bit odd to me that a contest with such a massive prize isn’t releasing a whole lot of details, so I’m interested to see how all of this plays out. With their team riders consisting of the likes of Parko, Josh Kerr, and Kolohe Andino, to name a few, maybe Kustom is hoping the loot will stay in the family. Regardless, it’s going to be quite intriguing to see how this plays out, as well as the eventual footage that a carrot of this size will produce when dangled in front of the world’s best aerial surfers.

Posted in Surfing | 2 Comments »

Volcom Still Waiting For Kick-Flip

Monday, March 31st, 2008

volcom kick flip surfboardThe search still continues, and apparently this one may take a while…

Last November Volcom launched its Kickflip-off contest in hopes of pushing surfers to progression while obtaining the rights to footage of the first ever documented kickflip on a surfboard. Over 4 months and many failed attempts later, they’re still waiting. The $10,000 grand-prize is still without a home and could be without one for some time.

One thing I found kind of interesting, is that unlike the first couple of months after launching, there are no mentions of the contest on their homepage. Their YouTube kickflipoff page has a few entries of near-makes, but not as many as I would have imagined at this point. Is this a sign that Volcom has lost a bit of interest in the contest, or is it a testament to the difficulty of executing such a technical maneuver? The ‘above the lip’ qualification can’t be making this any easier as well.

Someday someone, somewhere will put this one down. I thought going into this it would happen sooner and I’m guessing Volcom did as well.


Posted in Brands, Surfing | No Comments »

Volcom to Shell out $10k for Kick-flip on a Surfboard

Monday, December 17th, 2007

The search continues……

Nearly a month later and Volcom’s added ‘motivation‘ has still yet to produce a successfully executed and documented ‘kick-flip’ by a surfer. For those unfamiliar with the contest, Volcom’s motivation comes in the form of $10,000 to the first person to produce video of themselves cleanly stomping this yet-to-be documented maneuver.

The contest, which began on November 21 and will run until a winner is produced, has no doubt inspired countless attempts by surfers all over the world. There have been several documented attempts nearly-executed that can be seen on Youtube, but to date there is still no known footage of a surfer landing a “proper, above-the-lip” kickflip.

YouTube Preview Image

By “proper” and “above-the-lip”, Volcom is very clear that one must launch an air, use their front foot to flip the board, and then land on it and ride it out cleanly. There is a list of rules that the winning entry must abide by, including no tow-ats, no grabs of any kind, no wakeboards, boogie boards, or trays, no shoes (booties okay), and (my personal favorite) no dolphin-assistance.

Although this extremely difficult maneuver has yet to be successfully landed, it’s not a matter of if, but when. Surfing has always been and always will be a sport of progression and it’s only a matter of time until someone is filmed riding this one out and receives 10,000 reasons to justify the many “sick-days” taken from school or work to in order to paddle out. And as stoked as someone will soon be to have Volcom add to their bank account, one can only imagine the feeling that will come from riding out the first ever documented kickflip on a wave.


Posted in Surfing | 14 Comments »

Go Huge and Stay Core: A Lesson in Marketing from Volcom

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

Volcom StoneVolcom once again won the prestigious Men’s Apparel Brand of the Year at SIMA’s Image Awards, it also won the Women’s Apparel Brand of the Year for the first time. If you are not familiar with the SIMA Image Awards the voters are fellow brand owners, so Volcom was voted by their peers and their fellow competitors.

On the ASR blog they talk about how Volcom has recreated the action sports industry and has experienced unbelievable success while still being able to stay core. It seems as though every new brand has some influence of Volcom in it and when they created their business they probably said something to the extent of, “Lets be the next Volcom”, or “We will be the Volcom of Eyewear” or be the Volcom of whatever the product niche is. It is even easy to see Volcom’s design styles recreated in the images of the older more mainstream brands yet they are still not seen as sell outs. They have also escaped the almost certain death of “Selling Out” even though they went public (VLCM on the NASDAQ). I have been a fan of Volcom’s since the beginning, and I wanted to write some thoughts on why I think Volcom was able to go huge and stay core.

Scarcity: In my opinion the most influential aspect of Volcoms genius is scarcity. When Volcom started to grow and show up in shops up and down the coast and inland it was very hard to find the same designs, or even the same designs in a different size. This is because they don’t overprint and they are very careful of who they choose to carry their product. They have test periods where they basically give their left overs and scraps to new shops wanting to carry their brand until they prove themselves. This creates emotions in the consumer to buy on impulse as they don’t know if they can come back and find the same shirt again. It also keeps the company from getting too mainstream as teenagers hate to see others wearing their same gear. Today you can go to any school in America and see plenty of Volcom paraphernalia but I can guarantee you there will be very few if any duplicates.

Not creating scarcity can be the difference between a long lasting brand and a one hit wonder. Look at AirWalk, back in the late 80’s and early 90’s AirWalk killed it, they had good riders, they only sold certain shoes to certain stores, and they were doubling their growth almost on a monthly basis. You couldn’t go to a High School without seeing the suede AirWalks with the jagged soles. Then they got greedy and they started distributing through large general retailers like Mervyns and other “Sell Out” outlets and the next thing you know AirWalk is more of a thought in the past then a brand (they are pretty much Payless Exclusives now). Call me superficial but I stopped wearing Hurley and Quicksilver when I saw them at Costco.

Know Your Audience: Volcom’s mantra since inception has been “Youth Against Establishment.” Their designs say it, their riders say it, everything they do shows it. If anyone has milked anti authority to the bone it is Volcom. They chose to appeal to youth, which happens to be the big purchasers in Action Sports as well as the evangelists. Youth is also the future and it ensures longevity in a brand when a younger group grabs hold of it. It also creates more buyers in an older demographic as they want to feel young and be seen as cool by the youth around them.

If companies can figure this out it becomes very easy to create marketing material as they set guidelines for themselves. In Volcom’s case the guidelines are there are no guidelines and that is a large playing field for product creation.

Innovation: It is always better to be known as the best for a specific trade or skill rather than a “Jack of All Master of None.” Volcom gained a following because their designs were innovative and they were good, they were creative. I’m almost certain they brought back the front print design when (early – mid 90’s) Action Sports was plagued by the business card logo over the left breast with a large design on the back. I remember buying a shirt that had the biz card logo on the back over my right shoulder blade and the large image on the front, and people used to say, “Your shirt is on backwards” and I was stoked to tell them, “actually no, the shirt was designed that way on purpose.” You were different when you wore Volcom shirts and that is why everyone was and is fanatical about them. Volcom’s CFO Doug Collier has coined the term, “consistently inconsistent advertising.”

Stickiness: Every brand needs to stick, you need to create something that connects with people on a different level then what your competitors are registering. You need to create something viral so people feel compelled to promote it for you. Volcom is a crash course on stickiness. Their designs and slogans are very unique yet they are familiar and so clever that they connect with you. When you see someone wear a Volcom shirt you haven’t seen it creates conversation and makes you feel you need to go get another one from the newly released line.

Evangelists: Their Riders couldn’t have been better chosen, they are all some of the most innovative and creative players in their space and they are perfect representatives for the companies brand and mission. Shaun White, Bruce Irons, Geoff Rowley, Mark Appleyard, Shawn Barron, need I saw more these guys are changing their sport (see full list here). Having a good and talented team is essential and just as Jordan sold a lot of Nikes these guys are helping with the spread of Volcom.

Branding: If you can break your brand down into one image or thought you are far better off then most companies in existence. You become easier to share and recognize and thus you will experience far more branding and mind share. Volcom did this when they created the “Volcom STONE.” You don’t really get what it is right off the bat, it becomes whatever you want it to be, and it is very easy to recognize. You don’t see cars with VOLCOM on them you see the stone sideways and you know exactly what it is and what it means and you automatically know about that person driving the car.

From: Fool on the street

“Collier’s anecdotes traced the Volcom Stone’s appearance in very personal manifestations: tattoos, doodled art, and frequent stories of young people with bedroom murals featuring the Volcom Stone. (Regarding Volcom tattoos, Collier said, “We see this on a regular basis.”)”

Whether you think it or not Volcom will go down in the History books for exceptional branding and marketing, they have reinvented the wheel a million times over and have an influence in almost every mainstream clothing brand. There is something to say about a company that caters to hooligans while grossing over $280 million a year.


Posted in Brands | 9 Comments »

Volcom Goes Green

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

Volcom V.co-logicalIt seems like everyone is going green these days, nearly every new ad in the mags touts something about being Pro Planet. Volcom has joined the ranks of Eco-Friendly brands with their new V.Co-Logical Series of clothing products. The Summer product line which consists of two pairs of pants, 12 shirts and a hoodie are made of different types of Organic Cotton, Hemp and Fleece combined with low impact screen printing. Most of them have Eco V.Co friendly designs displaying plants and nature.

Organic garments from the Volcom V.Co-Logical Series represent Volcom’s socially responsible attempt to sustain and protect our planet’s rapidly shrinking natural resources. By utilizing sustainable alternatives like 100% certified organic cotton, hemp, vegetable dyes, organic stains and other low impact production methods, the Volcom V.Co-Logical series incorporates progressive Volcom styling with an environmentally clear conscience.”

The Volcom logo for the Earth friendly sub-brand is the Stone made up of recycle signs which is clever but this was not the first choice. They originally planned on calling the product line “Verde” (green in Spanish) but after being called out by some bloggers for copying the name and the artwork from another company called “Verte“(green in Italian), they suddenly removed the content from the old page and launched V.Co-Logical.

Volcom has also joined the ranks of 1% for the Planet which means they donate 1% of their Gross Revenue to a pro environment organization. Whether you believe in being green or not it is good to see companies donating profits to causes they believe in. It is also a good way to put their money where their mouth is as “going green” can be seen as a marketing tactic for buzz and monetary gain. I doubt the organic production of 12 items will off-set the harm of hundreds of non organic products, but it will be interesting to see if they slowly convert their entire line (or the majority of it) to more Eco friendly products.

Whoever is in charge of marketing for the Earth needs a raise! The Green Wagon is full and getting it’s hands into a large majority of brands in the action sports industry.


Posted in Brands | 2 Comments »

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