Acceptance of surfing was greatly expanded through the exploits of Hawaiian waterman Duke Kahanamoku. Duke, the swimming sensation of the 1912 Olympic games, toured the world enthusiastically promoting his native culture. In the process Duke introduced surfing to Australia, the eastern U.S. coast, and many of Hollywood's top personalities.
By the 1920’s there were approximately three hundred dedicated wave riders in the world. World War II curtailed the growth of the emerging surf scene. Soon after the war, newly developed materials such as Styrofoam, polyester resin and fiberglass cloth found their way into surfboard construction. Enterprising veterans such as Dale Velzy and Malibu’s Joe Quigg began to craft boards that were radical departures from the old pre-war planks. These easy to ride boards opened up the once exclusive sport to legions of enthusiasts.
Hollywood discovered the one-time sport of Hawaiian Kings and a full-blown fad exploded. Gidget, the 1959 motion picture, prompted commercialism. Surf mania ran rampant. Kids in Kansas began bolting surfboards to their car tops in an effort to appear cool.
Fads and function operate on different paradigms. Looking like a surfer is not the same thing as being a surfer. In the beginning those who rode the waves wore nothing at all. By the start of the twentieth century, surfers attempted to adapt extant surf bathing attire to their own use. From Santa Cruz to Sydney surfers fought a losing battle with the heavy woolen tank suits that were originally intended for a passive dunk at the plunge. In Hawaii "da bruddahs" cut off the tops of their woolens, forever voiding the best intentions of the Victorian moralists.
Back in the 1930’s, early surf proponents like Palos Verdes Surf Club founder, Doc Ball, fashioned their own trunks in the effort to discover a workable garment. For the most part though, conventional clothing manufacturers turned out thinly disguised versions of the ubiquitous swim trunk.
By the sixties, surf chic was a cultural phenomenon. Carloads of guys wearing suits and wing-tipped dress shoes showed up on the sands of Malibu on research and destroy missions. The clever marketers from the garment district even tried the protective camouflage- celebrity model approach. Blatant examples of this were evident in the surf crazed 1960’s. Jantzen went with frontmen Paul Hornung of the Green Bay Packers, John Severson, the publisher of Surfer Magazine and United States Surfing Champion Corky Carroll. MacGregor used board manu Hobie Alter as a pitchman. Catalina Martin sponsored the Malibu Surfing Association and the Wind an Sea Club. Catalina went so far as to partially underwrite the Blum brothers’ movie The Fantastic Plastic Machine chronicling the emergent V-bottom short board revolution in Australia.
A few years later, indigenous root brands came to market: Hang Ten, Birdwell Beach Britches, Golden Breed, Kanvas by Katin, Reed of Newport and Roy's Beach Cabana. By and large these products imitated the garments favored by traveling surfers that were made by small Hawaiian boutique tailors like M. Nii of Waianae, Taki of Waikiki, H. Muira and Reyn Spooner. These trunks were constructed of stiff heavy canvas and were totally restrictive to movement. The fact was surf trunks were not designed for the act of surfing.
Ostensibly these Baggies may have been passable gear back in the stand and pose phase of the sport. Board lengths and weights dropped dramatically towards the end of the sixties. This dawn of newer directions in surfing under scored how archaic these stiff bathing suit relics actually were. Instead of riding on the waves in the old hopelessly heroic straight-line style, people were now actively traveling all over the wave’s surface in agile anarchy. Progressive moves like acceleration turning, riding inside of the barrel and flying off of the lip obviously demanded equally modern boardshorts.
In the late 1960’s Australian surfers Alan Green and John Law chased a dream – to live in Torquay, make a living and go surfing. In 1969 Alan Green produced wetsuits (Rip Curl) on a $2500 loan from his father, the next product was sheepskin boots (UGG Boots), and in 1970 he and John Law formed the company named Quiksilver. Greenie and Law ripped apart some old trunks and discarded the portions that they deemed unnecessary or undesirable. Gone was the leaden canvas, the lace up front, the long stovepipe legs, the double thick seams and buttons that hurt when you paddled. Nothing of the old was left so they started from scratch. A pattern that was anatomically based was devised to move with the surfer.
Greenie and Law’s innovative trunk was made from a durable, lightweight fabric that dried rapidly. Their boardshorts had short scalloped legs that didn’t bind or hang up. The styling was essentially clean. A wide waistband yielded support. They designed a snap that held and placed it so a bloke could paddle. There were no decorative add-ons. There was a wax pocket, a lay flat Velcro front closure and that was about it.
So Greenie and Law put them on and went surfing. Hard at it, all day every day. People notice what works. They also pay attention to individuals who devote years to chasing a dream. Soon other riders would do anything to get one of these elusive newfangled boardshorts. This was the birth of Quiksilver, the genuine, original, functional choice of the hard-core participant.
Leading the beg, borrow and steal-a-pair brigade, was the foremost competitor of the decade, Jeff Hakman. Personally trained by the Duke, he understood both the history of the activity and the scope of greatness. Tutored by the legendary surfboard shaper Richard Brewer he had an immediate grasp of functional design. Above all, as one of the key players in the radicalization of surfing itself, Hakman knew the future when he saw it. In Torquay, Oz for a contest, Jeff got one of those glimpses. Quiksilver boardshorts. With a little chicanery Jeff managed to abscond with some that he forgot to return to his mate, Australian pro Mark Warren. They were a perfect fit and everywhere Hakman toured people were mad to possess them. In 1976, Hakman left Torquay with a Bells trophy and an agreement to distribute Quiksilver in the United States.
Back home in Hawaii, Jeff enlisted the aid of his surfing friend Bob “Buzz” McKnight a surf filmmaker and student who just happened to be close to graduating from the University of Southern California with a business degree. The demand for these new boardshorts was there. The design was there. Everyone who wore them said these Quiksilver’s were the most comfortable trunks that they had ever worn. Bob, in addition to surfing everyday, was a business major. How can you fail with a combination like that, Hakman reasoned. With his usual persistence, Jeff managed to persuade Greenie and Law to grant Bob and himself the American license to the magic boardshort. No recounting of the annals of the sport fails to include the torrid tale of the eager to impress Hakman actually eating the serving doily off of the dinner table at a local Torquay restaurant much to the delight of Greenie. A great partnership had begun.
By the mid-1970’s, a small office/warehouse/distribution center was opened in Newport Beach, California. McKnight and Hakman built a business based on word of mouth, quality, unbelievable service and their extensive personal contacts at surf shops on all three coasts of the USA.
Growing a company that produces a never seen before product category is a difficult way to go. The partners were hard at it product testing in the water, designing at the sewing machines and selling to the surf shops. Leading converts from surfing’s new school like Danny Kwock came on board. The firm’s constant innovation in materials, high tech fabrics and cutting edge graphics helped propel Quiksilver further. Involvement in assorted boardriding activities led to the creation of newer designs for these varied avocations. Novel apparel for committed snowboarders and skateboarders led to additional expansion. The Quiksilver program is universally recognized as the embodiment of purist improvisation and innovation. Quiksilver’s position of leadership in the international teen and young adult markets is undeniable.
The seventh decade of this century went out in loud outrageous fashion as Quiksilver let loose with Echo beach prints (which included polka dots, triangles and checkerboards). The sky was the limit in the early 80’s: paint and graphics poured from the heavens and brought competitive, fashion-hungry beach culture, The Quiksilver War Paint and ST Comp stretch series were worn by legendary Australian surfers Gary Elkerton and Tom Carroll. Both were bold, each stood apart, as did the expanded Quiksilver team of professional surfers endorsing the products to a worldwide market. These were the Performers, committed to a new era of high-performance surfing. Going with the roots of Greenie and Law’s simple goals of fashion and function, Quiksilver designers listened to the words of top surfers, snowboarders, and skateboarders in order to deliver a line of swim wear and sportswear to enthusiasts who participated in their active sports.
In 1984, Jeff Hakman went to Europe with surf filmmaker Harry Hodge, Brigitte Darrigrand and John Winship where they founded Quiksilver Europe. The trio took the Quiksilver formula and applied a European twist to its approach on product design and marketing.
In 1988, Quiksilver showed its prowess by endorsing one of the industry’s largest ever contracts with world champion Tom Carroll and in 1990 outstanding USA amateur surfer Kelly Slater joined the Quiksilver team. Slater went on to dominate, leading the “new school” of surfing and winning six world championships.
Quiksilver was instrumental in stimulating the current growth in women’s boardsports participation. The introduction of the Roxy junior swim and sportswear brand in 1991, inspired major trends in the activity. Roxy was the first brand to create functional, yet fashion driven clothing and equipment for both the would-be and accomplished female surfer. The unique style of Roxy’s performance-inspired design has been widely imitated throughout the fashion industry.
Long before the bastions of mainstream news reporting began charting the company’s progress, there was an elemental approach at work within Quiksilver unique to the company. Following Quiksilver’s initial public stock offering in 1986, there has been a continual interest in the company’s activities. Many of these narratives center on the organization’s notable accomplishments: the over six-hundred million dollar per year gross sales and a unique prominence in the growing US teen market, which has over two hundred billion dollars of discretionary spending power each year in the US alone. So why does CEO and chairman of the board Robert B. McKnight Jr. insist that key management repeatedly meet on field trips and indulge the pursuits of gravity before they sit down to meet?
First and foremost Quiksilver’s products are created out of need. Whatever success they will enjoy is always secondary to that point. From Alan and John’s first pair of boardshorts through the aggressive new imagery of the Echo Beach period of the Eighties, down to anything in the line today, this is authentic performance gear. The point is that Quik stuff works so well because the people who design, make and sell it demand that it excel. This is why board meetings may be scheduled on European slopes, a ship off the coast of Java or a lake in Arizona. Quiksilver employees are a vital part of all research and development. They are the end users; everything they do is designed for them. There are no corporate marketing mission statements, trend- marketing surveys or fashion forecasts anywhere near it. Simple logic is, just create the best, most functional items imaginable and then work it. A survey of current Quiksilver employees will reveal an impressive number of former world, national, state and pro competitive title winners in surfing, snowboarding, and skateboarding. You don't find this coefficient of reality elsewhere.
The Quiksilver style is rooted in the activity. Proof of the viability of Quiksilver's passionate approach can be found in its continued support of athletes such as six-time world professional surfing champion Kelly Slater and women’s four- time world professional surfing champion Lisa Andersen. Affiliates often take their association with the company further. Rusty Keaulana, in addition to being a three-time world longboard champion, works with disadvantaged children in the Hawaiian community. Two-time world champion Tom Carroll develops prototype equipment in Australia. Ten- time international windsurfing champion Robby Naish is involved with European operations. Legendary waterman Barry Kanaiaupuni and six-time world professional surfing champion Kelly Slater own Quiksilver Boardriders Clubs. Bruce Raymond, an Australian surfing champion, is the International Director of Marketing. Founding figure and multiple International Pro Champion Jeff Hakman still works daily in concert with Harry Hodge in France. Former United States surfing champion Willy Morris is a sales rep in California. French surfing great Peyo Lizarau is a vital part of the marketing team in Europe. Quiksilver also sponsors a healthy number of surf teams, snowboard teams and a diverse selection of skateboarders, sailboarders, wakeboarders and motocross riders. The company also organizes and sponsors numerous contests and events ranging in scope from premiere international events to small community based efforts that its riders and dealers may be involved with.
The events created by Quiksilver may prove to be one of the company's most compelling legacies. The choice of location, selection of invitees, method of judging, the style, look and promotion are all variables that are fine tuned in the making of a Quik event. A number of these projects have influenced the development of the extreme sports milieu.
A selection of these influential events includes: The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational Series at Waimea Bay; The ground-breaking 1995 Quiksilver Pro at G-Land, Indonesia, that put hardcore credibility back into professional surfing events (the best surfers in the best waves); The World Amateur Surfing Championships at Newquay England, 1986; The Quiksilver Snowboarding and Surfing Cup in Europe; The Quiksilver Roxy Pro at Sunset Beach, North Shore, Oahu; The Quiksilver Winter Classic Surf/Snow Event; The Quiksilver Mavericks Big Wave Event; The Roxy Surf Jam at Hanalei and Ventura, The QuikSilverEdition Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Race. These pioneering events have firmly established Quiksilver as the authentic leader in the action sports market.
Another unique Quiksilver involvement is a series of innovative concept stores and shops, which have greatly improved both brand recognition and distribution standards. Quiksilver Boardriders Clubs and in-store shops, Quiksvilles and Roxyvilles, have become key retail models around the world. Presently, there are two hundred and fifteen Quiksilver Boardriders Clubs globally including thirty in the United States. Trend setting in both their concept and execution, they are definitive presentations of the Quiksilver ethic. Flagship stores in Paris, London and New York are often mentioned by the fashion and business press as examples of truly entertaining retail concepts.
Today, Quiksilver offers a diverse line of products under its umbrella including a complete clothing collection, accessories, eyewear, watches, and wetsuits. A similar offering for boys ages 8-14 years old, 4-7 years old and toddlers. The Winter Sports division is emerging with snowboarding apparel and hard goods designed for high performance enthusiasts. To further expand the division, in 1997, Quiksilver acquired Mervin, a snowboard manufacturing company that makes Gnu and Lib Tech snowboards and Bent Metal bindings. QuikSilverEdition is a line of clothing targeting the now 25-40-year-old waterman. In 1999, the Company brought legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk into the Quiksilver family by sponsoring him and purchasing his company, Hawk Clothing. Girl’s lines including Roxy, Roxy Teenie Wahine, Raisins, Radio Fiji, and Leilani swimwear are stronger than ever.
Quiksilver has become far more than just a fashion apparel company. It is a company with deep roots in the history of the demanding outdoor sports lifestyle. Quiksilver, now a truly global brand, remains a pioneering force in the most original of all sports: surfing.
C.R. Stecyk III