Johnny Tsunami, the ultimate sell out

I’d like to think surfing is mysterious considering the epistemological nature of the act. In practice, a reclusive sport, surfing is undergoing a steadfast transformation towards total commercialization despite failing surf companies charging outrageous prices for goods.

Living in NYC, my water time has significantly diminished from what it once was. No more dawn patrols, or evening sessions. Now, I have to maximize my efficiency while in the water. Aside from the rhythmic oscillation of the oceans current and soothing affects surfing has on me, I am there to ride waves! I can’t ride every wave, but nothing infuriates a surfer more than getting cutoff.

More often than not, I am being cut off by people in bright colored wetsuits with an off the rack surfboard sized way too big. There is nothing wrong with being a beginner as everyone once was, but surfing has an unwritten code of ethics. Similar to how you respect someone else’s shot on the golf course, you do not go for a wave with someone else on it.

Travel somewhere with a relatively consistent break on the east coast and you’ll get some ill humored words and some even worse looks if you resemble anything like the character depicted above. Being moderately experienced, this past hurricane season I was surfing a new spot where there were perfect head high waves. I just exited a fun left (I’m goofy i.e. left foot back when my belly faces the wave) and paddled back over the break. Immediately after I stopped paddling, I was approached by a guy who said something along the lines of ripping my arms out of their sockets for paddling near him. He then proceeded to splash water at me. The point is, surfing isn’t all smiles and rainbows the way Johnny Tsunami made it out to be.

The surf community isn’t as bleak as I’m portraying. Despite everyone being a wave hungry iconoclast, people look out for one another. Like the time I was in Phuket and a local gave me the leash off his board when mine ripped. Or, when I was surfing in Tel Aviv and some local’s invited me and my friends to go north with them to Bat Galim for the upcoming swell.

With no brand logo or flashy color schemes, the surf company needESSENTIALS encapsulates what contemporary surfing should be. Founded by two ex-Quiksilver executives, NEED supplies everyday surfers with quality gear free of obnoxious designs and designer price tags. They’re looking out for the everyday surfer by producing premium quality goods at a fair price.

“The whole idea behind needESSENTIALS came from not wanting to over consume, it’s about not wasting resources on what is not important. It’s about trying to make the best premium products for surfers more accessible. The concept is to have less, to have only what is well made, what is premium, what is timeless, what is useful rather than useless. What surfers can save by only buying what is needed in a product they can spend on what is important in their own lives.”

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While large entities like Quiksilver and Billabong have gone bankrupt selling flashy ostentatcious apparel to commercialize the sport, it’s refreshing to know there’s a company pushing quality products for everyday surfing needs, not logos. With no marketing or sales team, NEED is completely advertised through word of mouth.

Despite big money having commercialized surfing, thus making it harder for me to catch solo waves, I’m fascinated by the direction the surf industry is going. Whether it be new-comers like HaydenShapes or revitalized companies like Quiksilver and Billabong backed by PE money, surfing is trending up. The total market cap for surfing is estimated to be $11B by 2022, contributing almost $50B to the world economy. Hopefully NEED and other new businesses can get a chunk of it.

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