Archive for the ‘surfing’ Category

My friend Dan Sullivan (who I have named “the barometer of hip”) wrote me an email dissing brands and the surf clothing industry a while back…  It is a topic he and I chat about often… branding, trends, style, culture etc.   Here is what he wrote…(in one huge long single sentence with 17 commas… classic Dan style…) and it succinctly sums up what many people feel about the marketed “surf culture”  and “action sports”… or truly… about brands in general.

Dan wrote:

“Since ESPN and Orange County apparel and footwear peddlers coined the act of surfing, skating, riding a dirt bike, or snowboarding  an  “Action Sport”,  these activities, which use to be about fun, personal enlightenment and self challenge, have deteriorated to just another over-marketed activity that requires “specialized gear”, which  former surfers, skaters and snowboarders of Orange County, will gladly sell you, at inflated prices, even though the goods are the same quality as a a Wal-Mart garment, and sewn in the same factories in China, so they can live in faux Tuscan Villas, drive Range Rovers and keep their wives in shoes, handbags and sunglasses, purchased at South Coast Plaza.”

I love his comment.  Dan and I have been friends for many decades and have watched as surf culture was absorbed by large brands… and as action sports was born.  Indeed I am guilty of helping create the monster as creative director of the first “skateboard clothing” company: Vision Street Wear…. and via the  shoe brand I built Simple Shoes.(Full disclosure… Dan was marketing director for a while)

So I will just come out and say it… “there is no such thing as surf clothing”.  Surf clothing is a bathing suit.  That’s it.  Birdwell Beach Britches may be an authentic surf clothing company I suppose… all they sold was trunks back in the day… and pretty much only to surfers.  But the list is damn short after them…. a few Authentic Hawaiian shirt companies are authentic.  Everyone else in the category today called surf or action sports including me pretty much made up what we now call surf style or action sports.  These days there are even re-issues of classic (made up) surf style.  There are even re-issues of classic skate style from the 1980’s…  but it wasn’t original then… it was just made up.

Dan would say “it is all bullshit”.   And it is true… it was bullshit then… and it is now.

Think about it…. WHY ON EARTH should you PAY to wear somebody’s name on your shirt?  In all honesty… they should be paying you to wear their name.  Why pay to have a surf clothing company… or any company for that matter… on your shirt?  It is ridiculous.  But marketers have been making up stories about how the cool kids all wear  “X” and so if you want to be cool you have to wear “X”.  They pay pro athletes to wear “X” and or really incredibly beautiful girls to wear “X” and people buy it.  Over and over.


Why have we allowed ourselves to be defined by what we wear… what we drive… etc. It is NOT who we are.  It is a dream… a false reality.  You are not cooler because you drive certain kind of car.  You are truly just a sucker.  You are not cooler if you wear some branded article of clothing. Again you are just a sucker.  There on only so many hours in a day to work to earn money… don’t waste it on stuff you have been fooled into thinking will make you cool.

I suppose it has to do with fitting in… not wanting to be the outcast.  But when you think of the truly interesting and cool people you have known… did they wear branded merchandise and was that what you remember… NO WAY.  Does anyone give a crap what pants Pablo Picasso was wearing.

DEFINE YOURSELF somehow… you are not the sum of your possessions or your wardrobe.  The people with the cool new clothes from the cool new store are not cooler than you… they are sheep.

Trends are all born from trend forecasters who watch truly cool individuals doing things that are different than the norm.  Those different things… when they occur randomly… are noted by trend forecasters and photos are taken and various style trend books note the oddity.  These style trend books are then sold by the trend forecasting agencies to the fashion houses for HUGE sums of money… the fashion houses research the trend books accuracy by sending their designers out around the world to verify the trend within certain core constituencies and at a certain threshold of adoption amongst “alpha”  examples.  Once it is fairly obvious that a given trend is going to become mainstream enough for the fashion house to be able to sell this to the dept store, surf shop etc it is given the greenlight to go to production.  So they copy the idea and sell it and it is part of their “forward” collection at first… until it proves itself for a season.. at which time it then gets put into the regular line.

You will never see the truly cool people wearing the branded products unless they are being PAID to wear them.  Think about this.  Does the coolest person you know wear brand t-shirts?  Probably not.

Most brands are vultures preying on our lack of self confidence and our desire to be cool.  But truly cool people don’t wear brands.

Yes… there are some exceptions… where a company makes something that is truly useful or performs in a way that other clothes don’t.  Smartwool socks for example… They are warmer than cotton socks and they wear well.  But these are just socks… they are not surfer socks or action sports socks.  So if some surf brand slapped their label on wool socks would they be better… nope.

Branded clothing is probably less than about 150 years old.  Somehow we humans seemed to survive without wearing big logos on our chests for millions of years.

So be brave… be original… find a truly unique style that is your own.  Be the one that the trend forecasters take the photo of.

and yes I did design and sell action sports clothing… and action sports shoes… and am thus a hypocrite I suppose… The nicer amongst you will notice that I no longer sell fashion clothing or shoes though… and simply call me a sell out.  The very few of you left that haven’t called me a hypocrite or a sellout probably actually know me and will simply snicker quietly.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Henry  Thoreau:  “avoid all activities requiring special clothing”

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So I went to Hawaii and all you get is this odd photo.

On the big island of Hawaii… in South Kona… the Public Works guys have these crazy crooked stripe situations… before stop signs that are hard to see before you get to them.  Notice how the stop sign is just sort of around a little corner and would be hard to see if you were not familiar with it.  Interesting… and they certainly catch your attention right away.  The crooked lines start about 200 feet back from the stop sign… giving all the stupid tourist (me) time to anticipate the hidden stop sign.

This vacation to Hawaii was the reason I’ve not been posting lately.  We went to Kauai and also the big island of Hawaii (Kona).  Both are interesting.  Kauai is too small for me… “no there… there” if you know what I mean.  Beautiful… yes.  The homes for sale were PRICEY! ( we always look at real estate to get a feel for the real place.  They were between 2 million and 20 million… and nobody actually lived in those… they are second homes for bankers and Dot Com billionaires.  The locals live in normal neighborhoods… which are pretty cool often.. but still 600k for a pretty normal looking house.  What I didn’t like was that the towns all center on tourism… and I would guess that 60% or more of the cars on Kauai are rental cars… If you are a surfer… Hanalei is cool… or just northwest of there. But if you are not a surfer… well you better be a writer or something because it is a bit quiet!  Beautiful though… did I say that yet.  we toured the botanical gardens and hiked and had a lovely time.

The Big Island is more up my alley as far as actually living in Hawaii I think.  People living right.  The locals have figured out life.  No ego… no pretense… just enjoying life rather than trying to show how cool they are… or how much stuff they have.  I really liked this part of Hawaiian culture.   Very few fancy cars… lots of hitchhikers (getting rides actually too… how many of you have seen a hitchhiker get a ride where you live lately)   We also liked visiting with the old japanese families in their old stores.  We avoided most of the touristy areas North of the Airport and stuck to the lower class farm areas around Kona… no mansions… no pushy important people.  South Kona is AWESOME.

We looked at a cool old modern house for sale… a foreclosure… it was 200k  on leasehold land… with 32 years left on the lease at 400 dollars a year.   It sold several years ago for over 600k.  It was on two acres of coffee plantation… so you have a bit of income from the coffee… enough to pay for the lease and the property taxes.    It needed work… here are a couple of crappy cell phone shots of the interior.  No windows in the living room… just screens.  The weather is just so balmy there they are not needed.  What a life it would be.  It was surrounded by jungle on two sides…and totally private… with 180 degree views of the ocean out the front side… but it was about 600 feet away from the highway (two lane)… so a tad noisy … otherwise we would have bought it!

I could live on the Big Island…. surfing every day… warm air… blah blah blah…

Our old buddies Erik and Lou were our hosts for the week. Erik Hinshaw was our realtor/tourguide and we stayed at the South Kona Hideaway two room B&B  run Lou D’Angelo.  A casual and perfect setting in what I consider the real Hawaii… amongst the coffee plantations… away from golfing, hotels, shopping and chaotic tourist destinations.

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the Rock surfing crew… Morro Bay… circa 1979! (i’m on the right).  This shot totally reminds me of the movie “dazed and confused”.  iconic late 1970’s era look.  Notable details…flared pants, feathered  hair, down jacket, down vest, Birkenstocks.  Difficult to discern whether this look is surf… or just stoner.  It’s kinda cool again though…. after years in the… holy crap what were they thinking pile.

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The first hollow surfboards.. circa 1931 by Tom Blake.  My friend Ryk Kluver still builds them this way.  Awesome

below is Ryk… and one of his creations…. a particularly long one!  If ya want one… he builds and sells them.  Most of his boards are in private collections.  Ryk built my house.

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