A slightly more illuminating picture of the bing mini-sim. Shows the fin template well which is a normal Geppy fish keel rather than a more classic simmons half moon shape. These are set canting inwards towards the stringer by a few degrees though i'm pretty sure thats builder error and not how they are supposed to be. Legendary californian build quality not always spot on then!
I was woken at 4.30 am on sunday morning by the environment agency telling me that my business was in severe danger of flooding from the river caen bursting it's bank next to our building. The next 12 hours were like something from disaster film as the water rose so fast that i was worried about being cut off inside our building as i hastily moved as much as possible and sandbagged the doors. When i left and waded out i was sure we were a goner!
Thankfully the water stopped at the level of our door sill and nothing made it inside. We were the only property betwen the river and the main road that escaped with friends and neighbours having mid thigh deep water inside their houses and the elderly being rescued by boat. Just like you see on tv, only happening in real life right in front of you!
The village itself was cut off for a few hours and many, many people have had their homes ruined, many of the businesses in the village were deluged too. Gulfstream had 2 feet of water in the shop and four feet in the street outside. Tiki flooded too. Surfing doesn't seem quite so important now! At least everyone here was safe!
I was too busy panicking/ helping to take many pictures but there are plenty on the net if you search for braunton flood.
Iphone shot, still dripping wet after an early morning session.
As is usually the case, my wonderfully verbose style leads to my submissions to drift being far too lengthy and the published version misses some stuff out so here is my interview with Jai Lee as it was originally written:
Jai Lee is a study in contradictions
A surfer from the sundrenched shores of Noosa obsessed with the dark worlds of horror and witchcraft
A man of the church of the open sky working miles inland and underground
A man full of joy and life with intimate knowledge of the furthest depths a mind can fall to.
A fantastically talented longboarder unable to turn his talent into food for his wife and child.
Jai is a phenomenal surfer, arguably the most talented Australian logger of his generation. Images of him with both feet planted on the nose are synonymous with the perfect point waves of Noosa, his stylish surfing is just as flawless. For the last few years his floppy haired silhouette, streaking along perfect azure blue walls has regularly graced the screens and coffee tables of longboarders the world over.His surfing a smooth mix of jaw-dropping nose trickery and fluid turns. He is "Big in Japan"
From the outside it's easy to imagine him having the perfect life with perfect points on his doorstep, fans of his surfing worldwide, sponsors cheques and free stuff fluttering regularly onto his door mat along with tickets for exciting surf trips and yet.............
The reality is quite different and his story is evidence that real life behind the polished sheen of pro surfing, is not always what you thought it would be. Like all good stories jai's is one of a fall to bottom and ultimately a redemption.
Sure "Real life" is sometimes hard, sometimes unexpected but ultimately joyous and more than you could have hoped for, even if perhaps it's in a different form than you thought you wanted....
What's your surfing history?
My surf history is vague at the best of times! Over the years I've done damage to the brain cells from having such a good time, leaving me with glimpses I aint even sure are true to start with!
Officially I started surfing when I was around 9 ( on and off before that, as I hated the water ) I started on a shortboard, around 5'8 and then in my early teen years my dad got into longboards cause there wasn't much swell consistently around Noosa. So pretty much from that moment on I have spent many hours frothing along the points of Noosa on longboards.
What do you love about riding logs?
It all started cause I live at Noosa, what else was I gonna end up riding!?
The main reason I love riding logs is i LOVE noseriding. When you get one of those noserides that levitates across a section for multiple seconds, its a feeling I can't explain, but it feels farking good. The closest feeling I've felt to it, is getting barrelled, like reef barrelled. That weightlessness is addictive, the same reason people are addicted to drugs, they create weightlessness, they lift the unnecessary burden and help you escape. I am an addict, an addict to noseriding!
What are riding at the moment?
Mmmmmmm.. right now I have 2 new 9'6 Jai Lee Noseriders shaped by Thomas Bexon.
They're a new project I am working on with him that i'm really excited about.
A 9'4 Alex Knost shaped by Dano Forte
A 9'6 Kevin Connelly Noserider
A 9'6 Jai Lee Noserider shaped by Class Malibu
A 5'8 swallow tail thruster
A 5'10 Brother Neilson Mark Richards look alike twinnie.
Tell us a little about what you're doing with Thomas Bexon?
Thomas and I have been friends for a long time now, drinking beers and partying on rare occasions got us in tune with each other on board designs and ideas for Noosa as such.
It all came together when I decided I wanted to be more independent in my so called surfing career. Steer right away from doing the publicity for someone else when I could just do it for myself, at least a make a coin or two on the side. So Bexon lived on the sunshine coast and so do I, I approached him about making a jai lee model and here we are today, still drinking beer and talking about board designs. These days though were actually producing something!
The new board with Thomas is more of a pig style template than your Classic Malibu model, what led you there?
Culture, travel and experimenting have all played a major factor with my log/noserider designs. Like everything, as you evolve, the things around you must evolve. So over the years with cultural influence, my ideas expanded, my knowledge grew and my surfing evolved.
What are the characteristics of your new Thomas board that make it special. I know you have narrowed the nose down to 17"?
Yeah I've played a lot with Nose and Tail width's, and found they work best for me both around the 16' to 17' mark.
Just little things, like I used to have a rounded off nose at the tip but I love having a pointed tip now to make me feel like its the arrow to go any direction I choose to go.
Over the years I've mainly mucked around with the blending of rails from nose to tail and concaves. I have always ridden a hard edge in the tail of my noseriders which nearly everyone I come across does not. This is just because of the way I surf, I find 50/50 rolled up rails create a start stop style of surfing. I on the other hand just wanna keep going, I want speed as well as flow in every wave I catch.
Recently my rails have become a bit more old school compared to the more shortboard rails I had on my Classic Malibu model and I've flattened the deck a tad more and added more curve to the bottom of the board. Just these minor adjustments add so much more flow and control for my style of surfing.
This new design with Thomas Bexon has really captured the essence of the way I surf I think. It has complete flow with every turn, and it sets-up and noserides like one bad arse muther fucker!
So what's exciting you in surfing right now?
The creativity that's around in surfing right now. There are some amazing things out there. The internet has connected the whole world with one click. No advertising, No agents, No showings. Just upload and click play. Every week there is something new on the internet to check out and cause I don't get to leave home much, this is amazing.
Jaidivision.com is your little corner of the internet?
JaiDivision; my alter ego you could call it.
It's definately an extension of me. I have massive issues with doing too many projects at once, leaving me without one finished project. I had to find a way to control that and jaidivision has helped me structure my projects until they're finished. It's taken time over the years but my idea of having all the clothes / boards / art and photos I like available for anyone else is slowly coming together. Anything I think up to make and follow through with becomes available on the website. Although these days everything gets sold through instagram and Facebook before it even makes it to the website!
You were working on a film project as well, can you tell us about that?
Yes, I was working on a feature film and all last year I tried to find sponsors and/or backing to help me follow through with this idea. But money = time, I don't have much money at all, so i don't have much time.
It's pretty much been put to the side, some of my footage has been sold to Steve Cleveland for his new movie and the rest I was going to make a little series of clips for the internet ( when I have the time ). It fully sucks, I had so many ideas, but hey. Some things aren't meant to be.
Do you consider yourself a pro surfer?
A professional surfer surfs as a job and makes their income from it. I've made about $1000 (Aus) and two surf trips out of it. So, NO. I defiantly ain't one!
Do you feel let down by the surfing industry? Surely someone with your talent and previous exposure should be able to make a modest living or is that something you have never pursued seriously?
I used to think that, and it got me down a lot. In 2011 I gave it one last shot, I tried hard to get a paying sponsor, even hit the big dogs, was ready to sell my soul to them and I would have given them everything if the opportunity raised.
My job (as a painter and decorator) wasn't paying enough per year to survive and the extra money from a paying sponsor would have kept me from biting the bullet and heading inland to work in the mines. The mines were my last resort and this week ( first week of march ) is my first stint out into the mines in which I miss out completely on the Noosa festival Of Surfing, a first in a very very long time.
I've had my go, I've had my chance, life has had different plans for me and now my family comes first.
How do u juggle the demands of being a dad and providing for your family with surfing?
It is a juggling act, but lucky for me, I don't surf as much as everyone thinks I do!
One, cause Noosa doesn't provide a consistent swell program and two, when it does, every man, his brother, sister, mother, father and dog come from all corners demanding a wave. That isn't a pleasant way to surf!
I sneak my sessions in at what I think is the right tide at the Noosa points and all the other times I surf, I head to the beach with my girls and find a isolated peak. I'm running back and forth pleasing the mrs and pleasing my need to soak in salt water!
Your interest in the macabre comes across strongly in jaidivision, where does that come from?
I have been asked that on numerous occasions, never really having a answer. I've thought it through and come to the conclusion that my personality has been seriously depressed for a long, long period of time. It's been a massive struggle working through the bizarre thought process which enables depression to take hold. Death is a highly romantic form of weightlessness, which is very intriguing. and death and depression go hand in hand.
So I guess my infatuation came from a disorder I had before I knew I had it. Like I always saw the light in the dark, the good in the misunderstood and the bad in the well established good. I rebelled against the common idea of what was right from a early age, I saw the holes in societies perfect behaviour and this observation stirred me right towards punk rock and goth. The two loves of my life to this day. My heart is punk and my soul is goth and thats the way it will always be. It makes me happy
Sounds like you've been through some dark times?
Dark times, oh yes. The ironic part is that I used to be farking scared shitless of the dark, now I'm just as scared of the day, due to anxiety and depression. ( luckily I'm a great actor, hahahaha ).
But yeah, I've been down that line of massive amounts of drugs, and still large amounts of alcohol. Self medicating, its a bastard, but sometimes its just what you need to survive in this demanding world.
There is such huge expectations from others and yourself, especially growing up in Noosa where everyone is retired and has all their desires right at their finger tips. I don't blame anyone else for my actions, it was only my way to loose control to feel a gain of control and now that I have crawled my way back from rock bottom there isn't anything in the world I couldn't take on, it's made me strong mentally and physically with a lot of stories to tell over a few drinks.
If you have never hit rock bottom, you don't know what your missing. The crawl back is one of the most satisfying struggles you can ever encounter. Thats what I live by.
You've obviously turned a corner and you're looking forward. What plans for the future do you have?
Right now I'm actually right on the brink of finding a complete sense of happiness within myself. I've done the pills, I've done the self medication and what works best for me is to just consistently create. Having 100 hobbies isn't a burden, its a luxury.
So my plan for the future is to be happy, internally and dive deep into myself and throw out all the trash I've had hidden in there for so many years.
what are those 100 hobbies?
My Girls, Reading, Learning, Nick Cave, Bauhaus, My Umbraluva's, Joy Division, Photography, Filming, Editing, Old AFI, Strung Out, Poetry, Short Stories, Horror Movies, and most of all a few quiet beers with a few mates.
Who inspires you?
People who don't give up, people who fight to live in this one chance life we have. People who have passion, people who strive to gain knowledge. People who are really happy, I mean happy with themselves, happy on the inside.
The more people I meet, the more the percentage goes up on people who are just pretending to be happy. But when you get inside you see something much different.
How do you feel about the state of longboarding at the moment?
I'll be happy when longboarding or "logging" isn't "Hipster" anymore.
Do you feel that there is currently a push in the surfing media to create a "scene" around longboarding, something that can be used to sell stuff? Is that what you mean by hipster?
There is definatly a push at the moment, companies always want a piece of the "cool" (hipster) action. Thats all cool with me, everybody has got to make a living and if you're smart enough to jump on board and make a few bob out of it, congratulations to you. I would if I could.
"Hipster" on the other hand gives me the shits cause I like REAL people. Hipsters are the ones that are into something totally different every six months, changing their values again for the millionth time.Usually it'll be in correspondence with what ever is "IN" at the present time.
That is a definition of "Hipster" to me, they're everywhere, in every scene. Longboarding is just the cool thing to do at the moment and I hate that cause it makes me feel like a hipster for doing it.
How do you feel about the big surf companies starting to move into this part of surfing? Is it a good thing because there is money for the people involved or are they trying to cash in and diluting something real and organic for their own ends?
I actually think its great,. The big companies are the only ones who can offer up that lifestyle, the smaller companies involved with longboarding don't have the money to provide that. Maybe it helps the companies sell stuff but at least the surfers can get paid without just riding 6'1 thrusters.
I would love to be in that situation where your job was surfing and being creative, I only work hard at my job to give me money to do that.
Anyone you'd like to thank ?
I just like to give a big thanks to my Dad, he was really the only person who deserved a sticker on my board if you think of it that way. Without his time and the use of money he didnt have, I wouldn't be in surf mags, I wouldn't have travelled the world and met all the different people I have over my time.
Thanks Jai i think that prety much covers it, anything you want to get off your chest?
Yeah, I ain't a hipster and I want nothing to do with ya "Hipster" scene.
Plenty of you will recognise this as the view of the harbour at clovelly as you risk life and limb negotiating the wet cobbles downwards. There's a semi secret wave hereabouts but thats a different story.
Clovelly itself is lovely in a cute devon way but whenever i visit, i cant help but feel it would be a slightly weird place to live. If you haven't been, it's a village wholly privately owned and the inhabitants all rent their properties from the estate. It's an old fishing village with a long history but now almost operates as a kind of real life theme park with a visitor centre and car park at the top and paid entry for tourists.
It always makes me think of the old 60's tv series "the prisoner"............ you are number 6
A freshly shaped 10 foot Gulfstream saunton foil model, waiting on the racks while the foam dust settles.
I only make it over there every so often but it's always a pleasure to hang out with Jools at the gulfstream factory for an hour or so. He's always stoked on the latest batch of boards coming through and really cares about offering a proper handmade custom manufacturing service.
Sat in the tent one evening, a few vin rouge deep and a few hours after the photo above was taken, belly full of excellent french seafood, the conversation turned to the general high quality of french cooking and from there to shopping in french supermarkets. One thing we all agreed on, in the way one does at these hazy moments, is how fantastic it is that they sell Prince biscuits.
Most people who've been to France will be familiar with Prince biscuits. If you aren't they are kind of a chocolate cream sandwich and they are yummy. We always try to find space to bring a few packets back with us. They obviously sell well right across Europe but no one sells them over here. I'm not sure why but with grape fuelled logic we agreed this was a heinous crime! In fact even in daylight sensible moments i'm not sure why they dont sell them in the UK.
Maybe i should import them, i'm sure i could turn the country on to the
gastronomic pleasure of a crisp biscuit sandwiching sweet chocolate
filling.There'd be a revoloution in biscuit eating and my future as a workshy surf obsessive would be assured.
Of course in reality, it's going to be one of those idea's guarunteed to make a fortune that i never get around to doing anything about, the same way i never actually get around to sitting down to compare car insurance prices or check i'm really on the right energy tariff.
I've got a good friend who comes up with a suitable world beating idea every month or two. All bound to lead to early, wealthy retirement and a small island in the bahamas. He never follows any of them up either, too lost in the frantic whirl that is modern life.
I've just read that back and i really am rambling today, sober too. I'm not sure i really have a point i'm trying to make, or maybe it's just....
seize the day because who knows what tomorrow brings!
Well we have some sunshine but the sea doesn't look anywhere near as inviting as this today. Not enough to tempt me anyway, so here's a little clip to go with your tea and biscuits while the fire flickers.......
Matty C. testing a McTavish involvement model. Looks like it goes great but i have a sneaking suspicion Chonno could make a door look good!
Anyone who knows me well will know that i like a nice bit of technical kit, jackets and packs especially, it's quite a running joke with my climbing buddy Mike and his wife!
With winter here and thoughts of january dawn surf checks i treated myself to a Patagonia Down zip hoody. I'm not much of an eco warrior but i've always appreciated Patagonia's simple functional style. Their kit is always well thought out, well tested and in my experience, lasts very well. In lieu of anything more interesting and surf related to post i thought i'd post up a review.
First off, this is not a full spec outer layer, it's aimed either as a dry weather outer or as a thermal layer under a shell. It's part of their alpine range and is fully ready to be used way up a proper mountain. It's got a fairly boxy cut and a big hood that's clearly designed to fit well over a climbing helmet. The down filling is fairly lightweight despite having an 800 fill rating and coupled with the light shell material, the jacket has very little weight. It's weight is barely noticeable wearing it and when compressed up small and attached to a carabiner it's a hardly noticeable addition to your harness on a multi pitch climb. This makes it ideal for dry weather belay jacket. Although the shell of the jacket is water resistant, it's not as waterproof as a proper outer shell and down is loses some of it's thermal properties when wet compared to synthetic fillers like primaloft. You are fine in a reasonable shower but i wouldn't wear it alone in a total downpour.
Despite it's barely there feel, this is a warm jacket, especially when you're moving. If you generate even a little bit of your own heat it retains it well and several times i've started a stroll with the dog cold and zipped up only to have to open up the zip after 5 minutes to relieve the stifling heat!
So perfect pre and post winter surf in everything but a total downpour and perfect for hanging around gearing up and belaying on baggy. Definately reccomended!
Rob Martin is one of my heros, one might almost say he's a living local legend, although he would hate me to describe him this way. In fact he was pretty reluctant to have his picture taken and i'm sure would hate the fact i've posted it here.
Ever since i moved here, Rob has been a fixture at saunton, on a log and for the last few years on an SUP. He's a good neat surfer with a litheness that belies his age and he's got more surf stoke than most people of half his years.
I really hope i have the desire and physical strength to still be surfing like that when i approach my seventies!
This is the decidedly low tech life guard station at Tonel near Sagres in the western Algarve. In a way this post signifies a full circle for Adventures in Trim since it was pictures i took with a digital slr at tonel and a desire to do something with them that was a catalyst in signing up to blogger originally, that and a desire to see what all the fuss was about as far as blogs went.
The blog lay dormant with a couple of posts on it for a year or so before my friend Tim encouraged me to actually start spouting my strong opinions to the world. By that time i had discovered the holga and the rest as they say is history.......
I, like many people in recent times, am lucky enough to have a reasonable quiver of boards racked up in the shed, covering long, short and several different schools of design thought. Some are bigger favorties than others and there is a gentle cycling through of boards over the years as my tastes, thought processes and surfing evolve. I dont get to travel far to surf and riding different boards at the same few places keeps things fresh but still local in a way exploring new places does for those lucky enough to be time rich and responsibility light.
So i've usually got a couple of boards in the van and i chop and change them bsed on the forecast and my mood. When i do get to travel is when the difficult choices arise. With the usual luxury of a shape for every eventuality, picking one or two boards for a trip can be a difficult process, fraught with insecurities about making the wrong selection. A fortunate dilemma to have obviously!
Over the years i've come to the conclusion that the photo shows my perfect "capsule quiver". I reckon i can have fun in pretty much anything i'm prepared to paddle out in with a skinnyish fish and a single fin log in the bag. Much as i love the mini simmons i've been riding over the last yearor two, their super flat and foamy nature don't give me as much confidence holding in (or squeezing under) bigger faster waves elsewhere. The GS twinnie above (which is heavily influenced by the christenson school of fish shaping) is slight enough to cope with decent size (for me anyway) bowly waves and still flat and fast enough to be fun in punchy small surf.
As for having a log with you, sure they are a pain to travel by air with but if there are small reeling point breaks (or even small clean beach break) on the agenda then a single fin is a must. My current personal taste being for something a little less bulky and more foiled / narrower than i'd ride at saunton.
For the last couple of months i've been borrowing this 5'2 Bing mini simmons from a friend. It's pretty well recorded on here that i'm a big fan of this type of board and the bing version certainly hasn't disappointed. Matt Calvani supposedly put a fair bit of time into refining his design and his version is similar but different to the kenvin/Baugess original. While the bing keeps the absence of rocker and the s- deck, the step is fairly subtle. The belly up front is there but much less severe than in Ryan Lovelaces velo-sim version for example. Bing have also kept the rails thin so they stay in the wave face as it gets steeper and speeds increase. The fins are lovely ply keels with a template closer to gephardt fish fins than Kenvins half moon design. Right at the back, the tail has a slight curve (arctail) and it's 21.5 at the widepoint and 2.5 thick so closer to a fat keel fish than the original Baugess shape in this respect also.
In the water in paddles well and crucially is foiled well enough up front to duck dive more easily than most of these shapes. It gets into waves early and has a feel of a smooth, fast, fish. The very subtle belly roll water entry gives the classic simmons style lift but without the overtly hully feel of the Velo Sim. This flatter contour is most definately noticeble on your backhand and the board feels far less skittery under your heels as a result. There's plenty of down the line speed on offer, both from a high line trim and top to bottom pumps, the gephardt style fins giving plenty of drive but a more positive hold than the half moon template. It's perhaps not quite as "alive" and whippy in feel as the bar of soap i own, probably beause there is less concave on offer through the fins and the wide point is further forward, i'd place it more as like a normal fish with better glide and less carvy more skatey looseness.
Like all mini simmons, it goes great in junk waves, far better than a conventional keel fish. I'd say that this is where these shapes excel. They're great at making average (or worse) days fun, i'm not sure they would be your first choice on the best day of the year, but then we don't get many of those if we're being honest do we?
Although i agree we should all try and support our local shapers, not many people in the UK are making a tried and tested simmons still and the bing version is a very usable in a daily driver sense and less specialist than some that are available. In short, i'd consider buying one if there was space in the shed.
If you don't have young kids is difficult to understand how much of an expedition a simple day at the beach can become. If you do, you'll know exactly what i'm talking about. The beach tent, an essential bit of kit!
Mike ties in while we debate if there's time for one more route before the storm front in the distance engulfs us. We made it off the slab with a few minutes to spare, thus avoiding a climbing epic tale by the skin of our teeth and trudging happily home with a soaking and wry smiles!.....
I worked on this piece about Nineplus founder Richard Balding a couple of years ago before the plug got pulled on it. It seems a shame to let it languish on my hard drive for much longer so i'm going to publish it here, hopefully Richard still stands by what he said then! It might be a little rough around the edges since it was never properly readied for publication but hopefully it's interesting all the same!
Hasu no Hana.... Nineplus founder Richard Balding from the heart
Richard Balding is something of an anomaly in UK surfing. In a scene that is both insular yet heavily in thrall with the influence of the US and Australia, his company Nine Plus is almost unique. While many of the established UK brands dominate the domestic market yet fail to make an impact abroad, Richard has steered Nine Plus into a truly global brand with a higher profile overseas than at home.
From humble but passionate beginnings, the journey has not been without it's trials, it's small defeats and victories but through it all, Richard has stayed true to the ideals he started with. At the heart of it he's just as surf stoked as the rest of us, trying to turn his passion into a way of putting food on the table.
So Richard tell us a little bit of your own surfing history.
I come from a small town called Wimbourne near Bournemouth.. I was really
into skateboarding but once I saw Surfing,aged 14, I fell in love with it
and just lived at the piers (Boscombe and Bournemouth).
I grew up surfing with people like Simon Firley, Dan Firley, Dale
Stergeous and i was the worst in my group for about a year, the one
most of the older guys took the mick out of!
I went to California at 15 with Minnow Green and met up with Joel Tudor and by 16 I was almost living at the beach catching the bus early in the morning trying to find a wave and riding anything. I used to borrow the rental boards from a shop under the pier called Waterways and
surf for hours until my Mum called me out or it was too dark to see!
What drew you to longboarding?
Simon Firley, who was a couple of years older than me and
kinda a cool kat around town, had one. Then I saw a picture of Joel hanging
ten in the back of Surfing Magazine. That was the start
really, it looked different and I was drawn to that. I remember down at the
pier in Bournemouth, a guy hit me on his board and I ended up having like 14
stitches across my head. It was the first time Simon let me use his board as
I was so concussed and I was half like, "man I hurt" and the other half,
"man on a longboard – stoked!"
After that my Mum drove me down to Cornwall and we bought a longboard
off Minnow Green. He foolishly mentioned me coming back for a weekend to get
some pointers and I rocked up for 2 weeks, broke his board, the locks to his
van and spent 14 nights hanging out at the pub. Quite an education!
You were a pretty keen competitor back then?
I Started competing at 16 and went to the Worlds for 4 years running. I did
all the European contests for six years while being supported by Oxbow and
When did Nineplus become part of your life?
I started Nineplus at 19 and i resigned from my sponsors at 23 to do
Nineplus full time. Im now 33 and its been 14 years since the brand started.
Starting your own company at 19 is a bold move, how did it come about?
Actually I very nearly didn’t do it!
As time went on I noticed that competitive surfing for longboarding was a
love and not a money earner. It still is really! I saw that and i wanted to
enjoy the sport I love for the rest of my life so knew I had to do it
another way. I went to 'Toes on the Nose' to become their European person in
1997 but Richard Allred didn’t take my offer so I went the hard route on my
own, and here we are.
I just was like "I’m gonna do this" and had all these ideas in my head,
marketing ideas and would live, sleep and dream it and bore people with my
plans. . I had met Fabrice Valerie, who part-owned Oxbow, he sat with me
at Makaha and we talked it through. I talked to Nat Young about it and
there were so many people who took an interest that I thought it "this could
work ". I kept going and slowly things started happening, like a ball was
starting to roll.
What makes nineplus unique?
At our core we are a surfing company for surfers, we don’t have attitude, or
a plan other than to make beautiful products for people and do our absolute
best to operate a company that is authentic, I still have that attitude and
would leave if it was lost. We do not operate for money, we operate for
stoke and many times I will sacrifice in order to help someone feel the
love. That said we are obviously a group of companies that makes a profit
but its important to me that we stay as an independent, true to the values
that i started with.
Building a company like NINEPLUS must have involved some growing pains?
For sure, I started a company with no idea how to make anything, handle
finance, market a product, manage shipments or any clue about anything
regarding to stocking shops. I think the term, "ignorance is bliss" comes to mind!
When we started, Emma Skinner and i would travel all
over the UK in a car full of gear through rain, sleet and snow. We kept
going, no money, no accommodation, no plan, just cash in the dash and a
trunk load of garments.
We operated out
of a house in St Agnes and each shipment of 20
boards or so coming in from California was boom or bust!
Ben Skinner and his mates would come over when they were
about 10 years old and help pack fleeces and t-shirts. Once the Shipments got bigger I would actually
tie wire around the boards that had to sit in the garden and then bring the wire up through the window and tie it around my ankle so I would know if someone tried to steal them!
We had plenty of growing pains to get where we are now, doing our own global distribution and all the logistics and paperwork that goes with that.
The last 10 years have been a huge degree course using the world as a classroom. I was a high
school dropout so its like a reverse education and having to pay now for all
those days I used to surf as a teenager instead of learning. I've made
many, many mistakes, some which should have stopped us but we got back up,
dusted off and kept going. That’s the difference between being successful or
not, having that commitment.
Starting the wetsuit line seems to have been a real pivotal point for you?
Definately! It's what communicated the heart of the brand through a product
that sold an image of a soulful company. We started doing them back in 2002
and they were simply to make an understated black suit like I had picked up
from ‘Mitchs’ in La Jolla a few years before. People liked it though they
were never for sale. Soon we had a demand for a product we didn’t actually
make and then had to figure out a way to make the whole system work.
We started down the whole Sheico road ( the factory in Taiwan and Thailand
that manages every major wetsuit brand in the world) and somewhere along the
way we found Yamamoto and they found us and since that relationship
developed we have never looked back. There have been issues to work through
but we now have a partnership in a small but well managed factory inside
China that we built over the past 4 years and between us we have a good
plan I think.
From the outside it seems the wetsuits really helped to establish you as a label with it's own identity. Where is nineplus going now?
We are concentrating on the US market right now, in
both marketing and sales efforts. California has the history, nostalgia,
waves and people that understand the ideas behind the brand. I strongly
believe that it's only in California that you are either validated as a
surfing brand or not. It sets the industry standard and is the epicentre for
Behind that is Australia which is a market where surfing is a lifestyle
almost on proportion to what football is to the UK. Then you have Japan that
look at California to inspiration and next Europe.
Europe is strange and in my opinion the hardest, its easy to go the route of a good product and
a surfing image but its hard to have the roots that make going the distance a
reality, longevity comes from originality and that comes from the nucleus of
the market. To get there you have to be relevant and to do that you need to
be at the epicentre which takes us back to California.
Alongside Nineplus, we've recently launched HASU which is going to be the equivalent of
Nike 6.0 in the wetsuit business. We are coming out with new fashion lines
and shoes under the HASU and Nineplus brand which is really exciting. They
are made with an environmental approach but also using the leading materials
and workmanship in the business.
It seems ironic that a European brand has to make it in America to have the relevance to be successful in it's home market!
You can have success here without that but if you want to lead in a market
you have to be relevant in the US because it’s the epicentre of the industry
like Italy is to Fashion. Other stuff goes on for sure but california is a
focal point. If you can get a footing there it gives you credibility. That
to me is the litmus of a true surfing brand.
Do you feel saddened at the comparative lack of growth at home compared to abroad?
Um without sounding negative, the UK is a beginners and
intermediate market as far as sales go. We have some great surfing but the
average market is quite a way behind that lead. It
operates like an island and is, to be honest, quite far behind what is going
on out there.
The UK surf market follows, to a majority, what the consumer
buys or feels is comfortable. You can actually get quite far here in the UK
with simply a good product. That’s not possible in a market that actually
follows the lifestyle. Take 'Kangaroo Poo' for example - in the UK they
became a multi-million dollar operation with pretty much no overseas market,
They did that with a good product which hit the target audience, the British
public that wants to buy into an image. You put that in a core market like
the US and it wouldn't stand a chance.
That's why getting a brand to
work from the UK is so hard, we are not built from the lifestyle but rather
instead try to sell from it using a perceived image. It will work well to a
non-core audience but for a true surfing brand, an authentic brand, it takes
actually getting to
the nucleus. That takes either a lot of money, being owned by an established
company with kudos or just slogging it out the
Why do you think the UK is so far behind?
If you have seen the Truman show then it sums it up. You work in a local
environment, see the local environment every day, take your money from the
local environment, promote yourself in the local environment and generally
exist in the local environment. In return you judge everything by the local
environment. Then someone shows you another land and tells you there are
lots of different lands but to each of them the people behave the same -
It takes being shown what exists and then becoming local to each
environment to do the same in every place.
With surfing it’s the same, the best guy in the UK is noted and in his
environment is important, this is relevant to a brand or competitive surfer
or whatever. Once you start to
realise that the UK is maybe the 10th most important market to branded
surfing goods and you venture out into the wider world, you see why
certain countries run the game.
I personally think this is part of the reason why the UK scene does not
of its borders too much whereas other countries do. It takes something
different to export it, be it a person or a brand and that is very seldom
come by. If you are going to be another Kelly, beat Kelly or else carve your
own path - no matter how much money you make its not success, it can bring
prosperity but true success is about being relevant, and being
relevant means your existence is warranted and if you left there would be a
gap - that’s hard to do,
What's exciting you in surfing at the moment? where do you see things going?
Everything excites me and I think surfing is in a great place. When you
travel you see people are switched on to everything and that’s good. Its
about having an open mind and people like Rob, Kelly, Donavan, and Rasta are
that. Joel Tudor is owed a lot of respect for starting that trend,
probably 15 years ago and he is still doing it, he will continue to lead to
an extent as he's the real deal and feels what he does, He is truly
authentic, then gets copied for
The media controls so much of our perceived image of what surfing is but I
we will see more people doing their own thing in the future. Companies have
to try to remain
relevant as this approach grows and that will be hard for many
of them unless they truly feel what they do.With the internet, people are
than ever and to get someone to buy into a brand now takes much
more than marketing, it takes walking the walk and that is something that
cannot be bought.
Who are your influences?
Okay, well firstly and as surprising as this may sound its Jesus Christ! I
read the Bible about 5 years ago right through. I was interested in how long
it had survived in a world that disregards everything in due course. I
was staggered how great the influence of Jesus Christ still is on
everything in our age from courts to
governments to the monarchy, its overwhelming and its worldwide. People
disregard it but if you were to equate that influence in a commercial or
industrial sense it would be and is unmatched by anything else, ever -
thousands of years
later, its bigger than when it was started and if you stop and consider that
then you can learn allot. That influences me, I think there's is untold
that success, When I read it, it was like, okay so I never picked this thing
up before and I know most other people don’t either but i was dumbfounded
at the advice it gave and knowledge it contained.
Adding to that and my biggest influence is passion, I love passion, it is
what changes things It’s the passion that I see in people that shows
me they live their dream and that inspires me. Business people like Richard
Branson, missionaries like Billy Graham, from Surfers like JT and designers
Paul Smith . They draw their own lines
and carve their owns routes and that is what I value as success.
If you follow the heart, there are no regrets !!
You have travelled a lot, where are your favorite places?
Um, well when I focused on the brand about 10 years ago I thought my travels
were over and now its like i'm constantly travelling. I feel fully blessed
to be able to
see both sides of the coin. One week I'm in the depths of
China living at a factory and the next sitting in a café in Laguna beach
with famous people,
after waking with views over Trestles. I often fly through a place in only a
days but I always try to get immersed in the culture so on that level
are Hong Kong, Shanghai and throughout India.
Surfing wise its gonna be Malibu on a south swell, Rincon on a North Swell,
Hossegor on a West Swell and Rainbow Bay on an East!.
What else do you enjoy outside surfing?
I enjoy charity work, poetry, reading, travelling, designing, sales, music,
business, investment, history, culture & learning more about the work of
Jesus and spending time with
Sarah, my girlfriend.
What are you most proud of with NINEPLUS?
Linking everything into a career that actually puts food on my
table, friends in my heart and a spring in my step.