Back To Top
Beach Grit

mobile banner

Surf: “Shitshow of broken dreams!”

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

The always fabulous Michael Tomson weighs in!

I will admit to you now that I feel lucky every single time my byline appears in The Surfer’s Journal. Scott Hulet and co. continue to produce a masterful product. One that simply shines and in the latest issue I am allowed to chat with the one and only Michael Tomson. We’ve done much, here at BeachGrit, with the most fantastic character the surf industry ever produced. Who could forget this video?

Not you, of course, but anyhow now Michael Tomson is also in the latest Journal. Should we read one quote?

Chas Smith: Where did surf go wrong?

Michael Tomson: You mean why is the surf industry on its ass right now? That’s a big question for which there’s no short answer. But I think you have to start with why the industry was booming before it tripped and fell. From 1998 to 2008 the industry went through a period of unprecedented growth. There were more people surfing than ever, longboards were happening, women were in the water along with old people, kids, and anyone game enough to paddle out.

Along with that surge in participants came an influx of new brands. It wasn’t surfing anymore, it was “boardsports.” The tribe even had Hollywood signed up for the program. Blue Crush came out, there was Fuel TV, and a lot of scripts “in development.” Retailers were supporting this new surf handle and allocating large amounts of floor space to the new movement. Quiksilver and Billabong were hitting sales levels in the billions and both were on an acquisition spree buying brands and buying the retailers who could showcase those brands. It was reckless investing, corporate swagger at its finest, and to the uninformed it looked like the surf industry was heading towards an impossibly bright future.

Which of course it wasn’t. What nobody was considering was the consumer and the speed with which tastes change. Kids left the party, particularly mall kids, to whom surf product became a turn off—it just wasn’t as sexy as technology, which is where most kids were (and still are) spending their money. Then on top of that, by the time 2008 rolled around, the real estate market had capsized and the global financial crisis was in full swing leaving the surf industry, as we once knew it, in a desperate fight for survival. What used to be the ultimate career lifestyle became a shit show of broken dreams. The surf industry managed to survive the great clean out, the epic reality check, but not without a host of bankruptcies and reorganizations and today it faces a different set of problems, that being the internet and the changing nature of the way consumers buy products—meaning on their phones and not in stores.

Read the rest here!