Andy Irons
What was the high-water mark for Billabong? Andy Irons? Teahupoo? The Japanese imperialist trunks? When they combined to rule the world? | Photo: ASP

Billabong sale: “We got totally screwed!”

Billabong sells to former rival. Investor says, "Quiksilver just got the deal of the century!"

Two hundred and eight million Australian dollars. That’s how much Boardriders aka Quiksilver aka Oaktree Capital bought Billabong for yesterday.

An offer of a buck a share had been on the table for months but at the last minute, literally the last minute as the meeting took place to accept or reject the deal, Boardriders upped the bid to a buck and five cents to seal it.

This was to swing a group of rogue shareholders, who owned fifteen percent of the shares and who believed that a sale of a dollar a share grossly undervalued the company.

Still, in the aftermath.

“We got totally screwed… Boardriders have got the deal of the century,” said Peter Constable, the CEO of Ryder Financial CEO  and who owned around 10% of Billabong’s shares.

Investors like Constable claim that the true value of Billabong is currently around $1.40 – $1.50 per share, which values Billabong close to three hundred mill.

So did they get screwed? Did Quik get the deal of the century?

You gotta always suspect that a company with almost $1 billion in revenue per annum and $300 million in cash, property, and receivables was a relative bargain at $200 million. Y’get bricks and mortar, warehouses, online, wholesale, retail, a brand… the fully vertically integrated worldwide package.

If you look at the company balance sheet the $220 million debt will scream, “Abandon hope all ye who enter.”

As well, you see dropping sales and rising inventory (stuff that hasn’t sold) over the past couple of years, a cyanide pill for any business. Design, order, sell it quick and don’t hold onto a damn thing is the mantra of a company like Zara, who just made a three billion dollar euro net profit on sales of twenty-five billion euro. (Staff got to share in half-a-billon euro in bonuses.) In December 2017, with sales at $476 million, there was inventory holdings of $190 million. Crippling inventory management almost brought down Apple in the nineties and Tim Cook rose to prominence as the the man to sort it out for them.

Expenses were fat too. You’ve got cost of goods sitting at around 50% and sales, general and administrative expenses at around 40%. Size this up against other brands that sit at around 40% COGS and 30% SOGA. You just trim those bits of fat into the market average and you turn your 2017 half-yearly result from a $18.5 million loss to a $20 million profit.

The big-ticket question in this whole thing was debt. The 220 mill. Could Billabong have met its short-term debt obligation? Yep.

But the ability to repay and service that debt in the long term would be dependant on how the business performed. And as a shareholder you had the choice of cashing out now at a 20% premium over the last traded share price. Or you could go long and put your faith in the generals up top to pull everything into line and return the company to its former profitable glory.

It could be done. But given their recent track record I would’ve sold, too. Let someone else deal with it. Park my money elsewhere.

But if I’m Oaktree, and I’ve got a pockets full of Benjamin’s, the ability to call the shots, and another limping surf co in Quiky… (Benjamin’s too because in USD this deal is worth just $160 million) then I’m all in.

Will Oaktree be able to merge the two back ends together, trim the fat and start pumping out dollars? Most likely.

And once QuikBong is at fighting weight, you enlist her back on the stock market with an IPO of around $10-15 per share, take a cool payday, and everyone gets a Ferrari.

Whoa: Kolohe Andino has very big muscles!

He is here to pump you up.

Now, over the course of my very many years as a surf journalist I have seen a few different body types excel at professional surfing. When I first began in this wicked game, for example, Mick “Keg with Legs” Lowe was on tour. Luke Stedman was too like a stringy tall scarecrow. Professional surfers could have beer softened stomachs or meth trimmed abs. They could be like you and they could be like me.

This was before the real performance boom of the middle 200os where airs became the thing and so the ideal professional surfer body type transitioned to short and light. Small little birds who could fly and land without much damage to joints and tendons.

In my mind, this trend was going to continue on and on and on until the average professional surfer is 5’4 125 lbs. Like cute little gymnasts or skateboarders. Of course there will always be outliers. John John Florence springs instantly to mind along with Michel “The Spartan” Bourez.

Speaking of The Spartan, I saw the above picture of Kolohe Andino the other day on Instagram.


Look at those muscles.

If I was told he eats small little birds who can fly and land without much damage to joints and tendons for breakfast I would simply nod. Who would win in a fight between The Spartan and Kolohe? Who would look best on the cover of Playgirl?

Are you sad that Playgirl is out of circulation?

Review: “I tried Laird’s Superfood!”

Gluten free! Vegan! Non-GMO!

Laird Hamilton, best known for his theories about sharks and women’s periods, has a line of drink mixes, Laird Superfood. According to the brand’s website, Laird apparently had an epiphany one day when he was adding his usual scoop of butter to his coffee. There must be a better way!

I received some samples of Laird Superfood. I tried them, so you don’t have to. Unless you want! I mean, you can! You do you, you crazy diamonds.

Laird Superfood is sold in single-serving 24-gram pouches. They are tastefully designed in shades of green. Gluten free! Vegan! Non-GMO! The logo features the outline of a figure, presumably Laird, riding a SUP. In the logo, he is depicted as a regular foot.

My samples included two flavors: Hydrate, which contains freeze-dried coconut water, and Instafuel, which the packaging describes as “premium instant coffee” with superfood creamer. The Instafuel requires boiled water, which doesn’t feel all that instant. But it does promise to take our coffee experience “to the next level.”

The Instafuel package has a large photo of Laird. He paddles a SUP in a giant, photogenic wave of the sort that Laird is famous for riding. In the picture, Laird, a regular foot is surfing backside on a right. This hurt my brain. It reminded me of the time I saw a stock photo showing a left used to depict Malibu.

But I’m sure all of this is totally fine. Maybe Laird was SUPing switch to make it harder. Maybe that’s what happens when you eat the Superfood. You SUP switch in giant, photogenic waves.

Laird Superfood includes the supplement Aquamin. Derived from ocean algaes, Aquamin contains calcium, magnesium, and assorted trace minerals. The health benefit claims of Aquamin depend on sciencey studies about calcium depletion and bone-density loss during exercise.

According to the manufacturer’s website, Aquamin provides uniquely deliverable calcium supplements that’ll make your bones stay strong even when training or growing old. No word on what it’ll do for your sex life. I know y’all are super disappointed.

When I ate the Superfood I did not immediately acquire the ability to fly or anything useful like that. Presumably it added calcium to my bones, but I felt nothing. Not even a tingle. This was slightly disappointing.

I mixed the Hydrate with bottled water in a 12-ounce container as the instructions demanded. Once mixed, it has a milky, white color. The flavor is nothing to write home about. Not terrible! Just not super exciting.

It needed something. I rummaged around the kitchen and found vodka of questionable vintage. I added the vodka to the Hydrate. Mmm, vodka. I added more. Even better. Then I was out of coconut water Superfood. More Vodka. What were we talking about again, I don’t know. Vodka, good. Next time, I skip straight to vodka. More vodka.

I approached the Instafuel with trepidation. Instant coffee. I once carried a French Press in my camera bag on a bike-packing trip in Oregon. This was a stupid decision, because packing out wet coffee grounds is stupid. But it does give you an idea of my feelings about instant coffee.

I again entered the kitchen to boil the required boiled water, which just about exhausts my kitchen repertoire. I added boiling water to the instant coffee and Superfood mixture. It dissolved! Magic! A thin layer tan bubbles, resembling crema, appeared on the surface. I know this game. I see you, Instafuel! I see you trying to fool me into thinking you are actually good coffee! You can’t fool me.

In graduate school, I did research at the French Foreign Ministry archives, which at the time were housed in the Foreign Ministry building. They took our passports and escorted us through the hallways. We were allowed at intervals to leave the reading room and down in a basement, there was a coffee machine. It dispensed espresso in tiny paper cups. I never figured out how to turn off the sugar, so I downed many tiny, heavily sugared espressos. It kept me awake long enough to read piles of diplomatic documents, but it was not a good coffee experience.

I recount this story, because the Laird Superfood Instafuel reminded me of the coffee dispensed from the machine in the Quai d’Orsay basement. There is a hint of coffee flavor and a creamy mouth feel. An intense coconut flavor, reminiscent of sunscreen, lingers on the palette. As I sipped, I tried to imagine Hawaii and wafting palm fronds and giant, photogenic waves. I failed.

If you like your coffee very sweet and you enjoy coconut-flavored things, Laird Superfood Instafuel is your dream morning libation. It is easy to make! And almost instant! But so is Starbucks Via, which more closely resembles coffee.

Mostly, I’m just sad I didn’t suddenly acquire Laird superpowers. Maybe it’s the wrong time of the month.

Opinion: “Sit down Schroff. I like Firewire!”

I like them like Conner Coffin likes lesbian haircuts!

I hereby declare my undying love and support for Firewire surfboards.

For me Firewire is not only desirable, it’s necessary.

To my knowledge, there are three brick-and-mortar surf shops in Scotland, the nearest being two hundred kilometres away. And when I say “surf shops”, it’s in the loosest sense of the term, in that they don’t actually stock surfboards. In due diligence I’ve just checked the websites of two of them (the third doesn’t have a website) and neither of them appear to have a single surfboard in stock.

Snowboards? Fine. Skate stuff? No bother.

Surfboards – nae chance.

There is, I believe, one surfboard shaper in the Edinburgh vicinity. He’s recently got a website, and I’ve seen a couple of his boards on the Boardporn Instagram page. They look nice, mostly like art deco pieces. Not, perhaps, my cup of tea.

So, friends, it is with this in mind that I ask you to consider my options?

Do I travel to another country to finger some boards and do the “arm test” (which might as well be milking a unicorn for all the sense it would make) or do I browse any of the excellent media and marketing spin from Firewire and select a board based on that?

The internet is my local shaper. I would love to stroll round a sunny corner for a chinwag with a salty old dog about foils and resin tints and other associated surfboard fuckery. But it’s not happening, not in my world.

EPS and epoxy? It floats a little better. Ideal for the extra weight of year round, sodden neoprene. Plus, I grew up windsurfing so I like the choppy chatter. It’s familiar and comforting, like an ex-girlfriend. You know how it works.

Built offshore? Who cares. Everything’s offshore when you live in Scotland. I don’t turn my nose up at bananas because they’re not locally or ethically sourced. It’s about efficiency. I’m not going to live on mutton and whisky.

Firewire give me data. Lots of data. Pretty, spinning 3D graphics of boards, apps, social media activity, clips, podcasts… They give me Rob Machado and Kelly Slater. Old guys who surf and look like young guys. And who has the money to spunk on Firewires? Other old guys who want to surf and look like young guys. I’m bombarded with reasons to buy one, or three or four.

At no point during surfing is the board wedged under your arm.Maybe you’re a veteran of shaping bays and surf shops and have been fortunate enough to caress many boards. Maybe you go through boards like Wade Carmichael through chicken nuggets. Maybe you genuinely can get a feel for how well a board will work. Lucky you. But some of us don’t have the luxury.

And you know what else?

You can damn and kook me to hell, but I bloody love volume! It’s the single most useful marker of a suitable board when purchasing online. I get the limitations, I get that volume never tells the whole story, but it gives me a ballpark in a world of pixelated, 2D potential new surfboards I might need to hide.

The qualifier in all of this is that so far I have only ever owned and surfed one Firewire model, and it’s technically a Slater Designs Omni, in a beefy 6’2” (42.8L) to match my height and float my thick neoprene and 92 kg carcass. I’m basically Zeke Lau, but pastier and pudgier.

And back to the “arm test”. What the fuck even is the arm test? It makes no sense.

At no point during surfing is the board wedged under your arm. Sure, sure, maybe you’re a veteran of shaping bays and surf shops and have been fortunate enough to caress many boards. Maybe you go through boards like Wade Carmichael through chicken nuggets. Maybe you genuinely can get a feel for how well a board will work. Lucky you. But some of us don’t have the luxury.

The arm test isn’t even pseudoscience.

You do the arm test, I do rotations of the 3D model on the Firewire website.

So sit down, Peter Schroff, with your racist memes and ironically immigrant surname. I like Firewire. I like them like Connor Coffin likes lesbian haircuts.

All that said, my next board is a Pyzel Ghost.

There’s a hole in the back garden ready for it.

Breaking: Jordy Smith surfs into trashcan!

A high concept shoot sure to thrill!

And without further ado…

Except real quick… Oh never mind. I forgot what I was going to write.