It's a great time to be a early 2000s surf industry scion!
There was a time in the surf industry’s history where anyone, and I mean anyone, could make money by starting a brand. I don’t know how or why just that it was true and I enjoy watching these men imagine it was their unique skill in “youth culture” and “rad” that led to their early 2000s riches in this the 18th year (and counting) of the surf industry apocalypse.
Shaun Neff is one of these men. The kinetic “guru” launched his eponymous brand Neff in 2002, selling a majority stake to a private equity firm a few years ago and now reveling in his position as a “brand whisperer” and shall we read some quotes from a new feature in Forbes highlighting his toothpaste collaboration with Kendall Jenner? We’d be horrible rude not to.
On high school: As a surfer and snowboarder, it was all about the brands that I felt represented my culture and what it meant the first day showing up in high school and what logo is going to be on my chest. There’s lots of options, but I had to make sure it was the right one that would represent who I am and what I do on the weekends.
On attending Brigham Young University: I was putting Neff stickers all over stop signs and I had the coolest guy at the skate park wearing it and the DJ at the party; I created this cool brand vibe in the college town.
On naming his brand “Neff”: I love that age of when you’re very entrepreneurial. It’s the time you don’t know enough and that naiveness of understanding what it takes to build a business and how you have to properly set it up and how many million things have to go right for it to catch on. I was just simple, even down to naming the brand. Bob Hurley used his last name, so I figured I’ll just use mine.
On his first trade show: I’m looking over at Burton and thinking oh that’s whack—they spent all that money and that’s not cool and I had all the cool kids and pro athletes hanging out at the Neff booth.
On being crazy dope famous: There was a good four or five years where I could not leave my house, whether I was dropping my kids off at school, going to the beach, going to work or getting on a flight, that I didn’t see my last name on someone. It was insane.
On life as a consultant after he sold his majority stake in Neff: I just riff on what’s in my head and it’s valuable and then they apply it to their whole business. That really triggered me to want to do more.
On his brain: That’s just who I am and my brain never stops—I can’t be walking anywhere and not think of a new business I would love to start and how to make it different.
On starting a toothpaste brand with Kendall Jenner: When a friend is coming over you hide your toothpaste, so the idea was let’s make something that looks beautiful on your shelf, that elevates your bathroom and really stands out.
It is a truly insightful article featuring many more gems and I hope you take the time to read, highlight, take to heart, meditate upon, recite, use at TED X talks.
I also wrote about Shaun Neff in the award skirting book Cocaine + Surfing (buy here). Would you like to read?
(The U.S. Open of Surfing riots) That might have been one of the funnier moments in surf history. Drunk white boys with Neff bandanas tied around their faces pushing over porta-potties and throwing stop signs through surf shop windows to steal more Neff bandanas. Neff might be the worst brand in all of surf. On the company website founder Shaun Neff is pictured standing like a gangster except wearing two different colored shoes, tight-black skinny jeans, some goofy Mickey Mouse T-shirt under a try-hard satin jacket and a black beanie above the words: “We are like a gumball machine; spitting out endless flavors for the world to consume…” I wonder what “endless flavor” Huntington Beach riot tastes like. Like generator exhaust, aerosol sunscreen, vape pen, spray paint, spray tan, spray cheese, sand particles probably.
Fucking Shaun Neff.
And that’s all I have to say about that.