Founder of multi-billionaire dollar Vans shoe empire Paul Van Doren, dead at ninety, one week after launching memoir, “Authentic: A Memoir by the Founder of Vans”

A life well lived and a legacy not forgotten… 

Pauly Van Doren, the legendary founder of the world’s most enduring surf-skate grand Vans, who was born just as the Great Depression was kicking into gear, has died, aged ninety.

Van Doren, a high-school drop-out, whose nickname was Dutch the Clutch, created the Van Doren Rubber Co in 1966 with his little brother, James, who died in 2011, and their pals Gordon, Ryan Emmert and Serge D’Elia. 

The first store, in Anaheim, California, sold American-made shoes direct to the public with the slogan, “Canvas Shoes for the Entire Family” at prices between two and four dollars a pair. 

The first Vans store in Anaheim, CA.

On opening day, Pauly forgot to put cash into the register. 

“It was so stupid,” he said, telling customers to come back with the exact cash. “We sold something like 22 pairs of shoes that first day, and the remarkable thing is every single person came back and paid. Treat people like you would want to be treated.”

An early pair of VDs.

“Paul was not just an entrepreneur; he was an innovator. The Van Doren Rubber Company was the culmination of a lifetime of experimentation and hard work in the shoe industry,” the Vans company said in a statement. “Like Paul, from the first day of business, Vans was uniquely innovative. When the first Vans store opened, there were no stand-alone retail stores just for sneakers. Paul’s bold experiments in product design, distribution, and marketing, along with his knack for numbers, and a genius for efficiency turned Paul’s family shoe business into an all-American success story.”

Y’don’t have to trawl too deep into a surfer or skater’s wardrobe to find a dirty ol pair of Off the Walls or Authentics, shoes mercifully unchanged in almost fifty years.

Unchanged in almost fifty years,

The passing of an icon.

As Stacy Peralta said: “Vans is one of the greatest legacy companies not only in skateboarding, but in the worldwide community of action sports.”

Final words go, as they must, to Sean Penn, who used his own pair of Vans OTW  slip-ons in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a decision that would propel sales of the show into the stratosphere,


Students of professional surfing will, no doubt, know that the United States team consists of Florence and Kolohe Andino with the world's greatest surfer Kelly Slater as first alternate. | Photo: Steve Sherman/@tsherms

Breaking: John John Florence withdraws from remaining Margaret River, upcoming Rottnest Island contests citing injury; Kelly Slater one step closer to Olympic dream!

Plan coming together?

In shocking news, the World Surf League has just announced that Margaret River favorite, and title hopeful, John John Florence has withdrawn from the rest of the Margaret River event, as well as the upcoming Rip Curl Search Rottnest presented by Corona, citing injury.

In a just released statement, Florence declared:

“Unfortunately, I hurt my left knee on the end section of a wave during my round 16 heat two days ago. I was able to surf the rest of my heat, just kind of feeling it out, but I knew something was off. It’s not the same knee I dealt with last year so that’s good, but with the Olympics coming up this summer I’m going to focus on healing up and getting strong. Thanks to everyone for the support and to Australia for having us. We’re very appreciative and had a great time.”

The Olympics coming up being key.

Students of professional surfing will, no doubt, know that the United States team consists of Florence and Kolohe Andino with the world’s greatest surfer Kelly Slater as first alternate.

Slater, citing a four-year-old foot injury of his own, opted out of the Australian leg and the upcoming World Surfing Games in El Salvador in order to heal by surfing very fine barrels right in front of Florence’s childhood home.

It was posited here, days ago, that he may have calculated the grueling schedule and put himself in position for a sneaky Olympic birth.

Gold his final act?

More as the story develops.


Art: KVF

Listen: Champion of The People™ Caio Ibelli gets put through everyman grinder in Australia; a lock to win the Rip Curl Rottnest Search presented by Corona!

True grit!

Near the end of March, the surf world was rocked by a new project as revolutionary as it was ambitious. Brazilian Caio Ibelli, the first, and for years only, pro to follow BeachGrit on Instagram had just ripped one of his sponsor’s stickers off his board after being unceremoniously dropped.

Of course being sponsored is at the pleasure of the brand, of course the powers can do whatsoever they desire but the dropping of Ibelli felt personal.

He may not have been as flashy as some, as young and handsome, but he had a giant killing mentality, a fearlessness in big waves, a hamburger outlet back home.

He was us and his dropping felt personal and so, as mapped out by a wonderful listener of The Grit! podcast, David Lee Scales and I set out to sponsor Caio for The People™ ahead of the first event of the rejiggered Australian leg Newcastle.

$15,000 for a sticker on the nose.

The People™, hearts touched, dug deep. David Lee and I, while not being wonderful project managers, dropped many balls but even so, by mid event we had raised just over half.

$7500 for a sticker midway down the board somewhere.

A better solution seeing as his hamburger outlet had its rightful spot on the nose.

And so we aimed for Narrabeen but getting stickers made etc. a nightmare. Saints emerged to help, designing inspirational stickers, hand-cutting the vinyl to form them into shape.

Margaret River, the perfect place, a place where he has slayed before.

Hand-cut stickers dropped in the Australian Post, rushing west.

Caio emailed just ahead of the first hooter, wondering where they were.

David Lee sent him a tracking number.

Caio followed up, day two, as the tracking number revealed they had been delivered to the post office not his hotel. He raced to the post office where they told him no stickers were there. They might be back at the hotel.

He raced to his heat.

Day three, overlapping heats, back on the case, the Australian Post told him they were, in fact, at the office, or maybe, and maybe locked in the hotel’s box to which they did not have the key. He was ready to race there once again when word came down.

Overlapping heats.

He would be on earlier than expected and had to race, once again, to the venue where he subsequently lost to Italo Ferreira.

Now, most professional surfers would have team managers, brand managers, coaches to help them with ever little detail, including stickering a board but not our Caio. He is us and grinds like us.

Running errands with crying babies, while rolling work calls. Making dinner while preparing school lunch while rolling work calls. Cleaning sewers, stacking bricks, giving IV injections, washing dishes, changing oil, unloading pallets, loading pallets while commenting live.

And this grind, this true grit, will vault our Caio into a top 5 finish this year, sending him to Lower Trestles with a possibility of being crowned champion.

But he is already our champion.

The Champion of The People™.

Listen here as we also discuss Kanoa Igarashi’s klaim game and Tyler Wright wilting under the weight of woke.

A fine show.

From grunge to athlete to sex kitten, the continuing fashion evolution of John John Florence.

Door opens to two-time world surfing champ John John Florence’s $12 million start-up, Florence Marine X; offerings include the rumoured hooded rash shirt for $80 and a $750 Japanese-made wetsuit!

“Curiosity and obsession for exploration!”

Florence Marine X, a twelve-million dollar start-up, is to John John Florence what Former is to Dane Reynolds, a labour of love for men repulsed by the hoops the major surf labels had made ‘em jump through. 

Reynolds turned down millions to display a sticker from Quiksilver; John John wasn’t so into Hurley’s pivot  into inflatable pool toys and beard oils. 

Now, and after much ado, Florence Marine X has opened its online store which sells, boardshorts, t-shirts, lycra or “active” shirts, hats and wetsuits.

The boardshorts are standard enough, most made in various shades of dull, the hats are hats, the tees are tees, but the hooded rash vests are a sight to behold, worn, I imagine, by VALS or Tom Curren (to jump on The Grit’s Kook or Curren gag), yours for eighty shekels.

The sex-kitten look.

If you want a wetsuit, y’ain’t gettin’ it cheap.

Wetsuit jackets, $250, a two mm impact suit is $650 and a Japanese-made three mm steamer costs $750. Only smalls left in the three mm wetsuit; large and XLs in the padded suit and most of the jackets are done until June.

But, excellent quality, one must imagine, a trademark of the Japanese cult of artisan craftsmanship. The red pennant logo gives a feel of unfettered glamour and will capture popular imagination, at least for those chasing the athletic-wear-meets-the-street look.

It’s a curious website with a fringe brand feel about it and y’gotta buy a twenty-dollar life membership to get anything although memberships are only available to US customers therefore etc.

Shop here.

Just in: Watch the incredible moment a Californian surfer accidentally slaps a Great White shark, “I can’t comprehend how this surfer did not see the White shark!”

"Every time a shark gets close to a surfer I get nervous – perhaps it's because the vast majority of attacks are on surfers…"

It gives me enormous pleasure to watch videos like this, a five-minute short filled with drone footage of juvenile Great Whites, the feistiest of ’em all, happily swimming around packs of surfers in southern California.

Where is the blood? Where is the terror?

Drone photographer James Glancy has made it his thing to fly his drone along the Californian coast and record what are either “close calls”, which presumes attack is always imminent when Whites are around, or evidence that Whites only go in for the kill when visibility is real low and they think the shredder is a seal or whatever.

“The further south I go (in California) the more sharks seem to enjoy the surf,” says Glancy. “They’re right there next to humans most of the time… the humans sharing their home have no idea. A surfer falls off a board, within reach of the shark, yet the shark shows no interest… as I filmed these encounters I felt that perhaps they’re not the mindless hungry fish I thought they were.”

At the three-ish min mark, the drone pulls back to show a scene of happy man-beast co-existence.

“The following clip is a demonstrative example of this concept. The White shark is surrounded by surfers. I purposefully left the drone stationary to capture the whole scene. It appears no surfers know the shark is there and yet the shark appears relaxed and in no way makes aggressive moves.”

Glancy admits he still gets a lil shiver seeing Whites real close to people, howevs.

“Somehow,” he says, “every time a shark gets close to a surfer I get nervous – perhaps it’s because the vast majority of attacks are on surfers. Watching this again, I can’t comprehend this surfer did not see this White shark… a great example of how White sharks are truly non-aggressors the vast majority of the time.”

Reassuring, yes?

And if you were shredding with your VAL-pals and a drone guy was shooting Whites swimming around your feet, would you expect a lil courtesy call?