Back in the Stone Age when some unknown carved a board,
specifically to ride a wave, the foundation for contemporary
boardsports was established. The activity came to Hawaii 1500
years ago with the arrival of the first Polynesians. In the
post European contact period, authors Jack London and Mark
Twain were early enthusiasts.
Acceptance of surfing was greatly expanded through the
exploits of Hawaiian waterman Duke Kahanamoku. Duke, the
swimming sensation of the 1912 Olympic games, toured the world
enthusiastically promoting his native culture. In the process
Duke introduced surfing to Australia, the eastern US coast, as
well as many of Hollywood's top personalities.
By the 1920’s there were approximately three hundred dedicated
wave riders in the world. World War II curtailed the growth of
the emerging surf scene. Soon after the war, newly developed
materials such as Styrofoam, polyester resin and fiberglass
cloth found their way into surfboard construction.
Enterprising veterans such as Dale Velzy and Malibu’s Joe
Quigg began to craft boards that were radical departures from
the old pre-war planks. These easy to ride boards opened up
the once exclusive sport to legions of enthusiasts.
Hollywood discovered the one-time sport of Hawaiian Kings and
a full-blown fad exploded. Gidget, the 1959 motion picture,
prompted commercialism. Surf mania ran rampant. Kids in Kansas
began bolting surfboards to their car tops in an effort to
Fads and function operate on different paradigms. Looking like
a surfer is not the same thing as being a surfer. In the
beginning those who rode the waves wore nothing at all. By the
start of the twentieth century, surfers attempted to adapt
extant surf bathing attire to their own use. From Santa Cruz
to Sydney surfers fought a losing battle with the heavy woolen
tank suits that were originally intended for a passive dunk at
the plunge. In Hawaii "da bruddahs" cut off the tops of their
woolens, forever voiding the best intentions of the Victorian
Back in the 1930’, early surf proponents like Palos Verdes
Surf Club founder, Doc Ball, fashioned their own trunks in the
effort to discover a workable garment. For the most part
though, conventional clothing manufacturers turned out thinly
disguised versions of the ubiquitous swim trunk.
By the sixties, surf chic was a cultural phenomenon. Carloads
of guys wearing suits and wing-tipped dress shoes showed up on
the sands of Malibu on research and destroy missions. The
clever marketers from the garment district even tried the
protective camouflage- celebrity model approach. Blatant
examples of this were evident in the surf crazed 1960’s.
Jantzen went with frontmen Paul Hornung of the Green Bay
Packers, John Severson, the publisher of Surfer Magazine and
United States Surfing Champion Corky Carroll. MacGregor used
board manu Hobie Alter as a pitchman. Catalina Martin
sponsored the Malibu Surfing Association, the Wind an Sea
Club. Catalina went so far as to partially underwrite the Blum
brothers’ movie The Fantastic Plastic Machine chronicling the
emergent V- bottom short board revolution in Australia.
A few years later, indigenous root brands came to market: Hang
Ten, Birdwell Beach Britches, Golden Breed, Kanvas by Katin,
Reed of Newport and Roy's Beach Cabana. By and large these
products imitated the garments favored by traveling surfers
that were made by small Hawaiian boutique tailors like M. Nii
of Waianae, Taki of Waikiki , H. Muira and Reyn Spooner. These
trunks were constructed of stiff heavy canvas and were totally
restrictive to movement. The fact was surf trunks were not
designed for the act of surfing.
Ostensibly these Baggies may have been passable gear back in
the stand and pose phase of the sport. Board lengths and
weights dropped dramatically towards the end of the sixties.
This dawn of newer directions in surfing under scored how
archaic these stiff bathing suit relics actually were. Instead
of riding on the waves in the old hopelessly heroic
straight-line style, people were now actively traveling all
over the wave’s surface in agile anarchy. Progressive moves
like acceleration turning, riding inside of the barrel and
flying off of the lip obviously demanded equally modern
Alan Green and John Law, two surfers from down under, ripped
apart some old trunks and discarded the portions that they
deemed unnecessary or undesirable. Gone was the leaden canvas,
the lace up front, the long stovepipe legs, the double thick
seams and buttons that hurt when you paddled. Nothing of the
old was left so they started from scratch. A pattern that was
anatomically based was devised to move with the surfer.
Green and Law’s innovative trunk was made from a durable,
lightweight fabric that dried rapidly. Their boardshorts had
short scalloped legs that didn’t bind or hang up. The styling
was essentially clean. A wide waistband yielded support. They
designed a snap that held and placed it so a bloke could
paddle. There were no decorative add-ons. There was a wax
pocket, a lay flat Velcro front closure and that was about
So Green and Law put them on and went surfing. Hard at it, all
day every day. People notice what works. They also pay
attention to individuals who devote years to chasing a dream.
Soon other riders would do anything to get one of these
elusive newfangled boardshorts. This was the birth of
Quiksilver, the genuine, original, functional choice of the
hard core participant.
Leading the beg, borrow and steal a pair brigade, was the
foremost competitor of the decade Jeff Hakman. Personally
trained by the Duke, he understood both the history of the
activity and the scope of greatness. Tutored by the legendary
surfboard shaper Richard Brewer he had an immediate grasp of
functional design. Above all, as one of the key players in the
radicalization of surfing itself, Hakman knew the future when
he saw it. In Torquay, Oz for a contest, Jeff got one of those
glimpses. Quiksilver boardshorts. With a little chicanery Jeff
managed to abscond with some that he forgot to return to his
mate, Australian pro Mark Warren. They were a perfect fit and
everywhere Hakman toured people were mad to possess them.
Back home in Hawaii, Jeff enlisted the aid of his houseguest
Bob “Buzz” McKnight a surf film maker who just happened to be
close to graduating from the University of Southern California
with a business degree. The demand for these new boardshorts
was there. The design was there. Everyone who wore them said
these Quiksilver’s were the most comfortable trunks that they
had ever worn. Bob, in addition to surfing everyday, was a
business major. How can you fail with a combination like that,
Hakman reasoned. With his usual persistence, Jeff managed to
persuade Green and Law to grant Bob and himself the American
license to the magic boardshort. No recounting of the annals
of the sport fails to include the torrid tale of the eager to
impress Hakman actually eating the serving doily off of the
dinner table at the Quiet Woman restaurant much to the delight
of Greenie. A great partnership had begun.
By the mid-1970’s, a small office/warehouse/distribution
center was opened in Newport Beach, California. McKnight and
Hakman built a business based on word of mouth, quality,
unbelievable service and their extensive personal contacts at
surf shops on all three coasts of the USA.
Growing a company that produces a never seen before product
category is a difficult way to go. The partners were hard at
it product testing in the water, designing at the sewing
machines and selling to the surf shops. Leading converts from
surfing’s new school like Danny Kwock came on board. The
firm’s constant innovation in materials, high tech fabrics and
cutting edge graphics helped propel Quiksilver further.
Involvement in assorted extremist boarding activities lead to
the creation of newer designs for these varied avocations.
Novel apparel for committed Snowboarders, Skiers,
Skateboarders, Wakeboarders and Windsurfers led to additional
expansion. The Quiksilver program is universally recognized as
the embodiment of purist improvisation and innovation.
Quiksilver’s position of leadership in the international teen
and young adult markets is undeniable.
Quiksilver was instrumental in stimulating the current growth
in women’s boardsports participation. The introduction of the
Roxy junior swim and sportswear company in 1993 inspired major
trends in the activity. Roxy was the first company to create
functional, yet fashion driven clothing and equipment for both
the would- be and accomplished female surfer. The unique style
of Roxy’s performance-inspired design has been widely imitated
throughout the fashion industry.
Long before the bastions of mainstream news reporting began
charting the company’s progress, there was an elemental
approach at work within Quiksilver unique to the company.
Following Quiksilver’s initial stock offering in 1986, there
has been a continual interest in the company’s activities.
Many of these narratives center on the organization’s notable
accomplishments: the over three million dollar per year gross
sales and a unique prominence in the growing US teen market,
which has over one hundred billion dollars of discretionary
spending power each year in the US alone. So why does CEO and
chairman of the board Robert B. McKnight Jr. insist that key
management repeatedly meet on field trips and indulge the
pursuits of gravity before they sit down to meet?
First and foremost Quiksilver’s products are created out of
need. Whatever success they will enjoy is always secondary to
that point. From Alan and John’s first pair of boardshorts
through the aggressive new imagery of the Echo Beach period of
the Eighties, down to anything in the line today, this is
authentic performance gear. The point is that Quik stuff works
so well because the people who design, make and sell it demand
that it excel. This is why board meetings may be scheduled on
European slopes, a ship off the coast of Java or a lake in
Arizona. Quiksilver employees are a vital part of all research
and development. They are the end user; everything they do is
designed for them. There are no corporate marketing mission
statements, trend- marketing surveys or fashion forecasts
anywhere near it. Simple logic is, just create the best, most
functional items imaginable and then work it. A survey of
current Quiksilver employees will reveal an impressive number
of former world, national, state and pro competitive title
winners in surfing, sailboarding, snowboarding, wakeboarding
and skateboarding. You don't find this coefficient of reality
The Quiksilver style is rooted in the activity. Proof of the
viability of Quiksilver's passionate approach can be found in
its continued support of athletes such as six-time world
professional surfing champion Kelly Slater and women’s four-
time world professional surfing champion Lisa Andersen.
Affiliates often take their association with the company
further. Rusty Keaulana, in addition to being a three-time
world longboard champion, works with disadvantaged children in
the Hawaiian community. Two-time world champion Tom Carroll
develops prototype equipment in Australia. Ten- time
international windsurfing champion Robby Naish is involved
with European operations. Legendary waterman Barry Kanaiaupuni
and six-time world professional surfing champion Kelly Slater
own Quiksilver Boardriders Clubs. Bruce Raymond, an Australian
surfing champion, is the International Director of Marketing.
Founding figure and multiple International Pro Champion Jeff
Hakman still works daily in concert with Harry Hodge in
France. Former United States surfing champion Willy Morris is
a sales rep in California. Quiksilver also sponsors a healthy
number of surf teams, snowboard teams and a diverse selection
of skateboarders, sailboarders, wakeboarders and motocross
riders. The company also organizes and sponsors numerous
contests and events ranging in scope from premiere
international events to small community based efforts that its
riders and dealers may be involved with.
The events created by Quiksilver may prove to be one of the
company's most compellingl legacies. The choice of location,
selection of invitees, method of judging, the style, look and
promotion are all variables that are fine tuned in the making
of a Quik event. A number of these projects have influenced
the development of the extreme sports milieu.
A selection of these influential events includes: The Eddie
Aikau Big Wave Invitational Series at Waimea Bay; The
ground-breaking 1995 Quiksilver Pro at G-Land, Indonesia, that
put hardcore credibility back into professional surfing events
(the best surfers in the best waves); The World Amateur
Surfing Championships at Newquay England, 1986; The Quiksilver
Snowboarding and Surfing Cup in Europe; The Quiksilver Roxy
Pro at Sunset Beach, North Shore, Oahu; The Quiksilver Winter
Classic Surf/Snow Event; The Quiksilver Mavericks Big Wave
Event; The Roxy Surf Jam at Hanalei and Ventura, The Silver
Edition Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Race. These pioneering
events have firmly established Quiksilver as the authentic
leader in the extreme sports market.
Another unique Quiksilver involvement is a series of
innovative concept stores and shops, which have greatly
improved both brand recognition and distribution standards.
Quiksilver Boardriders Clubs and in- store shops, Quiksvilles
and Roxyvilles, have become key retail models around the
world. Presently, there are one hundred and twenty four
Quiksilver Boardriders Clubs globally including twenty in the
United States. Trend setting in both their concept and
execution, they are definitive presentations of the Quiksilver
ethic. Flagship stores in Paris, London and New York are often
mentioned by the fashion and business press as examples of
truly entertaining retail concepts.
Today, Quiksilver offers a diverse line of products under its
umbrella including a complete clothing collection,
accessories, eyewear, watches, and wetsuits. A similar
offering for boys ages 8-14 years old, 4-7 years old and
toddlers. The Winter Sports division is emerging with
snowboarding apparel and hard goods designed for high
performance enthusiasts. To further expand the division, in
1997, Quiksilver acquired Mervin, a snowboard manufacturing
company that makes Gnu and Lib Tech snowboards and Bent Metal
step in bindings. Quiksilver Silver Edition is a line of
clothing targeting the now 30-50 year old waterman. Girl’s
lines including Roxy, Raisins, Radio Fiji, and Leilani
swimwear are stronger than ever.
Quiksilver has become far more than just a fashion apparel
company. It is a company with deep roots in the history of the
demanding outdoor sports lifestyle. Quiksilver, now a truly
global brand, remains a pioneering force in the most original
of all sports: surfing.