Bob Ballou: Surfing’s Favorite Car Salesman

What do Kelly Slater and Sunny Garcia have in common? Well, aside from being World Champions, they have also bought a truck from Bob Ballou at Toyota of Orange.

For nearly twenty years Ballou and longtime associate Bill Denny have been selling Toyotas to the surf industry. Ballou’s laundry list of customers reads like a who’s who in surfing: Kelly Slater, Andy Irons, Sunny Garcia, Bob Hurley, Mike “Shooy” Shoelmoeller, Shane Dorian, Kalani Robb, Darryl “Flea” Virostko, Dan Malloy, Ross Williams — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

[IMAGE 1]

Ballou’s tie to the industry goes back more than 30 years. After working at a surf shop in Maine as a kid, Ballou moved to California in 1970 and soon began selling surfboards for Larry Gordon and Floyd Smith in Huntington Beach. A decade later, Ballou began selling cars to supplement his income. His first customers were people he knew from the industry.

So what’s easier to sell: a surfboard or a car? And who’s the worst groveller? We checked in with Ballou to find out.

TransWorld SURF Business: What’s the relationship between Toyota of Orange and surfing?

Bob Ballou: The whole surf mobile thing dates back to the Woody, right? Laughs When it comes to getting to the beach and surfing — whether you’re going on a surf trip to Santa Cruz or Cabo — good wheels, dependable wheels are very important. That’s where we come in.

TransWorld SURF Business: Better margins: surfboards or cars?

Bob Ballou: Of course, cars. Laughs But you gotta take some of the good with the bad, the thin deals with some of the good ones.

TransWorld SURF Business: Ever sold a lemon?

Bob Ballou: No. Anytime anybody has that type of a problem with a car we’ll take care of it. Troy Eckart, for instance, got stuck on the beach. We took him out of that truck and put him in a brand new one. A guy like Troy’s not only a personal friend, he’s also a very visible person, so we want to make sure he’s happy. You got to remember: we just sell them, we don’t make them Laughs.

TransWorld SURF Business: When surfers get a new board they want the hook-up: no sales tax, free traction, et cetera. What do they expect with a new car?

Bob Ballou: You know, hey, a guy buys a Tundra, maybe he needs a bedliner. We give him a full tank of gas — that’s the bar of wax. Definitely those days of selling the surfboards helped pave the way for selling the cars.

TransWorld SURF Business: Who’s the biggest haggler?

Bob Ballou: Laughs Shooy! Shoelmoeller’s the worst!

TransWorld SURF Business: Okay, be honest. Should we buy the paint sealant?

Bob Ballou: If you know you’re going to be at the beach all the time, that stuff … it does work.

TransWorld SURF Business: Well, what is it exactly?

Bob Ballou: Actually I don’t know what the stuff is Laughs … Dead pan but it does work.

TransWorld SURF Business: Right