Soapbox: Surf Industry Should Support Bodyboarding

Soapbox: JP Patterson Says The Surf Industry Should Support Bodyboarding

[IMAGE 1]Editor’s Note: We’re always looking for ways to make TransWorld SURF Business more helpful and interactive to the manufacturers and retailers of the surf industry. So when long-time bodyboarding-industry leader JP Patterson sent us an unsolicited article on how the surf industry should be doing more to support bodyboarding and then phoned us up and double-dog dared us to run it, the usually dim bulbs above our heads lit up a bit with an idea.

“Why don’t we,” the idea went, “post JP’s comments and then give the rest of the surf industry the opportunity to weigh in with their comments? Let’s give the industry a soapbox and see what (if anything) the industry wants to talk about.”

Our new Soapbox section is your forum. Use it to spill your guts, voice your opinion, or spit out your complaint. The goal of the Soapbox is to increase the communication within our industry and challenge the status quo in order to keep things fresh.

So weigh in on the topic below, or e-mail us your own soapbox about something you want to talk about. TransWorld SURF Business will act as the moderator and will try to keep the comments fair and on topic.

So let’s get things started with a timeless debate. Last December, bodyboarding figure JP Patterson distributed a letter about the importance of bodyboarders to the surf industry. In it he proposes that the vitality of the surf industry is hinged on surfing’s support of bodyboarding. He writes, “Eighty-two percent of surfers began their surfing lives as bodyboarders. Unless you’re actively pursuing sales to bodyboarders, you’re missing 82 percent of your core customers.”

That’s just the start of Patterson’s views. Here are the rest of his arguments:

The Surf Industry Should Be Doing A Better Job Supporting Bodyboarding
By JP Patterson

“A staggering 82 percent of surfers began their surfing lives as bodyboarders.” (2001 Board Trac Survey)

Think about this for a moment. This means that unless you’re actively pursuing sales to bodyboarder, you’re missing 82 percent of your core customers!

How should this affect the business plans of surf-industry manufacturers and surf-shop retailers?

With the recent events and the fluctuation of retail sales in the surf industry, we need to develop ways to generate a larger quantity of loyal customers who do their shopping at surf shops.

If the above statement is accurate, then the logical natural progression to building the surf shop core consumer is for manufacturers and retailers to support bodyboarding.

1. Manufacturers should sponsor, promote, and market to bodyboarders.

Because every business wants to capture its customers as early as possible and keep selling to them for as long as possible, then shouldn’t it try to reach them at the point they begin their surfing lives? Sponsorship should include advertising and unashamed promotion. I believe the company that begins selling to the bodyboarders when they begin their ocean lifestyle will have a customer for life.

Every company is looking to sponsor the next Kelly Slater or Mike Stewart, so why not begin with a bodyboarder? Since 82 percent of them switch to surfing, the odds are good that they can be found early in their career. (There’s an urban legend that claims Kelly Slater was once a bodyboarder.)

Supporting bodyboarding is the same as the feeder systems used by stick and ball sports. Interested athletes begin playing the sports on the school playground. They move into organized school programs, then are developed in college and then on to the NBA, NFL, NHL, etc. All the while the manufacturers are supporting the feeder system because it develops more participants (a.k.a customers). The ones who don’t make it into the pros go on to become TV audiences and weekend warriors (customers) because they have a personal relationip with the sport. The manufacturers sponsor the local high school teams through the local retailer all the way to the pros.

Where are tomorrow’s surfing heroes going to come from if we don’t get them into the water before they pick up a ball?

2) Retailers should develop their bodyboarding department and cater to the bodyboarding customer.

When a surfer walks into a surf shop and announces he’s looking for a new board, the person behind the counter gets up and accompanies the customer to the surfboard section where the two of them begin the selection process. Questions are asked and boards pulled out for inspection until the customer feels confident that the board he has under his arm will allow him to ride like Slater. When a bodyboarder walks into a surf shop and says he’s looking for a new board, the person behind the counter points to the back corner and says, “There’s a pile of bodyboards back there.” I personally have witnessed this.

A few facts the surf-shop owner should remember:

Eighty-two percent of his future surfing customers are riding and buying bodyboards. Will they return to his store if they are treated like crap? More customers = more money!

Thirty-seven percent of bodyboarders snowboard and 49 percent ride skateboards. Repeat customers = more money!

The profit margin in bodyboards is more than surfboards. Some bodyboards cost the same as a surfboard ($300+) and they don’t damage as easily. Larger profit = more money!

Bodyboarders buy accessories. They need fins, leashes, wetsuits, board bags, stickers, clothing, shoes, etc. Add-on sales = more money!

Bodyboarders are younger and shop with their parents and are more like to spend more money. More money = more money!

If you are still anti-bodyboarding, then think about this. There’s an old saying that goes like this: “Success is the ultimate revenge.” Get your revenge on bodyboarders by being successful at selling more bodyboards and using the profit for a trip to Tavarua. Bodyboarders are paying for your dream surf trip.

Bodyboarders are the same as everyone else. They want to shop in an environment where they feel comfortable. Men don’t shop in the lingerie department of WalMart. They go to the tool section of Home Depot. When given a choice, bodyboarders shop at bodyboarding stores (or Web sites) because surf shop don’t have what they’re looking for.

Back in the 80s, Morey Bodyboards developed Jamborees. These were weekend events at local beaches co-sponsored by the local Morey retailer where people were introduced to bodyboarding and the wave-riding lifestyle. There was a “How To” lesson taught by the top pro riders followed by autograph signings and giveaways. It stoked out the kids, and many went on to become pro bodyboarders. It also drove the sale of bodyboards in surf shops and surf-related product needed by these new surf-lifestyle loving customers. I believe this had a direct impact on the growth seen in the 90s. More customers = more money.

If we in the surf industry are going to sell more product, we must increase our base of “core” customers. They keep buying our product through the bad economies and fashion fluctuations. If we want TV for our events, we need to develop a larger audience. If we want more readers to see our advertisements, we need more wave riders buying our magazines. If we want more surfers buying surfboards tomorrow, we need more kids in the water today. If we want to keep the surfing lifestyle marketplace to the landlocked (mall) customer, we need a lifestyle/core customer base that is large enough to attract attention and support the lifestyle we all love. If we want more customers to buy more product so we make more money and take more surf trips then we need more bodyboarders!

JP Patterson

——————-

What do you think? Does JP have a point or is he off the mark? Share your thoughts by e-mailing johnm@twsnet.com

If you have anything else surf-related that you’d like to get off your chest (and want the rest of the industry to chew on), send it to johnm@twsnet.com

—————

Bob Mignogna
Vice-President, Active Outdoor Group Publisher
Publishers of Surfing, BodyBoarding and Surfing Girl magazines

I agree with JP, but then, of course I would as I was on the team who launched BodyBoarding magazine in 1985, which we still publish today. Thereare hundreds of thousands of active bodyboarders in the U.S., yet they are a youth market largely ignored by the surf companies. As a result, these kids have few allegiances to the core surf brands. The surf industry has learned that there are tremendous economic and brand-building benefits to crossing over to skate and snow for men and women. Given the large number of kids who bodyboard, it does seem smart for the industry to show some support for them as well.

Mick O’Brien
He is just trying to boost his lagging sales. Good idea, but if you were on the North Shore during the last 90 days you would never want to see another bodyboard sold again.

M.B.
Age 15
Torrance, California

I was elated that a bodyboarder was finally portrayed as being intelligent — a far cry from the unintelligible rants that are often found in bodyboarding magazines. Kudos to J.P. Patterson.

Now, to get down to business. He has a great point –and I think it might have been a good concept … two years ago! Being the teenager I am, I’m seeing a trend. That trend is that the surfwear isn’t the hot ticket item it used to be. When I was in sixth grade, I started wearing the t-shirts (though I didn’t buy the shorts yet). Why? Because it was almost like being part of an exclusive club — at the time, surfers and skaters were the only ones wearing the clothing.

However, times changed. In seventh grade, I started wearing the shorts. That was cool, and I was “stoked” (to use a hackneyed word) on the fact that I was still part of a group that operated on exclusivity. However, the popularity was building. PacSun was starting to become more prominent.

In eighth grade, most of the jocks that were “in the know” were starting to wear surf t-shirts, skate shoes, and the like. The look was starting to become homogenized, and I wasn’t as elated with the clothing as I was when I first discovered it.

In the ninth grade, the market was over saturated. Pac Sun expanded. The masses had leached on to the surf look, and there was no letting go. So, I started sporting skate brands. I was starting to wean off of the surf clothing that me and my friends had started wearing in seventh grade, even though the surf culture was waxing in popularity.

And in tenth grade, I’ve finally decided that I may have to call it quits with the surf clothing that I once appreciated so much. The problem, as I stated earlier, is a saturation of the market. Also, the look of surfwear has not evolved recently. It is basically the same cargoes, chinos, etc. that were around a couple of years ago — albeit, there is no longer the gaudy mesh treatments applied to them, but it is the same basic concept. Another problem is the increased distribution of the said textiles. PacSun has expanded, a fair amount of department stores carry the surf look, and it isn’t as exclusive as it used to be.

So…..to increase the popularity of surfwear, and to make sure the industry doesn’t hit a “dark” period like it did back in 92, the following must happen:

*New designs. As far as I can see, most of the ideas have been taxed. Cargo this, chino that. Although there has been new fabrics and color trends, the surfwear fashion concepts in the current time are stagnant — and the prices are continuing to increase to exorbitant levels. When I first started purchasing surf shorts, an expensive pair was 40 dolla

If you have anything else surf-related that you’d like to get off your chest (and want the rest of the industry to chew on), send it to johnm@twsnet.com

—————

Bob Mignogna
Vice-President, Active Outdoor Group Publisher
Publishers of Surfing, BodyBoarding and Surfing Girl magazines

I agree with JP, but then, of course I would as I was on the team who launched BodyBoarding magazine in 1985, which we still publish today. Thereare hundreds of thousands of active bodyboarders in the U.S., yet they are a youth market largely ignored by the surf companies. As a result, these kids have few allegiances to the core surf brands. The surf industry has learned that there are tremendous economic and brand-building benefits to crossing over to skate and snow for men and women. Given the large number of kids who bodyboard, it does seem smart for the industry to show some support for them as well.

Mick O’Brien
He is just trying to boost his lagging sales. Good idea, but if you were on the North Shore during the last 90 days you would never want to see another bodyboard sold again.

M.B.
Age 15
Torrance, California

I was elated that a bodyboarder was finally portrayed as being intelligent — a far cry from the unintelligible rants that are often found in bodyboarding magazines. Kudos to J.P. Patterson.

Now, to get down to business. He has a great point –and I think it might have been a good concept … two years ago! Being the teenager I am, I’m seeing a trend. That trend is that the surfwear isn’t the hot ticket item it used to be. When I was in sixth grade, I started wearing the t-shirts (though I didn’t buy the shorts yet). Why? Because it was almost like being part of an exclusive club — at the time, surfers and skaters were the only ones wearing the clothing.

However, times changed. In seventh grade, I started wearing the shorts. That was cool, and I was “stoked” (to use a hackneyed word) on the fact that I was still part of a group that operated on exclusivity. However, the popularity was building. PacSun was starting to become more prominent.

In eighth grade, most of the jocks that were “in the know” were starting to wear surf t-shirts, skate shoes, and the like. The look was starting to become homogenized, and I wasn’t as elated with the clothing as I was when I first discovered it.

In the ninth grade, the market was over saturated. Pac Sun expanded. The masses had leached on to the surf look, and there was no letting go. So, I started sporting skate brands. I was starting to wean off of the surf clothing that me and my friends had started wearing in seventh grade, even though the surf culture was waxing in popularity.

And in tenth grade, I’ve finally decided that I may have to call it quits with the surf clothing that I once appreciated so much. The problem, as I stated earlier, is a saturation of the market. Also, the look of surfwear has not evolved recently. It is basically the same cargoes, chinos, etc. that were around a couple of years ago — albeit, there is no longer the gaudy mesh treatments applied to them, but it is the same basic concept. Another problem is the increased distribution of the said textiles. PacSun has expanded, a fair amount of department stores carry the surf look, and it isn’t as exclusive as it used to be.

So…..to increase the popularity of surfwear, and to make sure the industry doesn’t hit a “dark” period like it did back in 92, the following must happen:

*New designs. As far as I can see, most of the ideas have been taxed. Cargo this, chino that. Although there has been new fabrics and color trends, the surfwear fashion concepts in the current time are stagnant — and the prices are continuing to increase to exorbitant levels. When I first started purchasing surf shorts, an expensive pair was 40 dollars. Now, that is the gold standard–basically the low-pro short — if you can find a pair. Basically, there is nothing new, and the prices are increasing. Kids, like myself, want something new. Teenagers have an insatiable thirst for the new, hip and wonderfully different clothing that starts out as a niche market.

*Hiring bodyboarders most likely won’t bring the surfwear market out of the slump of the current time. Why? The problem isn’t the athletes, the problem is the designs. Bringing in bodyboarders would be like fixing a concussion with a band-aid. It’s not going to work.

*There has to be a jump in the surfing itself. I mean, what is surfing right now? It seems like all of the comprehensible leaps in performance have been made. The only thing to do now is to insure airs occur with ubiquity, and that the rodeo flip is perfected, and presented to the masses.

*Finally, the surf t-shirt has lost the “surf t-shirt” part. Surfing companies’ t-shirts no longer represent the lifestyle of surfing, they represent the concept of surfing. The photo t-shirts of days past represented the lifestyle of surfing: lazy days on the beach, going into a virtual time warp by melding with the inner sanctum of the tube, and faraway lands that caused feelings of wonderment in surfers worldwide. Will I ever make it to Tavarua? J-Bay? Pipe? The reason I bought surf t-shirts in the past was because they had surfing on them. Now, they simply say, “Billabong”, “Quiksilver”, “Rusty”, et al. It is simply like Tommy Hillfiger with the beach concept behind it.

*The surf market is played out. Just like any other type of fashion, it wasn’t going to last forever. Did Nike mania last forever? No. Did designer clothing mania last forever? No. Did 200-dollar basketball shoe-fetish mania last forever? No. So fellas … it’s either time to innovate, or lose a chance to participate. Sorry … but that’s the nature of fashion! You’re in the game, you’re out. You come back for a while, you’re out.

Dale Solomonson
The “surf industry” should support bodyboarding more? After 30 years, why ask for help now? How often have bodyboarding magazines actively supported conventional (standup) surfboards or surfing?

In addition to the 2001 Board Trac Survey, independently poll several thousand standup surfers of all ages and strata … then check the results! My guess is that most surfers would prefer to see far fewer bodyboarders and less support for the bodyboard industry by the companies in which they spend their money. The big question is why?

For most of its lifespan, bodyboarding has boasted of its radical independence from traditional forms of surfing … so, what’s the problem with that attitude now?

If it’s true that many bodyboarders are “treated like crap” by surf-shop salespersons (and who isn’t from time to time), then why do these same individuals eventually choose to ride surfboards that have been purchased at surf shops?

If bodyboarding is every bit as great as the bodyboard mags and advertisers say it is, then why the high drop-out rate? Think about it: 82 percent of former bodyboarders can’t all be wrong! In contrast, I wonder how many surfers have quit standing up to become full-time bodyboarders?

Logically, instead of supporting bodyboarding, shouldn’t we first support the t-shirt/clothing industry? Or the skateboarding industry? Or the skimboarding industry? I’ve seen a lot more “pre-surfers” wearing surf-related clothing, riding skateboards and skimboarding at the beach way before they were ever using a bodyboard and swim fins. Marketing emphasis from standing up to standing up makes way more sense in board sports.

Wow … “a customer for life”? Of the total number of people who start bodyboarding, how many are still actively committed after age 21, 25, or 30-plus? Could it be that older age groups haven’t been regarded as being relevant to bodyboard advertiseers and magazines? Isn’t it also likely that many of these older surfers are intelligent enough to recognize and personally resent the superficial, unrealistic image the bodyboarding industry has created for itself?

How old was Tom Morey when he developed the Morey “Boogie”? How old are the current upper-level people in the bodyboarding industry? How old is the average surf-shop owner? Age does matter.

It’s clear that a significant portion of the bodyboard industry does not care to retain any meaningful connection to how or why it all began in the first place! Sadly, bodyboarding has long ago reached the point where its promoters and leaders salivate on marketing schemes, sales gimmicks, and (gag me) comparisons to “feeder systems used by ball and stick sports” (didn’t most of us run into the surf to get away from all those rules and jocks in colored jerseys?) instead of brilliant, true innovation that is inspiring enough to sell itself? It sure was in the beginning …

Ironically, 15 year old M.B. from Torrance, California said it all sooo well: “The surf market is played out. Just like any other type of fashion, it wasn’t going to last forever. Did Nike mania last forever? No. Did designer clothing mania last forever? No. Did 200-dollar basketball shoe-fetish mania last forever? No. So fellas … it’s either time to innovate, or lose a chance to participate. Sorry … but that’s the nature of fashion! You’re either in the game, or you’re out…”

In the beginning, bodyboarding was far removed from fashion — it was just an exciting new way to intimately experience riding waves, something you could even build at home, an activity that was incredibly fun, all by itself, actually delivering more than it promised … and its future seemed almost limitless.

Even though bodyboards have been around for over three decades — and will continue to be made for many more years to come — perhaps they are nearing the end of a cycle. The brief and changeable record of surfing’s consumer-driven history might lead one to believe that the stage is once again being set for something new to unexpectedly arise…

As with fortune, the future favors the brave… I can’t wait to see what happens next! Now, that is the gold standard–basically the low-pro short — if you can find a pair. Basically, there is nothing new, and the prices are increasing. Kids, like myself, want something new. Teenagers have an insatiable thirst for the new, hip and wonderfully different clothing that starts out as a niche market.

*Hiring bodyboarders most likely won’t bring the surfwear market out of the slump of the current time. Why? The problem isn’t the athletes, the problem is the designs. Bringing in bodyboarders would be like fixing a concussion with a band-aid. It’s not going to work.

*There has to be a jump in the surfing itself. I mean, what is surfing right now? It seems like all of the comprehensible leaps in performance have been made. The only thing to do now is to insure airs occur with ubiquity, and that the rodeo flip is perfected, and presented to the masses.

*Finally, the surf t-shirt has lost the “surf t-shirt” part. Surfing companies’ t-shirts no longer represent the lifestyle of surfing, they represent the concept of surfing. The photo t-shirts of days past represented the lifestyle of surfing: lazy days on the beach, going into a virtual time warp by melding with the inner sanctum of the tube, and faraway lands that caused feelings of wonderment in surfers worldwide. Will I ever make it to Tavarua? J-Bay? Pipe? The reason I bought surf t-shirts in the past was because they had surfing on them. Now, they simply say, “Billabong”, “Quiksilver”, “Rusty”, et al. It is simply like Tommy Hillfiger with the beach concept behind it.

*The surf market is played out. Just like any other type of fashion, it wasn’t going to last forever. Did Nike mania last forever? No. Did designer clothing mania last forever? No. Did 200-dollar basketball shoe-fetish mania last forever? No. So fellas … it’s either time to innovate, or lose a chance to participate. Sorry … but that’s the nature of fashion! You’re in the game, you’re out. You come back for a while, you’re out.

Dale Solomonson
The “surf industry” should support bodyboarding more? After 30 years, why ask for help now? How often have bodyboarding magazines actively supported conventional (standup) surfboards or surfing?

In addition to the 2001 Board Trac Survey, independently poll several thousand standup surfers of all ages and strata … then check the results! My guess is that most surfers would prefer to see far fewer bodyboarders and less support for the bodyboard industry by the companies in which they spend their money. The big question is why?

For most of its lifespan, bodyboarding has boasted of its radical independence from traditional forms of surfing … so, what’s the problem with that attitude now?

If it’s true that many bodyboarders are “treated like crap” by surf-shop salespersons (and who isn’t from time to time), then why do these same individuals eventually choose to ride surfboards that have been purchased at surf shops?

If bodyboarding is every bit as great as the bodyboard mags and advertisers say it is, then why the high drop-out rate? Think about it: 82 percent of former bodyboarders can’t all be wrong! In contrast, I wonder how many surfers have quit standing up to become full-time bodyboarders?

Logically, instead of supporting bodyboarding, shouldn’t we first support the t-shirt/clothing industry? Or the skateboarding industry? Or the skimboarding industry? I’ve seen a lot more “pre-surfers” wearing surf-related clothing, riding skateboards and skimboarding at the beach way before they were ever using a bodyboard and swim fins. Marketing emphasis from standing up to standing up makes way more sense in board sports.

Wow … “a customer for life”? Of the total number of people who start bodyboarding, how many are still actively committed after age 21, 25, or 30-plus? Could it be that older age groups haven’t been regarded as being relevant to bodyboard advertisers and magazines? Isn’t it also likely that many of these older surfers are intelligent enough to recognize and personally resent the superficial, unrealistic image the bodyboarding industry has created for itself?

How old was Tom Morey when he developed the Morey “Boogie”? How old are the current upper-level people in the bodyboarding industry? How old is the average surf-shop owner? Age does matter.

It’s clear that a significant portion of the bodyboard industry does not care to retain any meaningful connection to how or why it all began in the first place! Sadly, bodyboarding has long ago reached the point where its promoters and leaders salivate on marketing schemes, sales gimmicks, and (gag me) comparisons to “feeder systems used by ball and stick sports” (didn’t most of us run into the surf to get away from all those rules and jocks in colored jerseys?) instead of brilliant, true innovation that is inspiring enough to sell itself? It sure was in the beginning …

Ironically, 15 year old M.B. from Torrance, California said it all sooo well: “The surf market is played out. Just like any other type of fashion, it wasn’t going to last forever. Did Nike mania last forever? No. Did designer clothing mania last forever? No. Did 200-dollar basketball shoe-fetish mania last forever? No. So fellas … it’s either time to innovate, or lose a chance to participate. Sorry … but that’s the nature of fashion! You’re either in the game, or you’re out…”

In the beginning, bodyboarding was far removed from fashion — it was just an exciting new way to intimately experience riding waves, something you could even build at home, an activity that was incredibly fun, all by itself, actually delivering more than it promised … and its future seemed almost limitless.

Even though bodyboards have been around for over three decades — and will continue to be made for many more years to come — perhaps they are nearing the end of a cycle. The brief and changeable record of surfing’s consumer-driven history might lead one to believe that the stage is once again being set for something new to unexpectedly arise…

As with fortune, the future favors the brave… I can’t wait to see what happens next!dvertisers and magazines? Isn’t it also likely that many of these older surfers are intelligent enough to recognize and personally resent the superficial, unrealistic image the bodyboarding industry has created for itself?

How old was Tom Morey when he developed the Morey “Boogie”? How old are the current upper-level people in the bodyboarding industry? How old is the average surf-shop owner? Age does matter.

It’s clear that a significant portion of the bodyboard industry does not care to retain any meaningful connection to how or why it all began in the first place! Sadly, bodyboarding has long ago reached the point where its promoters and leaders salivate on marketing schemes, sales gimmicks, and (gag me) comparisons to “feeder systems used by ball and stick sports” (didn’t most of us run into the surf to get away from all those rules and jocks in colored jerseys?) instead of brilliant, true innovation that is inspiring enough to sell itself? It sure was in the beginning …

Ironically, 15 year old M.B. from Torrance, California said it all sooo well: “The surf market is played out. Just like any other type of fashion, it wasn’t going to last forever. Did Nike mania last forever? No. Did designer clothing mania last forever? No. Did 200-dollar basketball shoe-fetish mania last forever? No. So fellas … it’s either time to innovate, or lose a chance to participate. Sorry … but that’s the nature of fashion! You’re either in the game, or you’re out…”

In the beginning, bodyboarding was far removed from fashion — it was just an exciting new way to intimately experience riding waves, something you could even build at home, an activity that was incredibly fun, all by itself, actually delivering more than it promised … and its future seemed almost limitless.

Even though bodyboards have been around for over three decades — and will continue to be made for many more years to come — perhaps they are nearing the end of a cycle. The brief and changeable record of surfing’s consumer-driven history might lead one to believe that the stage is once again being set for something new to unexpectedly arise…

As with fortune, the future favors the brave… I can’t wait to see what happens next!