Salty Crew: Salvaging the Beach Lifestyle for the Next Generation

CJ Hobgood, Rocky Point
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Formed During a Transformative Time for the Surf Industry, San Diego’s Salty Crew Looks to Unite Authentic Ocean-Lovers

San Diegans and brothers Jared and Hayden Lane, retail veteran Milo Myers, and professional surfer CJ Hobgood came together several years ago with a common bond.

“Our industry had moved away from the beach— everyone saw that and related; they took ownership in that,” Hobgood says.

What started from a humble ambition to bring the industry back to its core, has turned into a brand that is now poised for growth on a larger scale. Salty Crew, a start-up emerging with stickers and T-shirts, has broadened its offering lately, and made its way into well-known core retailers on the West Coast. With a message that unites anyone and everyone who enjoys spending time in the ocean, it seems the brand is beginning to build recognition beyond its SoCal roots.

Enter industry vet Tom Ruiz, who has informally been a part of the Salty discussion since the early days. Ruiz formerly spent 16 years as EVP of Sales at Volcom and most recently, 2 years as VP of Sales at Depactus. In November, the brand announced that Ruiz had officially joined Salty Crew as partner and sales directora move that has Co-founder Jared Lane optimistic. Lane sees Ruiz’s wisdom as invaluable to the young, growing brand, and a guiding factor in implementing structure and planning into the family-run and operated business.

“The brand’s sell through and acceptance into the market place has been amazing, so we are excited to bring one of the most qualified sales directors on board to make sure that our accounts are getting the support they need,” Lane says.

With that in mind, we talked with Ruiz and Hobgood recently to hear first-hand how they hope to reshape our industry’s mindset, and their business plans moving into the New Year.

Can you give us the story of how Salty Crew got its start? When, where, who, and what inspired it into being?
CJ: Whether it was our friends in the industry who lost their jobs, or me and Kelly sitting around on Tour going ‘well we know why we don’t have stickers on the nose of our boards,’ our industry had really reached a crossroads. It was a fun time if you looked at it the right way. Other companies saw that and knew the scales needed to be tipped to create some sort of balance. Every company was our biggest supporter, which for me was so humbling.

Two years ago at Fiji, I sat at the WSL booth and told the world that, after 5 years, I have a major sponsor, and I’m partners with like-minded individuals who want to encourage our industry to get back to the beach, and take care of the salt. Salvaging A Lifestyle for Tomorrow’s Youth, or S-A-L-T-Y. We want to encourage everyone to get back to the beach when there’s waves, when it’s flat to fish and dive, and if the wind picks up, sail—but never get out of the water. That story has and will never change for us. We want that to be a microcosm for the industry, too, and I really see that happening everyday.

We want to encourage everyone to get back to the beach when there’s waves, when it’s flat to fish and dive, and if the wind picks up, sail—but never get out of the water. That story has and will never change for us. We want that to be a microcosm for the industry, too, and I really see that happening everyday.

salty crew
Salty Crew’s newest member, Tom Ruiz.

Tom, congrats on the new role. How did you first get connected with Salty Crew and what inspired the move from Depactus?

Tom: Milo [Myers] and I have known each other for many years. About two years ago, Milo called me and asked if I could meet with him to discuss what they had been working on. I met Milo and he introduced me to Jared Lane and they introduced me to Salty Crew. I was very intrigued on the brand’s story and also motivated by the passion these guys were expressing.

It was unique to the industry, it was different from everything else old and new, and it was simple. I was a fan of Salty Crew from the start.

After working on Depactus for a couple years we had done a fantastic job in a very short amount of time of placing the brand and delivering great product to the market. Unfortunately, we came to a cross roads in our business and there was a need for restructuring. This allowed me to reach out to Salty Crew and talk with Milo and Jared. The rest is history and I’m stoked! It feels like it was always meant to be.

What sort of opportunities do you see with this brand in your new position?

Tom: The immediate opportunities that exist for us will be to leverage our sell through and start to increase our foot print in the existing account base, build on our outdoor/fishing business, fill the line in with missing categories, grow our international business, and start thinking and planning further out.

Tom, what are the first key initiatives you are going to be tackling as a sales director? 

Tom: Number one will be filling in a few territories with sales reps, tune up our reps and sales operations, have our first sales meeting for Fall 16, attend the Agenda show, show at our first Surf Expo, look at international opportunities, put Holiday 16 to bed, start on Spring 17, and then get on the road and get in front of our retail partners as much as possible. It never ends.

"...Doing things backwards (old school) and changing mind sets is the best way to tell our story. Think Quik and Rip Curl when they first started, or even Volcom," says CJ Hobgood.
“…Doing things backwards (old school) and changing mind sets is the best way to tell our story. Think Quik and Rip Curl when they first started, or even Volcom,” says CJ Hobgood.

What specialty retail doors are you already in, and are you looking to expand this reach over the next 6 to 12 months? Any key regions?

Tom: We are in most of the key specialty retailers, i.e. Surfside, HSS, Hobies, Val Surf, Spyder, Sun Diego, Jacks, Hanger 94, Hansen’s, Surfride, Nor Cal, Pac Wave, Tactics, IWS, Aqua East, 17th St., Ron Jon, and Fast Forward. We are also in some great outdoor/fishing centers like Melton’s, Dana Landing, Fast Lane, and for 2016 we plan on opening doors with West Marine Sand and other key fish, dive, and sail doors.

We would like to continue to grow within our existing accounts by increasing door count and in-store foot print. We will continue to reach into the outdoor and fishing markets as this market continues to embrace the brand. As we build into these markets, it will allow us to expand into new territories like the Rockies, Midwest and Canada.

From a marketing standpoint, how do you plan to tell Salty’s story in 2016?

CJ: There’s a balance, but doing things backwards (old school) and changing mind sets is the best way to tell our story. Think Quik and Rip Curl when they first started, or even Volcom.

We have Kacey Curtis, Willy Morris, Milo, Jared, Nathen Hedge, Jason Ratboy Collins, and now Tom. For me, that is the Salt of our industry. My hope is we don’t have to use words to tell our story, but instead people will just see it.

What tradeshows will you guys be at?

Tom: We will be attending Agenda Show in Long Beach, booth# i1, and Surf Expo, booth #718. We are also looking at other national shows that are brand appropriate.

As it relates to athletes, my purpose in life is to go from an area of selfishness and success in surfing which I’ve done my whole life, into an area of purpose and giving back to all the people that allowed me to live my dreams.

Can we expect you to bring on any key ambassadors in the near future? Can you share who?

CJ: As it relates to athletes, my purpose in life is to go from an area of selfishness and success in surfing which I’ve done my whole life, into an area of purpose and giving back to all the people that allowed me to live my dreams. So of course my dream is to come full circle sponsor kids have them make it on the CT and win world titles live their dreams. At this point, that is my dream. I’ve never stopped dreaming.