Key learnings from the 2016 STATE OF SURF event

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On Wednesday, November 16, TRANSWORLD BUSINESS and GroupY brought to life the first-ever STATE OF SURF event. Each year, TRANSWORLD BUSINESS releases our STATE OF SURF report; we work with a third-party data collection agency to gather all the facts imaginable about the surf market and its participants, for the most comprehensive snapshot of surfing at the moment.

This year, we decided it was time to switch up the recipe, to go above and beyond. We partnered with GroupY on a mission: bring the STATE OF SURF to life. Lift it from the pages of an annual report, and present an analysis to continue the discussion with our fellow surf community.

With help from Duckfoot Brewing Company and Best Pizza and Brew, we provided the cold hard facts, cold tasty brews, and grub to a crowd of 100-plus attendees.

Taking place at the TEN Carlsbad office, the event featured an industry panel with the likes of Mark Price, CEO of Firewire, Pat O’Connell, Hurley VP of sports marketing, and Damien “Dooma” Fahrenfort, General Admission marketing director, moderated by Greg Weisman, partner at Ritholtz Levy.

With more than 50 combined years of experience in the surf industry, and differing opinions and worldviews, the panel was able to dive into the data we provided, and really take a hard look at what’s occurring in the surf industry. The panel covered wide-ranging topics, from participation rates and the emergence of the women’s surf demographic, to online sales and how to unite the industry under common goals like sustainability and future participation in the Olympics.

Mark Price eloquently broke it down for the group: “We’re about to face a consolidation of our industry. It should have happened a long time ago, when the economy was in a slump; instead, private equity groups came into the picture and saved some companies that didn’t need saving. I think we’re about to see a pause in growth, and I don’t know when, but we are going to see some companies go away. The consolidation is way overdue, and it’s going to happen.”

When asked if he was tailoring more of his products to the core woman surfer vs. fast fashion, Hurley’s O’Connell agreed wholeheartedly: “Yes, one hundred percent.” Hurley has seen success working with team rider and WSL Women’s World Champion Carissa Moore designing a custom bikini and apparel in 2015. “It was really fun for our team to get to do something that was different… There’s so much opportunity there.”

Following the panel, our keynote speaker Rob Machado took the floor.

In a candid interview with GrindTV and TRANSWORLD BUSINESS General Manager Aaron Carrera, Rob talked about how he got into surfing, what it continues to mean to him, and how the development of social media and other technologies has affected not only his professional outlook, but his personal one as well.

Machado discussed his decision to leave Channel Islands—which he didn’t take lightly— and his respect for Al Merrick, who he had been working alongside since age 15. He also shared his excitement on his next chapter working with the team at Firewire.

“I worked with Al for so many years and he taught me so many aspects of board shaping. He just made magic. Al had that ability.”

It’s no secret that Machado has dedicated much of his career to advocating for sustainable practices, in both business and lifestyle. His new alignment with Firewire allows him to extend that passion into building boards. When asked about the overall inclusion of sustainability into the surf industry, he explained it’s not a matter of if, but rather “just a matter of when.”

“I think the question everyone always has is, ‘Well if you sacrifice in the build, and have to go to sustainability, is it going to affect performance?’ That’s always been the question, and I think that’s being proven now. There’s a lot of manufacturers diving into that realm, and they’re proving to the general consumer, ‘Oh, my board feels great.’ It just takes a little bit of time, and opening and expanding your mind to get used to something else— and that it might be better.”

The first-ever STATE OF SURF event was a huge success, and we at TRANSWORLD BUSINESS look forward to hosting many more of these events. Thanks to everyone that came out and supported last night, and a special thank you to Group Y, Duck Foot Brewing Company, and Best Pizza and Brew in Cardiff.

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