Behind The Lines: Catch Surf President On Launching Apparel

The Catch Surf crew at Surf Expo January 2012

The Catch Surf crew at Surf Expo January 2012: VP of Marketing Chris Monroe, Founder and President George Arzente, and  Sales Reps Ricky Miller and Ryan Savage.

Based out of San Clemente, California since day one, Catch Surf has been producing surfboards for four years after getting its start with shaper Tom Morey and the Surfboards by Y line. As business began to pick up for the start-up brand at core surf shops and smaller, fashion-forward boutiques, Founder and President George Arzente says he was hearing a large demand for more from accounts.

“Through our significant growth, fans of Catch Surf started asking for other ways to support the cause besides just riding our boards,” says Arzente. “We started with Tees and hats, and it has quickly evolved into our own full-blown line, 100% designed by Catch Surf.”

Arzente has been ramping up the design and production of the collection over the past year, launching a line of hats and graphic T-shirts last winter and preparing for the debut of its inaugural line of wovens, boardshorts, and hoodies, which hit retail May 1. The first few seasons will target select and boutique surf shops such as So Cal’s Jack’s, Thalia, and Univ, as well as high-end fashion retailers Ron Herman, Fred Segal, and American Rag, to name a few.

We met up with Arzente and the crew at Surf Expo to discuss the the inception of the brand, and the details behind the launch of its new apparel collection, including utilizing U.S.-based factories for production.

Catch Surf
Catch Surf
Catch Surf
Catch Surf
Catch Surf
Catch Surf
Catch Surf
Catch Surf
Catch Surf
Catch Surf
Catch Surf
Catch Surf
Catch Surf
Catch Surf
Catch Surf

George, tell us how the brand got started?

I moved out to Laguna Beach, California from New York City and took a year-long hiatus—did nothing but surf. I was doing real estate development at the time and my passion was definitely stronger toward surfing. So I decided to go with my gut and start a surf company versus start a new real estate project. The rest is history.

Explain the inspiration behind the boards you make and how you began working with Tom Morey?

Our first boards were designed by Tom Morey, under the brand Surfboards by Y. I met Tom through the local surf community in Laguna. The boards were true, high performance soft surfboards; a little ahead of their time, but time is catching up. And they are still a core focus of our hardgoods today, with the One and Super One models doing very well. They are unique for their skateboard-like ride. Based on what we learned over the first two summers of marketing the Y Board, the Beater was born. We really didn’t spend too much time being strategic on the Beater.  We simply wanted a cool board that worked no matter what the conditions and was more about carefree summertime beach days than ripping. In our first ads, we used the slogan “Grab Your Towel. Grab your Beater. Head to the beach….It’s Summertime. ” That says it all, and it seems the concept touched people and the Beater has taken off like a rocket over the last two summers. It is our top selling board by far.

Here’s the video that started The Beater Craze:

What influenced the decision to branch out into the apparel side of the market?

From day one, Catch Surf has been more brand focused than product focused. Through our significant growth, fans of Catch Surf started asking for other ways to support the cause besides just riding our boards. We started with Tees and hats, and it has quickly evolved into our own full-blown line, 100% designed by Catch Surf. No blanks, etc., just all our original styling, colors, blocks, et cetera. The response has been beyond expectations.

Our team is a mix of non-surf industry to the ‘bro-est of the bros’…This mix of inside and outside influence has been our strength. So when I conceived our direction for  the line, I wanted to go outside the industry to drive our focus on quality, timeless style with authentic surf roots, and more of a fashion slant. – George Arzente

Catch Surf VP of Apparel Design Mary Shu Zhou and Founder George Arzente.

Catch Surf VP of Apparel Design Mary Shu Zhou and Founder George Arzente.

How did you decide to bring Mary on board?

Our team is a unique mix of non-surf industry to the “bro-est of the bros.” For example, my background is finance from Wall Street. Our art directors were from Madison Avenue. We surf and skate. Marketing and sales are local So Cal surf and industry stalwarts. This mix of inside and outside influence has been our strength. So when I conceived our direction for  the line, I wanted to go outside the industry to drive our focus on quality, timeless style with authentic surf roots and more of a fashion slant. After months of searching, we found Mary, who—like myself—is a native New Yorker, and also a FIT Grad and was Senior Men’s Apparel Designer for Ralph Lauren. She coincidentally loves surf and the beach lifestyle and is very hip and on-trend. I couldn’t have asked for a better designer to help spearhead the new effort. I’m very stoked!

You mentioned Catch Surf is producing some apparel in Los Angeles factories – what are the advantages and disadvantages to that?

We are producing our knits in LA, which is great in speed to market and quality control. Our wovens are being produced overseas. We tried to produce them in LA but  sourcing fabric and [finding] quality factories was impossible, as the entire woven industry has essentially moved to China. We lucked out and found a small, boutique factory to handle our woven needs, and like us, quality is their number one priority. The main advantage is a one-stop shop for wovens, which is non-existent in the U.S. market. The downside is a longer development time.

You said you have about 250 retailers who carry your hardgoods – are you branching out and opening more doors with your apparel line?

Given our apparel’s position as more fashion than pure function, we are branching out to include non-surf boutiques and larger retailers for our apparel. However, our authentic surf roots and in-range pricing makes the line versatile to more diversified surf shops versus those that only carry the big surf brands.

What can we expect from the brand in the next six to twelve months?

We expect to complete full international distribution of our hardgoods, led by the Beater brand of boards. And for apparel, we are taking a more strategic approach and working with select retailers to target our “guy.” The response has been very good, particularly in the more high-end U.S. retail market and Japan.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I’d like to thank our fans, TW SURF, and surf shops for all their support and stoke over the years. Without them, we would not be here. Thank you!