Board shorts. Sandals, Graphic shirts. Bleached hair — These pretty much sum up what a surfer style is like. And with one out of ten Aussies sporting this fashion, the popularity requires surf brands to continuously create products to cater to the high demand.
Australia is one of the largest and greatest surfing countries, that’s why three of the biggest surf brands are established here. For decades, Billabong, Rip Curl, and Quiksilver have been distributing surf products to their customers all over the globe. They are brands that made the most impact when it comes to surfer-style fashion.
In this post, you’ll learn more about them, as well as the other companies that have also made revolutionary surf products. We’ll also let you in on stories of how they achieved success and the causes of their downfall.
What makes Australian-based surf products good?
Surfing is a big part of Australian culture. It’s known as the ultimate surfing destination because of the massive swells coming from Antarctica to its coastline.
Approximately, there are 2.5 to 3.5 million active surfers in Australia today. 420,000 of them are professionals and participants in events and competitions. Looking at these numbers, it’s no surprise why there are a lot of Australian-based surf stores. With that much target market, there’s a lot of room for product development and distribution.
However, the real reason why the biggest surf brands started in Australia is because this is where the surfer style fashion was practically born. They were the pioneers of the trend, so they already know the needs and wants of their demographic target — the youth.
For the quintessential surfer, fashion is important. But at first glance, you wouldn’t know that because of how their clothes and accessories are often put together.
Surfer style started in the ‘90s when surfing became mainstream. This fashion trend focuses more on the basics, the more casual and comfortable, the better. The goal is to look effortless and cool at the same time.
Usually, this consists of tees or hoodies paired with board shorts, sockless Vans (barefoot optional), and a pair of colored sunglasses. To put it bluntly, a basic surf style outfit is like pieces of clothing that you just randomly pulled out of your closet and then decided to wear one day.
In Australia, surfer fashion is a commodity. The brands saw the need, so they expanded their products to create water sports equipment and accessories for surfing, skateboarding, etc. Today, the top three brands also manufacture surfboards, snowboards, wetsuits, leashes, footwear, and many more.
The Best Australian Surf Brands
The following are brands that surfers worldwide have relied on for many years. Their products have always made people look and perform their best. Here are the Aussie surf-style favorites! (This list is in no particular order.)
- Rip Curl
- Mambo Graphics
- Ocean and Earth
Did you know that a former Rip Curl employee co-started this brand, and he made the first Quiksilver boardshorts in the Rip Curl factory itself? The guy we’re talking about was Alan Green. Along with him are surfers Doug Warbrick and Brian Singer, and they started one of the top brands in the world for surfing and skateboarding outwear — Quiksilver.
This surf brand was established in 1969 in Torquay, Australia, but is now based in Huntington Beach, California. They were initially known for selling wetsuits and boardshorts, but later on, expanded to selling other surf-related accessories like footwear and eyewear.
Quiksilver has a long list of sponsored athletes, but their most notable rider and the one that marked history was their partnership with 11-time World Champion, Kelly Slater. For over two decades, Slater rode with Quiksilver and helped promote the brand. However, they had to part ways when Slater decided to establish his own company, Outerknown. It’s an eco-friendly and sustainable brand that’s in line with his ethical values.
Quiksilver was known as the epitome of beachwear for the longest time — however, in 2015, things started to go down south. The brand’s downfall started in 2005 when they bought the French brand Skis Rossignol for $560 million, but later sold it after three years for only $50 million.
In 2015, Quiksilver filed for bankruptcy in the United States because of too much debt. A year after that, they started to get back on track once again when the company was bought by Oaktree Capital Management. Quiksilver was also able to buy out Billabong, and today they share the same distributor, Boardriders, Inc.
“Life’s Better in Boardshorts” is the tagline of the surf brand that dominated the Australian market in the 1990s — Billabong.
This company was established in 1973 by ex-Maroubra surfer, Gordon Merchant, and his wife, Rena. Together, they created the most sought-after boardshorts using a special triple-stitching technique.
Because of their boardshorts’ durability, their local sales in Gold Coast, Queensland went up. This ultimately marked their brand, and by the 1980s, they were able to export their products to other countries.
Billabong is one of the best brands from Australia, hence why it was dubbed as the “New Nike”. Aside from boardshorts, Gordon also developed a revolutionary surfboard with a tucked-under edge and the first-ever leg rope. They also expanded their brand by distributing skateboarding and snowboarding products.
The success of Billabong went on for many years. They bought out the brands Tigerlily, Kustom, Von Zipper, Xcel, Element, and Plan B Skateboards. They also sponsored the best surfers, like Wayne Bartholomew, Joe Engel, and Taj Burrow. Billabong also hosted the biggest surf competitions, such as the Billabong Pro contest held in Jeffreys Bay, Tahiti, and Teahupo’o.
However, this surf brand’s journey wasn’t always smooth-sailing. In 2012, they declared a $300 million net loss when 150 of their stores closed. The following year was worse when they had a net loss of $860 million.
Things started to look up again for Billabong when they started earning their net income of $25.7 million in 2015.
Known as ‘The Ultimate Surfing Company’, Rip Curl is a surf brand that stands the test of time. Unlike its rivals, this company managed to keep the business without facing bankruptcy after so many years. What’s their secret?
According to owners Doug Warbrick and Brian Singer, the key to their brand’s success is by staying rooted — both in making the best surfing products and supporting the sport.
Rip Curl was established in 1969 and became the first major surf brand from Australia. In the beginning, they only produced surfboards. But after a year, they also started manufacturing wetsuits. Their most innovative product was the ‘Flashbomb Wetsuit’, which won the award ‘Wetsuit of the Year’ three times in a row.
This surf brand’s sponsored athletes only consist of the best. Riders that were signed with them are Mick “White Lightning” Fanning, Bethany Hamilton, Tyler Wright, Gabriel Medina, and Mason Ho, among others. Rip Curl also organizes sports events such as Rip Curl Wake, Rip Curl City Slam, and Rip Curl SurfSkate Festival.
In 2019, they celebrated their successful 50 years in the business. They opened up 61 stores in Australia and New Zealand, 94 in South America, and 29 in North America.
Roxy is the first of its kind. It’s a surf brand that sells products exclusively for women.
Launched in 1990, Roxy is Quiksilver’s take on women’s fashion in and out of the water. Their products consist of surf apparel and accessories like hats, backpacks, beach towels, and sunglasses. Roxy’s breakthrough in the market was when they launched their women’s boardshorts.
Because of the unexpected need for women’s surf clothing, Roxy reached a total of $1 million in sales upon its release. In 1992, they underwent a brand expansion, and a year after that, their trademark heart logo was created.
Roxy also launched their other product line, Roxy Girl, Teenie Wahine, and Roxy Room. One of their career milestones includes their debut in the New York Fashion Week in 1996. That same year, they also won the award ‘California Rising Star Award’ for their innovative products.
Lisa Anderson, ASP Female World Champion, was Roxy’s first brand ambassador. Other sponsored athletes include Stephanie Gilmore, Keila Moniz, and Rosy Hodge. In 2003, they collaborated with MTV in filming ‘Surf Girls’, which helped put the limelight on women surfing.
Surfer-style fashion wouldn’t be complete without the Mambo Graphics.
Founded in 1984 by Dare Jennings and Andrew Rich in Alexandria suburbs, this 38-year old Australian surf brand gets their product inspiration from art, music, and all things surfing like parties, gnarly waves, and endless road trips.
Mambo is known for their best-selling product, the ‘Loud Shirts’, which is made in collaboration with different artists, including Reg Mombassa. Other products created by their designers include ‘Call of the Wild’ and ‘Real Wrestlers, Real Wrestling’. Apart from the shirts, this surf brand also manufactures wetsuits, accessories, scooters, etc.
Mambo Graphics, formerly known as 100% Mambo, is mostly available in surf shops in the UK. The demand for surf clothing pushed them to create their first pair of boardshorts designed by Paul Smith.
In 2000, this surf brand was asked to design the Australian Olympic team’s uniform for the opening ceremony. Another notable achievement of Mambo was when the Principle named it ‘Australia’s Sixth Most Authentic Brand’, along with Billabong.
Next, we have another Sydney-based company that specially caters to women’s fashion. Although Seafolly isn’t exactly referred to as a surf brand, they have a collection of surf and wetsuits for the spring and summer seasons.
This brand was founded in 1975 and is known as a maker of swimwear and beachwear for women and girls. Their name was popularized by their ambassadors Miranda Kerr, Behati Prinsloo, and Gigi Hadid.
Ocean and Earth
Finally, we have the only privately-owned surf brand on this list — Ocean and Earth. This local brand is one of the oldest surfing brands and one of the first to create surfboards in Australia.
Ocean and Earth was founded in 1978 by Brian Cregan and his partners, who expanded their market throughout New South Wales and Southern Queensland. The brand started out as producers of basic products but made their brand known for their surf accessories.
Their breakthrough in the market happened when they introduced ‘The World’s Strongest Leash’, a fully molded leash that is used by the World Surfing League’s most elite riders.
Ocean and Earth’s success brought them to sponsor junior surfing competitions, such as ‘Teenage Rampage’ and the ‘Ocean and Earth Pro’ that’s held annually in the Canary Islands.
The Rise and Fall of Surfer-Style
Fashion trends come and go due to the constant changes in lifestyle and demographic targets. Since the surfer style’s core market was mostly focused on young adults when they started, this fashion trend became less popular when the customers aged after 10 years. Simply, the now-adult customers didn’t perceive the fashion sense as cool as before.
Wearing bikinis and outfits like someone just got out of bed lost its spark and popularity. After some time, this style was replaced by an unconventional trend known as ‘hipster’.
The year 2010 marked the downfall of the surf-style era, which led to the severe loss in revenue of the major surf brands. Billabong and Quiksilver, brands that used to dominate surf clothing and spend millions of dollars in sponsoring athletes and surf events, closed numerous stores and filed for bankruptcy.
But since fashion reinvents itself every 20 years, surfer-style is slowly finding its way back to retail. In 2019, the luxury brand Chanel launched its couture take on surfboards, so it looks like this nostalgic style will be back on the mainstream radar soon.
The 7 Australian surf brands above paved the way in promoting surfer-style fashion globally. They also made a huge impact in the industry by organizing surf events and competitions and supporting the career of some of the best surfers. Among the brands that pioneered in manufacturing surf equipment and clothing are Billabong, Rip Curl, Quiksilver, and Mambo Graphics.
If you liked this post, we’re sure you’ll also enjoy this article about the best surf brands in the world!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Which surf brands from Australia are for women?
Roxy is a brand that sells surf products exclusively to women. It’s a subunit brand of Quiksilver, which is also known as one of the biggest surf brands in the world. Another Australian-based brand that manufactures women’s springsuits is Seafolly.
Q: Who are the sponsored athletes of Australian surf brands?
Most well-known surf brands are established in Australia. Some of the members and professional surfers that are known to ride for them are:
- Kelly Slater (Quiksilver)
- Wayne Bartholomew (Billabong)
- Taj Burrows (Billabong)
- Bethany Hamilton (Rip Curl)
- Mick Fanning (Rip Curl)