When we started designing the first Quiksilver boardshorts, we just wanted to make them better than the others. I suppose you could say that was our first mission statement, except that we didn’t know what a mission statement was!
“We” was me and two mates, Carol McDonald from Ocean Grove and Tim Davis from Torquay. It was the start of the last summer of the 1960s; the hippie movement was all over the mainstream news and, in our little world, the summer psyche was all-pervasive. Surfboard design was progressing in leaps and bounds, making them more maneuverable and manageable. Jet travel was almost affordable and you could even run a car, as long as your mates waxed the petrol (or, as in my case, your Nanna gave you wheels for your 21ST!).
Indo was being whispered around, and the best surfers were starting to travel, chasing the seasons. There was a total buzz about surfing, and for me it was quite simple: I wanted to build my life around it. So we made boardshorts.
We sometimes get credited with designing the first “technical” boardshort, but the truth is, we used snaps and Velcro instead of flies because I’d bought a supply of them when I started making Rip Curl wetsuits. (And, although Carol was a bloody good sewer, maybe she didn’t know how to do flies!) The yoke waist, which was higher at the back than the front, was the other difference; they hugged your back and still hung low on your hips. They were distinctive, functional, comfortable boardshorts, and two-toned yokes made them different from the rest. Surfers seemed to like them.
Our first customer in the world was the Klemm-Bell surf shop in Gardenvale, Melbourne, and a few months later, their branch in Torquay. Reg Bell was a good mate of mine, and after rejecting my offer of a partnership in the wetsuit company that became Rip Curl, he felt like he owed me one. Anyway, they sold like stink, and soon I was driving up and down the coast, supplying every surf shop I could find in between surf sessions. It wasn’t a bad life. You made the shorts, you went out and sold them, then you started again. It was a lot easier than it is now!
As the years went by, people came and went. Brewster Everett joined me pretty early in the piece, and he was a vital creative cog in the business. Then John Law joined me in ’76, and we moved into our first proper factory, Jeff Hakman came to town, won the Bells contest and put some drunken proposition to us about starting up in America. And, well, you know the rest. Or you will when you’ve read this book.
Quiksilver has given me a great life so far, and I’m looking forward to surfing, skiing and sharing the good times with Quiksilver people around the world for many years to come. The thing about this company is that it’s never been about one person, not in the beginning, not now. None of us ever believed that the brand should be guided by individual, stand-alone intelligence. Quiksilver has evolved through interaction of a group of five or six people who think globally and act locally and rule the brand through rough consensus. And I mean “rough,” because if you agree with everything that’s going on everywhere, then you’re not contributing much.
Quiksilver is in good hands; I’m sure of that. I’m proud of what we, the founders, achieved, and I know I’ll be equally proud of the road that lies ahead for our brand.