"If You Want To Succeed, Put Your Soul On The Line" - Stab Mag

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High-quality surf products will sell themselves, and draw team-riders who respect integrity. Creatures of Leisure founder, John Malloy. A 'no bullshit' kind of guy.

“If You Want To Succeed, Put Your Soul On The Line”

Jake ‘Snake’ Paterson, Pipe master, back-to-back J-bay winner, and super coach reflects on lessons learned from John Malloy, Founder of Creatures.

features // Oct 21, 2021
Words by Ethan Davis
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Mick Fanning, Steph Gilmore, Italo Ferreira, Rasta, Rob Machado, Taj Burrow, Jake Paterson, Harrison Roach, Ethan Ewing, Griffin Colapinto, Chris Ward, Clay Marzo, Bronte Macaulay. In its 30-year history, Creatures has assembled one of the most incredible surf teams in history operating out of a small workshop in Yallingup.

As an accessory brand, Creatures has not counted on crazy amounts of cash to build their team. They have relied on the quality of their products to draw their team of superstars who have been proud to endorse hardware products they actually believe in. The man who founded it, John Malloy, is nearing 70 and no longer leads the brand, but his legacy of hard work, passion, pride, loyalty, resourcefulness, and attention to detail has left stark impressions on those within his orbit.

Jake ‘Snake’ Paterson once worked in Creature’s small factory at Yallingup as a youth, trying to scrape together a few extra bucks to fund his QS campaign. Below, Snake talks Creatures and the great mind behind it.

Jake in the box. Photo by Bryan Hughes.

Stab: How did John Malloy assemble one of the greatest surf teams in the world as a yank living in Yallingup? What was it about his character and brand that was so attractive to top-level surfers?

Jake Paterson: It was a timing thing for his brand. John’s point of difference in everything he does is quality. Quality always seems to win over people. More so than money or marketing. Everyone can appreciate good quality. He ended up with Rob Machado, Mick Fanning, Steph Gilmore, the list of superstars that went to this accessory brand was crazy. 

Those folks were making silly money. With Creatures I think the appeal was that they got to endorse a product they actually believed in. Not just because they were being paid to. John certainly wasn’t paying them a shit load. John relied on the quality of his products to draw a market and build a team. He worked his ass off to make sure everything was perfect, everything was obsessively researched and designed, and the waves of west Aus were the perfect place to put his creations to the test. The best waves in the world, if I do say so myself…

A star-spangled lineup draped in iconic noughties fashion. 2006′.

You and your old man used to work with John Malloy. What was he like to work with?

John was always very upfront. He was great for my surfing career. On the first day, he grabbed me and told me not to fuck up, from then on in it was smooth sailing. 

He liked to send a shot over the bow to start with. He expected hard work, and in return, he gave you everything. He pretty much ended up managing me and my surfing career. No one had a manager back in those days, and I wasn’t earning much money, so he helped me negotiate with Quiksilver to get around to contests. This is a time when the major surf labels only made one product and I was sponsored by Quiksilver, Ripcurl, and Ocean and Earth at the same time and was still struggling to make a buck. 

He was like my second dad really. He really took me under his wing and helped me out. 

The humble begins of the Creatures workshop.

What struck me in the video was his obsession with his brand. The attention to detail, and who he chose to form relationships with. Is it fair to say John was obsessed with his work at Creatures?

100%. Anyone who’s built their own business will tell you that you need to obsess. With John he always backed the team-riders he liked personality-wise more than purely based on surfing. He didn’t like it when people didn’t appreciate getting things for free. He valued people who could see that a relationship should be reciprocal. 

Mick Fanning, for example, was so generous with his time and would call up John from time to time to check-in. That was a 1000-fold better relationship to invest in that some spoilt kid fed with a silver spoon. Taking nothing for granted and being genuine was what he thought mattered. The fact that so many of his team-riders have remained loyal to him over the years is a testament to that. 

Mick and John met more than 20 years ago at a BBQ in WA. He’s ridden for them ever since.

What have you learned from John Malloy?

Work ethic. He was the one who got me training as though I was a proper athlete. His whole thing was healthy body, healthy mind. He put me in touch with this guy who was an ex-Navy SEAL who was working with the Australian cricket team and Steve Smith. He paid for me to go and train with him as part of my sponsorship deal. That’s how I go to such a gnarly, grindy competitor.

John taught me to keep knocking on the door until you jam it open. It’s a principle that applies to the business world too. There are so many ups and downs and sometimes you just have to keep on trucking. 

Alcohol can turn you into a jerk. And life sure is fine when your legrope doesn’t snap.

So the idea that John was just some happy-go-lucky vagabond who stumbled into surf biz isn’t right?

Definitely not. John put his heart and soul into his work. It’s a lesson I tried to pass on to all the surfers I worked with. If you want to succeed, put your soul on the line. No half-heartedness, you’re all in and there shouldn’t be a backup plan.

If you take pride in what you’re passionate about, you won’t feel like you’ve worked a day in your life. Treat it like it’s your baby and nurture it. It’s a teaching that applies to all aspects of life. 

Not a bad spot for a quick lunch break session.

Yallingup is far-removed from the major surf industry hubs, and probably a much more difficult place to operate a surf business. How did it shape the culture and select for the kind of people who worked at Creatures?

To start any business down here is challenging at the best of times. When you consider the additional freight costs and warehousing and everything — it’s a bit of a nightmare. It’s a decision you need to make early on. For John, it was a no-brainer. 

It’s a beautiful place, the waves are amazing, and the people are friendly. People were honored to get work down here. It’s one of the only ways you could work in the surf industry from this area of the globe. Plus, John was just a lovely guy people wanted to work with.

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