"We Realized Most People Don't Actually Trust A Board Cover From Anyone On The Market" - Stab Mag

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Ample venues for envy-inducing photoshoots exist just down the road from Russell Bierke's NSW home. All photos provided by Ocean + Earth

“We Realized Most People Don’t Actually Trust A Board Cover From Anyone On The Market”

A patent-backed bid for the best travel bag in the game from the South Coast stalwarts at Ocean + Earth.

Words by Holden Trnka
Reading Time: 4 minutes

In partnership with Ocean + Earth for their new Apex board covers, which you can browse here.

Looking across the board, it’s a truism that the surfers riding the best waves at the heaviest venues in the world have an obsession with trustworthy equipment — you don’t put together a Bitcoin-winning Stab Edit Of The Year if your boards are perpetually dinged from a flaccid boardbag and careless airline employees. 

As such, Russell Bierke has been working with fellow South Coasters at Ocean and Earth to develop a collection of patent-backed surfboard transport technologies.

Founded by Brian Cregan (father to Ferrari Boyz mastermind Toby Cregan) and headed by former World #5 Phil Macdonald, Ocean and Earth is a brand steeped in talent, experience, and practicality.

“We’re just authentic surf, and hopefully people appreciate that,” says CEO Phil Macdonald. “About as simple as it comes. At the end of the day, we’re from the South Coast, we’re Australian surfers we’re privately owned. We figure, let’s just be proud of who we are.”

With over four decades of experience lugging boards through airports and contest sites, Phil and his crew have done their 10,000 hours of surf travel. Cultivated in various NSW South Coast garages, O+E was one of the early innovators of using urethanes for leashes — now, they’ve leveled up the board bag game.

“A board bag is probably my key piece of luggage when I travel,” said O & E test pilot Ryan Callinan. “I’m on the road nine months of the year so I spend so much time dragging them through airports, wrapping them around hire cars and chasing waves. With the APEX, I trust that my boards will be in the same condition as when I packed them. That peace of mind is crucial.”

“We were watching all these videos online about packing board bags — stuffing bubble wrap, extra protection, extra padding in your board cover,” says Bart, O+E head of design and production. “We realized that most people just don’t actually trust a board cover from anyone on the market to have enough protection and that’s why they have to add all that extra. Our main goal was to remove the need to actually add any more bubble wrap or padding.”

Considering how many boards we jettison across the planet for our projects, the board bag space is one we’re constantly engaged with. The built in, patented concepts in the Apex line are impossible to overlook — as it completely removes the need to stuff a bag with pool noodles, cardboard, and bubble wrap. With nine prototypes and two years of testing, O+E have created an unprecedented conglomeration of technology, the specs sheet of which spans roughly 42-pages. 

What they’ve dubbed the ‘Protection System’ is two separate components that work together:

  • The Extra Protection System (XPS) is a stiff, structured outer shell positioned in the nose, tail and rail. 
  • The Internal Protection System (IPS) features strategically positioned cushioning pads and compression straps designed to cradle and protect your boards.

“In summary the outside is designed to protect, and the inside is designed to cushion and cradle your boards like a baby,” says Bart.

Other intuitive features include wheels on the correct side of the bag, padded fin pouches, lockable zippers, waterproof ventilation, and a plethora of ergonomically placed handles.

“Surf trips are always a roll of the dice and you can end up doubting your own forecasting abilities,” says Russ. “A new model is always coming in, so your base layer reference will suddenly disappear. But you make the call to go and when you pack the surfboard bag, it feels real. You can’t help but imagine the waves you might score.”

When I call him up, Russell speaks glowingly of the creation. 

“I swear I still get butterflies packing my board bag,” says Russ. “You make the call to go, but it doesn’t feel real until you pack the board bag.

“They hit us up last year about some of the design features. It’s definitely way more functional to carry and way more durable now. For me, it really makes such a difference having handles in different spots on the board bags, plus the wheels are in a much better place and more well designed. Most board bags on the market are standing up on the rail and when the board bag becomes too heavy it just wants to flip over. These one’s are such an improvement.”

Through their entire trajectory Ocean and Earth’s primary concern has been hardware, and it’s served them well.  In the modern ecosystem of venture capital incisions and brand licensing exorcisms, it’s refreshing to see a privately owned brand investing in the definite innovation of their product and supporting culturally impactful surfers.  

Still lighter than the mountains of pool noodles, bubble wrap, cardboard, and extra towels you’d need to create an equivalent setup.

Not to mention — in the same vein as Patagonia’s remarkable wetsuit repair program — the Apex bags have a lifetime warranty.

“We haven’t come up with a lifetime warranty because we just want to give people lifetime warranty,” laughs Phil. “The lifetime warranty is more about sustainability, we wanted to create a product range around how we can become more responsible. We want to build products that last as long as possible. There are certain parts of products that are more vulnerable to breaking, like the zippers on board bags. We’ve designed them so they can be easy to replace or easily repaired. Our lifetime warranty is about sustainability, we’re just putting our money where our mouth is.”

Browse the entire O+E Apex range here

“If you don’t have confidence in your gear it’s pretty likely you won’t have a very good surf,” says Russell. “I’ve put O&E’s products in some extreme situations and have complete faith in them.”

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