Stab Magazine | Here’s how pro surfers spend their millions:

How Surfers Get Paid will drop at 6pm on Friday September 30


Here’s how pro surfers spend their millions:

By Lucas Townsend So, Ocean Mist wasn’t a thing, and as loud as the sigh of disappointment was, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Josh Kerr and Bede Durbidge did start a boutique beer called Balter. Surfers turn to business ventures when they’re not getting hard on property anymore. After the fast cars and designer dogs, a […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 9 minutes

By Lucas Townsend

So, Ocean Mist wasn’t a thing, and as loud as the sigh of disappointment was, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Josh Kerr and Bede Durbidge did start a boutique beer called Balter. Surfers turn to business ventures when they’re not getting hard on property anymore. After the fast cars and designer dogs, a few nice postcodes is disposable income well spent. But to make big money quick is to invest in ideas. To invest in business. And, as professional surfers do, they attract Suits with business nous and a great sales pitch. Next, you have this: business ventures of our daring entrepreneurs that can spin into the black, or spin out of control.

balter-brewing-pale-ale_insetLet’s begin with our catalyst. Balter will be pouring beers by late November out of the Currumbin HQ as their brewing equipment arrives over the next six months. It’ll be open to the public in 2016. Any successful business needs one partner who lives and breathes it. With tour commitments it isn’t one of the four surfer stakeholders. It’s Stirling Howland, former Creative Director at Billabong, who folded everything he was doing into Balter. “Bede came to the boys with the idea last year,” Stirling says. “I got a call from Mick and he asked if I’d like to join. Unknown to the lads, I was off working on my own projects around craft beer, so for me it was a sign.” Scott Hargrave is head brewer and expert. Once a concreter, Scott started making home brew, won awards for his drop, was Stone & Wood’s first employee and is now trialling different batches of Balter at home. It’ll be on tap in selected venues in south-east Queensland at market price, which for craft beer is between $6 to $10 a schooner.
Will it work? In a state where the difference between beer and water is murky, light brown at best, Balter is sure to connect. It won’t be competing with XXXX, but hey, get 0.5% of their marketshare and you’re doing okay. “Man, thats a tough crowd to please,” Stirling admits. “We just want to make great beer and hopefully we can convert even the most hardened taste buds.” They’ve got the branding right: Balter, meaning ‘with enjoyment’, is exactly what the lads had with their mock fragrance launch. “The reaction and comments was hilarious,” Stirling says. “The boys got asked for exclusive distribution, abused on Facebook by cool industry surfy dudes, got high fives, told to kill themselves, a Christmas order for some girl’s granddad, questioned about what the Duke would think, got axed from Fantasy Surfer teams and on and on… There were a lot of misty eyes when they found out it wasn’t true.”

Saint_Archer_BrewSaint Archer Brewing Co.
Our Queensland squad weren’t breaking new ground with beer as an investment opportunity for pros, because Kerrzy’s already partied with the hops! They’ve kinda borrowed the business model. He and Taylor Knox are two of the first with equity in Saint Archer Brewing Co. – a craft beer brewery in San Diego. The business is co-founded by a Taylor Steele-understudy, Josh Landon, who’s like, hell, we drink a lot of it, why not make it? The biz has expanded to 20-odd stakeholders, including Loz Enever, Jack Freestone and Taylor Steele. The brand is gaining traction, 44.5k on IG is a good sign of engagement in only two years. The branding is strong and is connecting in skate, with Paul Rodriguez as great leverage. With social media as the push, and surfers and skaters holding the influence, the merchandise is moving, too. They’re aiming for a second expansion of their brewery to 10,000 feet of space and 55,000 barrels of beer. Klink-klink!

Having this out front of your beach resort don't hurt. Taj Burrow, by Damea Dorsey

Having this out front of your beach resort don’t hurt. Taj Burrow at Keramas, with views by Komune. Photo: Damea Dorsey

Luke Egan: Komune Hotel Chain
Luke Egan’s stake in the Komune hotel chain started with the first property on the Gold Coast and still beats today. It sits just behind the Greenmount Surf Club and is the site of much debauchery and bad decisions year round but man, it’s fun. With business partners Tony de Leeds (Fitness First founder) and Tony Cannon (the gent pouring your beers behind the Komune bar), they bought the 1000m²  property for $6M in 2009 and spent another $3M on refurbs. A little later they bought three hectares of rice fields at Keramas (with two other gents, Andrew Ladd & Adrial Sjahfrin) and began their 66-roomed, Komune Bali expansion. News Corp reports the QLD property was put on the market in February 2014 to unlock some capital. They’re after $15m to expand into the Pacific, and have also been approached by that surf-mad Mayor of Portugal, and a Japanese ski facility, Cannon tells News Corp. Louie’s always been a man of great confidence and has been the surfer to best re-skill since retiring. He’s also productively building Depactus out of the US.

Kelly Slater and the world
If there’s any excuse for Kelly’s slump in competition (excluding Margs, of course) it’s because he’s been a little distracted risking his millions. After buying so many properties that not one can be called home, the business world is the next scalp. Kelly Slater had long been given shares in Quiksilver after signing in 1990, especially once his incentives became too large to monetise. He backed VSTR with Quik but it didn’t make it through the company’s 2013 downsize. Komunity Projekt (surf accessories label) started with Kelly and now operates without him, K Grip struggled, and there’s the Kelly Slater Wave Pool Company, its diagnosis right now is unknown but we’re yet to see a site confirmed in five years.


Outerknown has been growing hydroponic-style beneath the Kering Group umbrella; Kering, in case you’re in the shade, is a French group that floats brands like Gucci, Balenciaga and Saint Laurent, but also Volcom and Electric.

However there’s a lot more promise for his clothing label Outerknown, started with John Moore (M.Nii) and The Kering Group in September last year. Morgan Maassen has photographed the lookbook and product will be released in Fall. Purps, not the Californian weed strain, but a drink, was launched in July with RVCA founder PM Tenore and Dr. Chris Schaumburg. Realising Tenore’s skillset, it’s sure to connect and taps a very lucrative market of nutrient-rich health drinks (remember Curtis Jackson’s Vitamin Water earned him about $400M when parent company, Claceau was bought by Coca-Cola for $4.1B). There’s the most recent Firewire investment, a big money-maker for founder Nev Hyman. Kelly’s been one of the earliest GoPro ambassadors too, long before the brand floated. Not only has his surfing aged perfectly, but it seems his business decisions have as well.


Twiggy Baker in Cape Town, where he owns a rock and roll bar. Photo: Anthony Fox

Twiggy Baker owns a rock and roll bar
It’s called Aces ‘N’ Spades and it’s just off Long Street in the city centre of Cape Town, and big-wave-guy-with-playmate-gal, Twiggy Baker is a major stakeholder. Let’s hand over to Cape Town Magazine for this one: “If your idea of a raucous weekday or weekend night includes serenades by Shirley Manson, then Cape Town’s newest upscale rock edge dive, Aces ‘N’ Spades, is a watering hole worth a visit.”


Kerrzy and Chip… in VNDA.

Josh Kerr, Chippa Wilson and Oliver Kurtz do VNDAwear
In another tab of Kerrzy’s business portfolio, VNDA is an undergarment/ loungewear label. “Everywhere we go, we put on our comfy pants,” Kerr told Transworld Business. “For me, it was these super comfy pants that I used to wear for a coffee run or a nap… But nobody’s doing them right. No one’s doing rad and comfortable underwear/lounge sleep kind of pants.” Kerrzy swung the idea past former team-manager, Ryan Bautista, and the pair hit green in a departures lounge. For funding they turned to Chippa, Oli, Greg Fernandez and Justin Heit (Libre Designs & Raen eyewear) and they all “invested a chunk of money into the brand”, in Oli’s words. It’s all about premium comfort and fashion, a sub-category they need to stick to in order to keep existing sponsors happy. Think Fashion Week, not Surf Factory Outlet. Kerrzy says it was a matter of pulling heads out of the sand to see what our neighbours are up to: “Skateboarders and snowboarders, they’re the best at starting their own brands… and I think surfers have been lacking that a lot, they haven’t real been starting companies for many, many years now since the Gotcha days.”


How do you think Mr Dorian maintains that caramel shade? Even protection from Vertra! Photo: Uh, Shane Dorian, Ireland.

Vertra Sunscreen and Shane Dorian
Here’s one for the cosmetic ventures, Shane Dorian has pocket ties to sun care company, Vertra. Founded by Bobby Higa and Keoni Watson, during the early days of growth the company reached out to Luke Stedman, Jarrad Howse and Nathan Smith among others to raise cash. While the gents haven’t seen a return, the product works and Mick Fanning uses it so that’s got to count for something. Luke’s father, legendary shaper Shane Stedman, fronts up the sales, advertising and distribution in Australia. The US arm of production copped a major setback after the 2011 tsunami in Japan. The factory producing tubes of Dorian’s perfect skin tone was flattened and biz has been trying to recover since.

Taj Burrow’s salad bar
Because making friends with salad is madly in vogue, there’s a small salad bar in North Bondi (and now Alexandria) called Bruce Leaves which is all about healthy meals in real time. It’s local farmers and smoothies and smiles and Taj Burrow is a part-owner. For those who remember the Bumbat Challenge from Sabotaj, and recall the image of Taj destroying the victory cheeseburger, this might be a surprise. But in recent years Taj (via Johnny Gannon) has become far more about that clean eating. And healthy food, made fast, for a demographic of Sydney’s east obsessed with slim, trim and having no time? On point! His business partners are Shane Moran and Liam Constantine, the gents behind Canteen, plus chef, John Mulligan. The lesson here? Surround yourself with savvy folk.

The Mad Hueys and Bruce Leaves’ owner, Taj Burrow, at Luke Egan’s Keramas Komune for the Q-1000 event this week. A meeting of surfer biz ventures! Photo: Scotty Hammonds

The Mad Hueys and Bruce Leaves’ owner, Taj Burrow, at Luke Egan’s Keramas Komune for the Q-1000 event this week. A meeting of surfer biz ventures! Photo: Scotty Hammonds

The Harrington twins and The Mad Hueys
The business world is full of unlikely ideas. It’s also full of unlikely businessmen, and if you told the Harrington Twins they’d be in a successful clothing venture, they’d have told you to farrk orrf. The Mad Hueys, what a beast! Despite first impressions, the fishing/surfing/drinking brand was perfectly niche. It started when the Hazza Twins printed a couple of tees for a fishing comp they entered as The Mad Huis. Then their pals wanted their own and a few extras were printed. After realising the accidental brand was getting traction, the boys changed the spelling to Hueys, figuring they’d avoid any potential grief with Da Hui in Hawaii. It’s since grown to connect with a massive fishing community in the US. Bogan? Sure. Profitable? Fuck yes. Nathan Webster, of RVCA fame, came late to the party but has helped steer the tinny straight. We’re calling success on the operation thus far.

Ace Buchan's book.

Ace Buchan’s book.

Micro Hall’s Surf School
It isn’t hefty sponsorship cheques funding Glenn Hall’s WSL campaign, it’s Micro’s Surf Academy. Yuhuh, when he’s not melting Gabriel Medina’s mind he’s mentoring the next batch out of Avoca on how to do so. It wasn’t too long ago he had a broken back, two children, a mortgage and no wildcard, and while his hand was forced to look elsewhere for dollars, you’ve got to respect a blue collar gent now living the glamorous life.

Ace Buchan’s a novelist
Ace Buchan, like Stab, is a publisher. Although unlike Stab, Ace published a beautiful children’s book called Macka’s Barrel into the Dreamtime. See, Ace is a quiet genius and scored a UAI (University Admission Index) in the 90’s range. So as intelligent people do, they write books and his was illustrated by fellow Avoca Boardridian, Anthony Williams. Fun fact, Ace wrote the first draft in year five at primary school and rescued it from a manilla folder years later. He was also a Junior Editor at Waves Magazine this one time long ago #print.


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