Hurley Can Now Legally Rent A Car - Stab Mag

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Two and a half decades worth of World Titles and the most cutting edge gear in the game. Photo by WSL

Hurley Can Now Legally Rent A Car

A quarter-century in the surf game is no small feat.

style // May 24, 2024
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Made in partnership with Hurley.

Surfing’s noughties industrial powerhouses had to adapt to survive. 

Perhaps none so more than Hurley. 

The brand who crashed onto the already-hot scene in 1999; reached the upper-echelons in lightning time; brokered bar-none the biggest takeover deal in surfing history when they sold to Nike in 2002; spearheaded the surfing tech revolution; signed the biggest athlete deal in surfing history (John Florence in 2016); then weathered the blur of crashes, mini-crashes, famines/floods and a plague on all of our houses, to emerge in 2024.

Still here. Still Hurley. 

Countless management changes haven’t prevented Hurley from keeping their grip firmly on World Title races. Photo by WSL

Today, Hurley has (relatively) new owners in the Bluestar Alliance on the east coast, but a big chunk of the OG staff remain working out west (including the ineffable Brett Simpson, who we’ll get to). They still boast one of the strongest men’s and women’s teams in surf (hello, Fil and Carissa), a rock solid legacy of product to pluck from/expand upon, and 2024 marks the brand’s 25th birthday.

“Hurley came into the surf world from a totally different angle than your Quiksilvers and Rip Curls at the time,” says 2X US Open Winner turned Hurley’s head of Sports Marketing Brett Simpson, reflecting on his first impressions of the brand as a teen.

“I was so invested in surf, but it felt like they were almost going a different route. The way they grew was different than most, with connections to artists and great people around the music industry that worked inside the brand.”

Will we see a Hurley sticker aboard the podium in Tahiti? The inclusion of 5x World Champ Carissa Moore in the draw suggests probably. Read our full preview here. Photo by Thiago Diz/World Surf League

Most people would associate Hurley with their years of athletes in stretchy trunks dominating the world tour in the 2010s, but )( had a punk component in the early days that juxtaposed what other brands were doing at the time — including an early association with the second most iconic surf band of all time: Blink 182. 

It was a clear Bob Hurley ploy to set the brand apart in an industry that he knew all too well.

Bob was originally a surfboard shaper, making boards for Wave Tools, Lightning Bolt and others while slowly developing his own brand: ‘Hurley Surfboards/I.P.D’ (International Pro designs). In 1983, Bob saw the way the wind was blowing and decided to license Australian Gordon Merchant’s Billabong, forming Billabong USA. By ’98, Bob and the gang had guided ‘Bong US to sales north of $US70 million. Seeing how hot the industry had become, he decided not to renew the BB licensing agreement, instead chasing those same sales under a different mast: Hurley.

The Hurley output in the proceeding years was diverse and prolific. From the original team of underground Hawaiian heavies like Joel Centeio and Braden Dias, to modern aerial technicians like Tim Curran and then Yadin Nicol. Hurley was American and it was modern and it was gritty. Much like its hometown of Huntington Beach, somewhere that Brett — a 20-year resident and 2x winner of the US Open (held in Huntington Beach and sponsored by Hurley at the time) — knows well.

If you cast your mind back then you’ll remember that Jules here was Stab in the Dark test pilot numero uno, and Hurley, our major partner. Photo: Hurley/Miller

“It’s like this little Mecca,” Brett says about his hometown. “If the industry isn’t thriving here, it’s not thriving anywhere. It’s where a lot of the brains are, and a lot of what’s happening next comes from HB.”

So Hurley was on the rise, and Nike had more money than it knew what to do with. The swoosh had long wanted into surf’s booming cottage industry, having already started sponsoring surfers under their 6.0 shoe offshoot. Then along came this plucky, all-American surf brand from “Surf Mecca” called Hurley — hand, meet glove. 

Take it from the LA Times, at the time. 

“Nike, which has been trying for years to break into the burgeoning market for surf, skate and snowboard clothes, is picking up one of the industry’s hottest brands that last year did about $70 million in business… word of the deal stunned industry insiders, who have fiercely guarded the tight-knit community of hundreds of small companies that have thrived in an anti-establishment culture.”

Wetsuits = infinitely difficult to shoot / 10,000 lemons = very sticky.

Following Nike’s purchase of Hurley, the product got really tech-forward and marketing-savvy. The team got ridiculous(ly good), and eventually, along came John. 

“That’s when we had, bar none, probably the best surf team ever on the World Tour,” Brett says. “Multiple World Champions — John John and Carissa leading into Julian, Kolohe, Ace, Michel, Filipe, Lakey… things evolved and we’ve transitioned to today. Thankfully, we’ve been able to keep a pretty star-studded team.”

Another member of that star-studded team deserving of his flowers was Rob Machado — and the way he was masterfully marketed by Hurley. Parts of The Drifter may not have aged as gracefully as Rob, but it was way ahead of its time in terms of the production value and the sheer breadth of the story that they tried to tell. Rob surfing perfect Desert Point to the sound of that Beyond the Wizard Sleeve Remix of the Midlake song ‘Roscoe’ is burned in my surf nostalgia consciousness. If you’ve got a decent set of headphones/speakers then whack it on an thank us later. 

Jules in one of the countless )( ads we dug up from the (now heritage listed) Stab print desktop.

Then in 2019 Nike got out, and Bluestar got in. But what remained was the history, the gear and much of the team (barring John, who parted ways to sail his own ship in 2020), which Brett says was the key to everyone’s survival during uncertain times.

“I think we did a great job of picking the right people, like Carissa, Filipe, Matahi, Kai Lenny…” Brett says, reeling off the most obvious ones, before continuing down the still-impressive ranks of Hurley’s roster. “The athletes are still very influential from a performance basis, working on wetsuits, boardshorts etc.” 

So you’ve got a stellar team — including two recent World Champs — a mix of new and old talent on staff, and a whole treasure trove of technical gear to reference and re-purpose, in a time when the world’s mad for technical gear.

Gabriela Bryan, just getting started with her 2024 Margs win. Photo by WSL

Unsurprisingly, Brett Simpson’s characteristically enthusiastic about the future of life at  Hurley.

“I’m just passionate about what I do and who I’m working with. Business is one thing, but relationships matter. And they’re very family-centric owners; they get it. It’s been fun for me in this part of my life. I still get to surf a lot in the mornings, and then attack the work day in the afternoons. ”

Hey, that work/life balance birthed the surf industry the first time around. Who’s to say it won’t work again? 

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