Stab Magazine | New Amsterdam Surf Association Is the Hippest Surf Brand Around Right Now
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New Amsterdam Surf Association Is the Hippest Surf Brand Around Right Now

Good garb, good times, crappy surf.

style // Aug 27, 2019
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Surfers, the clothes they wear, the content produced alongside and everything else containing the word “surf” generally comes from the east coast of Australia or the west coast of America, with a pinch from Europe. 

It’s purely demographic, but it inevitably makes for some pretty monotonous campaigns, gear, and for me, writing. Another thing I find tedious is having to spell out my surname. It’s Dutch, but I’ve never set foot in the Netherlands, however, I’ve always felt Dutch. The Dutch people I’ve encountered over the years are always tall and tanned, smart but nicely goofy, seem a bit lost; I feel that when I eventually set foot in the motherland I’ll fit in. Therefore, when I came across the New Amsterdam Surf Association – a hip, Dutch, lightly surf-centred brand based in the capital – it was an irresistible opportunity to scratch my fascination with the flat, windy country, and find out what being a young person in Holland in 2019 is like.

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The realities of being a Dutch surfer.

The New Amsterdam Surf Association is Paul Zeper, a former professional windsurfer with a good sense of humour, even in his second language. When he tells me of his wind-powered background he says “let the hate begin”, and then goes on to explain that as his windsurfing career began to reach a conclusion, regular surfing became a passion. Paul had always liked clothes (no shame in that) and decided to combine surf and textiles and start Dezeep, with NASA as a sub brand. Paul says that he saw more potential in the offshoot, and used it as an excuse to surf more as a bonus.

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R&D with NASA.

“We grew up with all the existing brands and all of them where focused on blue water, palm trees, pointbreaks and bikini babes and stuff,” Paul tells me when I ask which hole he aimed to plug with his brand. “We never get that. Wijk aan Zee (roughly 40 minutes from Amsterdam) is our main break. You have a steel factory in the background, brown water and besides some good sessions its mainly pretty crappy surf. This is what the brand stands for: brown water, always wetsuits, industry and the euro lifestyle.” 

 

Authenticity is an ambiguous term, but the brands that resonate best are often products of their environments that don’t take themselves too seriously. New Amsterdam Surf Association is far from austere and cleverly incorporates the local environment into designing their product. “I look at our own concept and the city,” Paul says on his design process. “The neon colour is called ‘safety green’. As we surf next to a steel factory and in the south next to oil factories and the largest harbour in the world (Rotterdam), you see factory workers always wearing this colour. I guess we are more influenced by fashion and streetwear in the city than ‘surfwear’.” 

 

For the outsider looking in, Amsterdam’s a city of cliches: weed, canals, the red light district, bicycles… Growing up in a liberal city breeds interesting people though, so I’m curious to know Paul’s experience of living and working in the Dutch capital. “There are less than a million inhabitants, so Amsterdam feels more like a town than a city,” Paul tells me. “On one hand it’s super cultural – with its old buildings, canals, museums and stuff – but for everybody under 30 its also the drug capital of the world. That mixture is interesting. Of course people assume that all we do is smoke weed, but I guess if you grow up with it it’s normal and less exciting. I don’t think there is much more drug abuse here compared to other cities, but it’s definitely an experience for young from other parts of the world to come to Amsterdam.”

 

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Laughter is a powerful design tool.

Surf clothing brands don’t get far unless they work out how to sell to the non surfing public. It’s hard enough in countries with rich surfing heritage, let alone somewhere with a small surfing population like Holland. I’ve been following New Amsterdam Surf Association on the gram for a while though, and you can tell things are happening – pop-ups, parties, constant photoshoots – and I’m curious as to who exactly Paul’s consumer is. “The people buying New Amsterdam Surf Association at the moment is 90% streetwear city kids,” he says. “That’s the dream: breaking the stereotype of a the hippy surfer and showing people there are ‘city surfers’ as well. We sell mostly to streetwear and fashion stores as there are almost no good surf shops in Europe besides a few like Sea Sick Surf Shop, Haven and Wasted Talent.”

 

Speaking of things happening, the next phase of New Amsterdam Surf Association is sure to be rife with good times. It’s high summer in Europe, and Paul and his associates are poised to take full advantage. “We’ve got a pop-up planned at Megusta, a high-end fashion store in Utrecht, and the week after we have a pop-up at Lowlands festival, one of the biggest festivals in Holland,” Paul says. “In October we release a new drop with some new styles and probably a pop-up in Belgium. Besides all that we are open to crazy ideas, parties in Amsterdam at Skatecafe, film releases and whatever. If it fits then lets go!” Surfing is what you make of it, and if you look outside the usual channels there’s no end of interesting, talented characters bound together by a love of the ocean, whether that’s the Atlantic or the North Sea. I’m thoroughly looking forward to making myself an honorary member of the New Amsterdam Surf Association when I eventually get around to visiting the country of my great grandfather’s birth.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/349636775

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