Oakley Have Been in Surf Forever, and They’re Far From Done
I’ll never forget when I got my first pair of Oakley Minutes.
It would’ve been 1999, and visions of Occy, Taj and Bruce wrapped in the oval shades was too much for my ten-year-old self to resist (pretty sure I wangled one of those combined Xmas/Birthday/I’ll pay you back when I’m rich and famous type deals with mum).
That’s the image of Oakley that sits in my mind; Kalani Rob surfing chopes in a pair of Water Jackets, Occy lifting trophy’s with his pupils obscured by iridium Minutes, through to Deano Morisson rocking O on the nose (reportedly for a king’s ransom salary) when it was widely regarded that he was the most technically perfect surfer in the world, and the punkest member of the Cooly Kids.
Heritage brands nearly always have epic tales – that’s what ultimately makes them last – and exploring briefly the history of Oakley in surf unearthed the remarkable O story as a whole. Turns out Oakley founder Jim “The Mad Scientist” Jannard, was a moto X fanatic who wanted to better clutch his hog, so he started out making grips, naming his start-up after his dog.
In the early 80s Jim expanded into making Moto X goggles, which soon bled into Ski Goggles too. ’85 saw the release of the Frogskins, and from there Oakley was everywhere, including on the zincy beaks of some of the world’s best surfers. And they’ve remained there.
The list of World Champs who’ve rocked the O at some stage is remarkable (TC, Parko, Layne, Italo, Gabby, CJ, Mick, Lisa, Occy!) but add in cult free surfing icons like Bruce Irons, Taj, Bobby Martinez, Kalani Robb and a whole hose of others, it’s clear that Oakley’s influence in surf carries more heft than might immediately spring to mind.
And, looking at modern Oakley, you’d be a brave one to bet against their current crop hauling in a few titles between them in the coming years. Kanoa Igarashi, Griff, Julian, Italo, Sage, Ethan Ewing, Kolohe, Jordy, the threats are coming from everywhere in the O ranks.
Kolohe Andino is an all-American who has long been part of the Oakley ranks, and it makes sense, because they’re the perfect fit.
“I’ve ridden for Oakley since I was seven years old, they were actually my first sponsor,” Brother says when we prod him in between events. “To have their support and loyalty throughout my whole professional career is something really special. They definitely have left a big footprint in surfing and I am honored to be apart of the team.”
The meaningful heritage brands always come back around, and Oakley are basking in the glow of a Last Dance-led heat wave; Jordan rocking Eye Jackets, Romeos, and Mars Leathers were too much for the hypebeast to ignore. So it’s going to be an interesting next chapter for Oakley. What to do with their trend resurgence is up to them. One that is for certain however, is that Oakley’s going to remain a committed force in surf. Who steps up to be their next World Champ or freesurfing dark horse is something we’ll be watching closely.
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