Stab Magazine | Vans Puts 50 Years of Footwear Innovation Into Surf Boots
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Vans Puts 50 Years of Footwear Innovation Into Surf Boots

See also: Boardshorts and booties now 75% acceptable.

style // Apr 12, 2019
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Anyone who pooh-pooh’s surfing in booties has never had a good pair. 

Once you re-adjust your take off (bit more lift needed to stop that traction-coated big toe from catching on the way through) it’s a butter-soft, strapped-in experience till you kick out. Not to mention the obvious warmth (for those of us with extremities lacking in blood flow), ease in which you can clomp over the rocks and money saved on wax. The previous three sentences refer solely to surfing in cool to cold water, as reef booties are a different beast entirely. We’ll get to that.

What you do need to know is that Vans have just put their 50 years’ skate shoemaking experience into developing the most aesthetically pleasing pair of cold water booties we’ve come across, and, a pair of reef slips that may just herald a new dawn of surfing in the tropics – one geared towards performance and protection from the reef. 

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How to make your boots stand out from the 252 others on the market with one wavy stripe.

Cold-water booties come in liquid-dipped dreams with limited lifespans (put a toe through my fav pair not last week), and industrial-strength uglies that feel all too like surfing in trainers. The Vans Surf Boot, however, is the perfect middle ground, with the touch of a much flimsier boot, combined with the durability of something more robust. The tech comes from Vans formidable skate R&D, with the waffle sole being reimagined (and significantly thinned) to make them grippy without denying a man (or woman) the ability to shuffle, and, most importantly when it comes to rubber boots for surfing: board control. 

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DR doesn’t endorse products he doesn’t use. See this recent rendition of the (still) wildest backhand blow tail in surf for proof of practicality.

Although when it comes to the act itself we don’t mess with anything that doesn’t perform, we can’t leave without touching on appearance. It would’ve been all too easy to go the gimmicky route and make them all checkered, or make them look like a pair of Old Skools, but you can tell that Vans put ample thought into this venture. What they’ve come up with is a high-functioning pair of booties that are unmistakably Vans, but won’t make you feel like a peacock when you’re surfing somewhere you mightn’t want to draw attention to yourself. The checkered ankle detailing, wavy stripe and iconic red Vans tag are subtle enough to sneak past grizzly locals, but make it clear that you’re surfing in a pair of Vans. Surfing, in Vans. 2019.

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No staph here.

It’s absurd that we’ve winced our way across reefs, slicing our feet to bits in the name of vanity for so long. Facing that horrendous creep across the reef on dark (greed having prompted you to stay for ‘one more’), unable to see what brand of coral your placing your milky soles on with each step, is the scourge of surfing in the tropics. And, it’s unnecessary. Reef booties are nothing new, and to this day popular with pen pushers enjoying two of their four weeks annual leave surfing mid-tide Ulus (and feral Indo dogs who rip and have previously danced with staph), but they look heinous on a wave.

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Not gunna lie and say the surfy shoes don’t slightly mess with the clean lines of Wade’s black beauty, but they’re far from offensive. This idea is the reason you see guys surfing in short-arm arms and booties (Bredon Gibbens et al). It comes down to performance. It may not be aesthetically pleasing but if it makes you surf better, does it matter?

Vans haven’t clicked the fingers and solved the age-old Indonesian fashion conundrum. There’s still something about trunks; bare legs; rubber shoes that’s a little jarring. It’s just a little too close to rock climbing attire (imagining a pouch of chalk hanging off Wade Goodall’s belt isn’t a push). However, they’ve certainly opened a larger reef boot conversation with the practicality and meticulous design of their warm water daps. It’s interesting to note that Sir Reynolds was on the trip where the images of Wade were shot, and yet no photos of him in the boots landed in our inboxes. Food for thought.

But, innovation isn’t always pretty. Or obvious. Entrepreneurs are always pushing the status quo. Personally, I would never have believed I’d rent someone’s bed and pillow or jump in a stranger’s car. Both ventures, a decade back were an obscene thought. Now, Lyft and Uber are our go-to transportation options, and the luxury of an Airbnb versus a mid-range hotel is undeniable. And, when did the tote bag become an acceptable accouterment of a man’s shoulder? They’re handbags! 

Ultimately, it’s illogical that companies who don’t produce shoes have been coating our feet in the surf for so long. Feet are such unique and precious parts of the anatomy (have a look at the shape of yours right now and you’ll be a little more forgiving of your booties filling up with water after 45 minutes) that it takes years of experience to understand the logistics of allowing such a marvel of mechanics to operate fully whilst enclosed. Vans know feet and they certainly know shoes.

We welcome their knowledge and innovation to the world of surf footwear with open arms.

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No further words necessary.

The Vans Surf Boots drop at selected accounts tomorrow, keep an eye on Vans Surf for a full list of stockists.

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