The Surf Industry is a crazy business. Just when you think you have a hit product, another brand steals your mojo with a hit of their own. It’s a constant struggle for most surfwear brands to stay relevant as the years go by, and many don’t make it. Check out some of the more famous surfwear brands that have passed away.
While these brands may be dead in American surf culture, most have been through a never ending chess match of being bought out or licensed to other larger companies that try in vain to revive them in domestic and foreign markets. All fail miserably of course, and most are in bitter legal disputes over royalties and suffer from other financial woes.
Stubbies – The surf industry was just getting started when brands like Stubbies launched in 1972. Stubbies owned the boardshorts biz in Australia as rugby players, surfers, and well, everyone wore the short shorts (hence the name Stubbies!). The Stubbies Pro surf contests are still considered legendary events that helped develop modern day competitive surfing. As short shorts lengthened in the 80’s, the brand faded from relevance. Today Stubbies is newly licensed to a larger company that aims the brand at the working mans demographic.
Instinct – Founded by South African surf legend Shaun Tomson in 1978, Instinct was huge in the late 70’s through to the mid 80’s. Shaun’s friends and fellow World Champions Tom Carroll and Barton Lynch rode for the brand and made it a huge presence in the surf industry and media. As the late 80’s approached and styles changed, Instinct was no longer in favor by the surf culture. It was relaunched in Europe in 2001 and possibly hasn’t sold a thread since.
Gotcha – Shaun Tomson got his idea to start a clothing label from cousin Michael Tomson who co-founded Gotcha with Joel Cooper at the same time in 1978. Gotcha became way more popular and was one of the main surf industry players with Quiksilver and Ocean Pacific throughout the 80’s. Every hot pro in the surf world seemed to ride for Gotcha including ’89 World Champ Martin Potter and ’93 World Champ Derek Ho. The brand stayed relevant through the 90’s with high profile riders like Rob Machado and young Bobby Martinez but eventually was sold to Ederal Sport Inc.. They are still going through a legal battle with Ederal to this very day.
Jimmy’Z – Founded by SoCal surfer Jim Ganzer in the early 80’s, Jimmy’Z was made famous by their baggy pants and shorts that had a unique velcro waistband closure with bright colors and loud patterns. They sponsored pro surfers and some of skateboarding’s biggest legends like Natas Kaupas, Tommy Guerrero, and Christian Hosoi. As neon and baggy styles drifted to grungy streetwear in the early 90’s Jimmy’Z was donezo. Again, the brand was licensed for a new start as recently as 1999, but holds no retail space in any store anywhere.
Life’s A Beach – This SoCal surf and skate lifestyle brand was huge in the late 80’s/ early 90’s with larger than life pro surfers like Brad Gerlach and Johnny Boy Gomes being on the “Bad Boy Club” team. The Bad Boy Club logo was everywhere for a few years. Today, the BBC portion of the Life’s A Beach brand has been transformed into a MMA workoutwear brand.
MCD – More Core Division started as an offshoot of Gotcha in 1991 and sponsored a host of international rippers throughout the 90’s like Matt Archbold and the late Andy Irons. MCD was a grittier cousin of Gotcha and focused on the more rowdy personalities in the surf world. It was super popular until licensing agreements with Gotcha and other firms destroyed the infrastructure of the brand. It is currently being produced and sold in Brazil.
Counter Culture – This brand started out in Huntington Beach in the early 90’s and focused on the surf/skate/snow scene. It sponsored a few sick 90’s skaters like Anthony Furlong and Mike Frazier, and pro surfers like Dino Andino (Kolohe’s dad), Shea Lopez, and Bobby Martinez. The brand was on the edgier side as the name suggests, and disappeared in the early 2000’s. The brand currently has an awful website (promoting no products) with a few of their old skate ads being the only pages on the site.
Split – This brand started up in the early 90’s and had a fairly good run up through the mid 2000’s. Like most 90’s brands, they tried to copy the successful surf/skate/snow business model originated by Volcom. They sponsored many skaters, but most notably sponsored pro surfers Mikala Jones and Shea Lopez. I guess the brand got bought out by some suckers and is trying a comeback as of late. They have a website and also sponsor one East Coast pro surfer and a skater. Good luck ever seeing any of their gear in a surf or skate shop though.