Getting Gnarly for Surf Gear Makers: Report

By R. Stickney
|  Thursday, Feb 26, 2009  |  Updated 11:29 AM PDT
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Getting Gnarly for Surf Gear Makers: Report

Pat Durkin

Surfers tend to make their purchases in the spring and summer months. Right now, everyone is holding their breath - from the small surf shops to the giant retailers.

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In the spring and summer months, business picks up for small surf shops all up and down the California coast. In this economy, many are concerned about the uncertain future for the $8 billion surf industry.

Surfline took the time to interview surfers from Windansea to Mitch’s, asking them how they’ve been affected by the economy. Many talked about how job loss or cutting back has impacted their surfing.

“I’m buying a lot less boards,” said 48-year old La Jolla resident JP Dekervor. “I’m not going to heli ride for a while. It sucks.”

That has the surfing industry on edge.

"We're not used to moving backward," Aaron Pai, owner of Huntington Surf & Sport, a chain of four surf shops in Huntington Beach told the LA Times this week. "To be truthfully honest, there's one word on my mind right now: uncertainty."

It’s not just the small shops hurting. Quicksilver, one of the biggest names in action sports, and its CEO consider this downturn “worse than anything we’ve seen.”

A recent report speculated that Quicksilver and several other big surfwear companies could merge just to survive.

Pacific Sunwear’s shares dropped more than 80 percent in 2008 according to the NY Times. The paper quoted the president of the Association of Surfing Professionals as comparing the recession to a tsunami, whose impact is yet to be felt.

Interest is waning as proven at the ASR (Action Sports Retailer) trade show that comes to San Diego’s Convention Center every year. Estimated attendance was down 15% for the January 2009 show from the year before.

There is one advantage to losing a job, or having less business to take up your time. As Ted Cassidy, 43, told Surfline, it opens up more time for surfing. “My pocket could be a bit thicker,” said 43-year old Ted Cassidy. “But in a way it’s been fun here and there.”

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