If you ask Jason McCaffrey, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard is a surfer first and a rock climber second. As Patagonia’s Director of Surf, McCaffrey certainly has his own dog in this fight, but his opinion is not without merit. At seventy-five years old Chouinard is still an avid surfer, and his passion for the sport trickles down to his company where a (now famous) flex-time policy continues to allow for mid-day surf breaks at their Ventura, California headquarters. Surfing has long been serious business for Chouinard and his team, but it’s only recently that surfing has become a serious business for Patagonia as a brand.
Patagonia had dabbled in surf for a while, but their path had been choppy until five or so years ago when they really barreled down and went headlong into the world of waves. McCaffrey traces his brand’s current surf push to a few crucial hires, most notably the legendary Malloy Brothers who jumped ship from Hurley over to Patagonia in 2010. The Malloy Brothers are just three of the marquee names that now make up Patagonia’s respectable roster of Surf Ambassadors that have helped to make Patagonia a force to be reckoned within the surfing industry. Patagonia’s surf story wouldn’t be worth telling if all they had was a great team though, and so in typical Patagonia fashion, they’ve built up a mighty collection of surf gear that could impress even the most seasoned of surf veterans.
To showcase their own array of wetsuits and board-shorts, as well as a hand-picked selection of boards and other hardgoods, Patagonia (who full disclosure, is a Paul + Williams client) has recently begun to open up surf specific retail locations. The first shop was opened in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California back in 2006, but shops in Hawaii, Japan, Spain, and Australia soon followed. Despite these exotic locales, the most intriguing Patagonia Surf shop, at least in my opinion, lies right here in downtown Manhattan. Patagonia’s Bowery location, which opened earlier this year, is just the latest stamp of approval from the industry that New York, much like Patagonia itself, has become a veritable force within the surfing community.
McCaffrey chalks the recent wave (sorry, couldn’t help myself) of interest in surfing here in New York to the rise of the internet, as surfing has now been able to reach a much wider array of people outside of the traditional hotspots such as Hawaii, Spain, California, etc. From fashion magazine spreads, to car commercials, to Instagram, from the top-down the culture of cool that surrounds surfing has seeped into our mediascape, and interest in the sport has never been higher. McCaffrey isn’t so sure this level of interest can sustain itself, but he’s certainly happy to be along for the ride, and if it gets more people interested in Patagonia’s products than keep it coming. The Bowery shop reflects this welcoming attitude, it’s a big, bright open shop that at once demonstrates Patagonia’s very approachable surfing selection, and shows just how large this collection has become. The store is the type of all inclusive, one stop shop that this city’s burgeoning surf community needs – it is inviting enough for first time riders, yet packs enough substance to draw in the vets, which is really indicative of Patagonia Surf’s philosophy as a whole. Now all that’s left to do is figure out how to get from the Bowery to the Rockaways and you’re good to go.