Patagonia Surf Makes Waves.


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.




Comments on “Patagonia Surf Makes Waves.

    Jay on September 5, 2014 4:19 PM:

    As an occasional Patagonia shopper, but a lifelong surfer, it pains me to see Patagonia separate their surf business from their traditional business. Surfers are notorious for backlash against others that attempt to co-op their culture – and I fear that a dedicated Patagonia surf shop on the Bowery sends this kind of message. The Bowery being the antithesis of Rockaway surf culture. If surfing really was ‘core’ to the Patagonia and Chouinard ethos – why not open a shop in the Rockaways proper? That would send a much different message then The Bowery. It’s also a community that could really use some retail development. And I’m sure the Malloys wouldn’t be caught dead shopping on the Bowery.

    Dan on September 5, 2014 5:51 PM:

    I am a transplanted New Yorker who lives near the Cardiff Patagonia shop. I surf a bit now, and am fascinated at the (re) discovery of Rockaway and assimilation of surfing into New York City life. The juxtaposition of surfing and the intensely urban character of the city makes for a fascinating combo. It is funny to see the Bowery be considered an avatar of bourgeoise, “anti-surf” culture, since a mere two decades ago, it was dicey to even turn the corner on to the street. Patagonia is a company that does a lot of good things, and is unabashed about trying to make a profit while doing so. It certainly would be wonderful to see a shop at the source in the Rockaways, but Manhattan is where ideas come together, and I think it is terrific to see the clash of cultures emerge downtown. One thing I’ve learned in my nearly a decade in CA is that surfing embodies the good, the bad, and the ugly like any other sport/pastime.

    Viktor on September 6, 2014 5:50 AM:

    I’d prefer if the “full disclosure” would be a little more prominent.

    Seth on September 6, 2014 1:17 PM:

    Agreed. Proper delineation between content and ads is always appreciated. Keep up the great work!

    Rob on September 6, 2014 6:49 PM:

    This “article” has hemorrhaged it’s credibility to the point that all of the spin doctors attached to this project [“article”] can’t save it.
    I am a fan of Patagucci and ACL.
    This is sad.

    Bebe on September 7, 2014 7:25 PM:

    Patagonia’s a private company, and Yvon Chouinard can pretty much do whatever pleases him. I thought the whole board-suit-surfwear push was the idea of son Fletcher. Rarely do I see Patagonia’s boards in the lineup…except for an obvious place like Malibu. Occasionally somebody has one of their wetsuits, but Matuse is also popular if one has lots of funds to shred. I’ve bought Patagonia since it was just Great Pacific Ironworks in Ventura, and still have a hard-used 12-ounce cotton duck long-sleeve hiking shirt from 1979 with ‘nary a rip (and I bought it big to grow into). I won’t expect the same wear from the current severe weather outer wear. The company has moved inexorably towards trends, and away from the “cast-iron” products. The patterns have become more pedestrian, and the use of organic cotton is no longer touted. Nonetheless, good on Patagonia for placing their surfwear stores where there are tourists and consumers who have no use for hard-wearing outdoor clothing, but merely want the label and a lot of thinly stuffed goose down “sweaters” in bright coordinates and cool board shorts in retro Tahitian prints. Surfing is such a localized sport that most of us have our fav local shapers and even wetsuit makers anyway. Patagonia’s thick and thin flannel shirts are still awesome, but I wish the designers would return to the interesting colors and patterns. Even the Pataloha shirts are bland. In spite of the surfwear industry’s major downturn in the past several years, I have no doubt Patagonia will run counter and do well. Still I can’t make my two or three trips up to Ventura with the same sense of pleasure: the vibe’s changed, and no amount of 1% for the Planet will bring it back.

    Michael Williams on September 8, 2014 1:53 PM:

    @Rob We wrote this piece because we like what they are doing with Surf. They didn’t tell us to write it, didn’t pitch it or pay us to do it. Jake and me just like the surf slant, the new bowery shop and everything else they are doing in Ventura.

    We appreciate your feedback here though. We make an effort to be transparent and up front with any biz connections and we are very clear about sponsored content (which this is not). Hope that makes sense. —ACL

    Skenflin McGinty on September 8, 2014 4:07 PM:

    Hate the current iteration commercialization of surfing, but gotta say that Patagonia’s surf trunks, the Wavefarers I think, are probably the best trunks I’ve ever owned and that’s in a class of Quiksilver, Billabong, Birdies and Hurley. If you get them during the (semi?) annual 50% off sale, they’re probably the best value too.

    heprof on September 11, 2014 12:13 PM:

    Interesting to see how the whole surfing focus has evolved for Patagonia. I grew up surfing in the 80’s and worked at a place called “Real Cheap Sports” in Ventura one summer when I was going to college in Santa Barbara. This place was kinda an outlet for Patagonia stuff—lots of seconds and returns. I loved their fleece jackets because you can throw them on before slipping the rest of the wetsuit down your waist, and the jacket stays dry. I still bring along a twenty plus year synchilla jacket when I surf in the winter. Back then, I don’t think they could’ve entered the surf market, at least sell surfboards, because not far away, Al Merrick was shaping insane boards under Channel Islands.

    Now that the surfing market has expanded, I think they can be successful in NYC. I was in their Cardiff store when I surfed Swamis a few years ago and the vibe there caters to beginners unlike a lot of hardcore surf shops. Don’t get me wrong, the folks at Patagonia are among the most serious surfers, having recently met a few at C street. That NYC store might be a way of introducing folks to the sport, but given the waves in that area, I would not have the patience to keep surfing so maybe it’s the culture they are selling more than the gear. If so, spread some Aloha and pay homage to the Hawaiian people!

    PuraKai on September 12, 2014 1:39 PM:

    @Jay As a lifelong surfer as well I understand your thoughts on selling out but I think we need more companies like Patagonia in the surf industry, wherever they are located.

    To me Yvon is one of the greatest entrepreneurs/businessman in the history of our democracy and I believe his give back 1% business model is certainly much better than the likes of public surf companies that sell a ton of surf clothing and give very little back to the surf community.

    It would be great if the companies selling our ocean lifestyle to main street would follow Patagonia’s model and use a part of their profits to protect the ocean/beaches and enrich some of the less fortunate surf communities.

    nebil on September 18, 2014 8:20 AM:

    in Germany we have also some Patagonia shops (due to patagonia hype), which are very expensive and doing only very professional and unprofessional job. earning money = professional, serve and keep the customers happy = unprofessional. HYPE………

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