Few things were better back in the day. We all frequently say how things were better when we were younger but in reality it's just because we were slightly less jaded and our testosterone levels were slightly higher. Surfing though, that was way better back in the day. From the culture that surrounded it, to the actual surfers and it's industry. Everything was new and people were excited. Beach culture was booming and surfers and surf wear was at the forefront of it all. Surfing was popping up on TV shows and surf brands were carving out a niche of their own in the fashion world. There was attitude and grit, it mean’t something to be a surfer, you couldn’t just 'subscribe to the lifestyle'. Here's a few of the characters that we should thank for influencing our generation.
Buttons Kealoha circa 1970’s.
Buttons’ approach in the water was truly ahead of his time. His style on land was effortless and he was at the forefront of modern day surfing. He lived carefree and stood up for what he believed. In a old interview for SURFER, Buttons credited his inspiration in the water to the famous Dog Town skate scene happening almost 3,000 miles away in California. “I was watching [Tony] Alva, watching Jay Adams, watching them skate and I connected the dots,” he said. “I was doing stuff I couldn’t even dream of doing. I did some crazy things. But you know, brah, I just did stuff that felt good.” That was how Buttons lived and people were naturally attracted to his way of life and energy. I mean the guys got ALOHA in the end of his name it doesn't get any better than that.
Echo Beach, 1980’s.
Fruity yes, but the kings of beach culture. During the 1980s, a new breed of surfers emerged, they were brash, flamboyant and fast becoming the kings of beach culture. They invaded a tiny stretch of Newport Beach and called it Echo Beach. These slick- back punks upended the anti-corporate, laid back attitude of ’70s California with their polka-dotted surfboards, Day-Glo tank tops and neon Wayfarers, gaining the attention of surf magazines, photographers and fashion brands with their oversized personalities and wacky outfits. And though their reign was brief, Echo beaches athletes, entrepreneurs and board-makers would go on to influence street style, design and professional surfing throughout the ’90s.
Micheal Tomson and Gotcha:
Michael Tomson co-founded Gotcha with Joel Cooper in 1978. By the mid 80’s Gotcha had become more popular than Quiksilver, Billabong and many other big players in the surf world. Every hot pro at the time 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 the outspoken Bobby Martinez. It epitomized surf attitude in the 80’s, living in the now and not caring about tomorrow. Bright colors and bold statements meant they weren’t afraid to offend anyone and if you didn’t like it, get out of their way. Gotcha along with Stussy was way ahead of their time and a lot of what we’re seeing in the streetwear world today is much the same of what they were doing back den.
Jimmy Slade: Kelly Slater in Bay Watch.
James "Jimmy" Slade was a fictional character from the popular American television show Baywatch. He was portrayed by the king of surf, Kelly Slater. A young bronzed hansom Slater featured sporadically through Baywatch’s glory years. Although Kelly had already won a world title he was only handed the keys to his home town Cocoa Beach days after he started dating Pamela Anderson. On a surf trip a few years ago after Kelly was hounded by some fans in the middle of the Indonesian jungle I asked Kelly if there is anywhere in the world he can go without being noticed, he said he was yet to go anywhere where he could slip under the radar and hugely credited it to his time on Bay Watch.
Bruce Browns Endless Summer 1 and 2.
Bruce Brown is the reason I started surfing. At around the age of 8 or 9 my father took me to watch The Endless Summer 2 which had just hit the cinema. I remember watching a young sun bleached Pat O’Connel having the time of his life. He made traveling look so fun carefree. When they landed island of Oahu in Hawaii they took 6 year old TJ Barron surfing, after that I was hooked. I decided that day that all I wanted to do was surf. You see Bruce captured the essence of surfers in a perfect way. He broke through the surfer=stoner stereotype and showed surfers in a fun effervescent way and took it to the masses. He turned a $50k film into a $35 million masterpiece. Still to this day I think Bruce Brown has been the only one to make surfing and surfers look cool on the big screen, and maybe Surfs Up.