Brian Cregan Shares Wisdom From A Life Spent In The Ocean
Early Legropes… There was a bit of opposition, sometimes surfers are slow to realise the benefits of new things, but once people tried them out, it got momentum. The first ones were rope and rubber, pretty archaic really. They just about ripped your leg off. When O&E started, we found new materials within a short time. I came across urethane in South Africa, thanks to Shaun Tomson, and there was a big change to solid urethane cord, which is alot more user friendly. Then the only person complaining was the bloke at the ding repair shop, and that’s how the rail-saver came about. Our 2010 one piece leash was a game changer. The world’s strongest, 40% stronger, stretches 40% more. It’s caught on around the world. A little bit more expensive, but not by much.
Making Band on the Run… Harry Hodge put together four surfers, Paul Neilsen, Bruce Raymond, myself and Rabbit Bartholomew. He squeezed some money out of Coca-Cola to do this modern day Endless Summer type of film. So we just ran amok, twice around the world in a year and a half. We spent two winters in Hawaii, South Africa, Europe and California. We had Jeffery’s really good and lots and lots of good days at Sunset. Jeff Hakman took us up to the Ranch. We had some great sessions. Travelling together was a bit of a comedy act in itself. Rabbit came and went, as he tried to get his world title. Jeff and Mike came in at different times. Harry and Paul Neilsen were a bit older than us; they ran the show. I just tagged along. It was an excellent experience.
The surf industry then… When I started, a surfshop sold boards, accessories and wetsuits. Surf apparel was basically sold through menswear. The stores who did well may have sold some clothing but it wasn’t the focus of their business. This changed, and it really started booming with apparel. All the large companies went extremely mainstream, oversupplied the market and in 2008 the bubble burst. It was a difficult time for everybody, mainly because I don’t think there were any less people surfing, but the retailers who depended on apparel had to reinvent themselves, and the penny dropped that, “Wow we need to pay attention to what surfers actually use.” The smart ones made their stores more core, and made sure they catered to the ten things a surfer needs most, rather than the latest fashions. They shifted their focus to what it’s all about. O&E’s growth has been on the backs of those ten (or so) products. What’s happened in the last ten years, is the industry has spun 360. Now the stores doing well are the ones who really cater to what surfers want.
“Whenever surfing has gone too far mainstream it ends up imploding. You just wonder if it will happen again.”
The surf industry now… With the new growth in surfing, there’s alot of brands trying to tap into the industry that are pretty much just marketing companies and don’t have any true experience in manufacturing or any real heritage. There’s new ones popping up every day. But I think to be a successful surf brand in the industry today, you really need that manufacturing background and some longevity behind you. One thing that really pisses me off is the energy drinks. They throw mega bucks at a few top athletes but they do sweet F-A for the rest of surfing. I look at O&E and all the long running surf brands who have thrown money at the industry to build it up, and have done so for many years. Then these dudes come along, chuck millions of dollars at an elite surfer, but don’t help develop local surfing or the younger kids with things like regional state comps or Australian titles. They don’t support at a grass roots level. It’s not in their marketing plan. I think its unhealthy shit anyway. I don’t know why you’d wanna drink it. You’re better off drinking straight vodka.
Women… In surfing? I’ve been really impressed. In the last few years surfers like Carissa Moore and Tyler have lifted the bar so high for women’s surfing. Its amazing. Beth Hamilton is another with a really great style, very smooth through the water, it would have been fantastic to see her win in Fiji.
Lessons from the kids… Nothing really. I taught them. When I was Toby’s age I was doing exactly the same thing; surfing, travelling the world and running amok. He might think it’s all different. But nothing really changes in 30 something years.
The South Coast… It is the perfect place to raise kids. Obviously it’s alot more relaxed living in the country. Now there’s so many people moving out of the city. You’re not distracted by much here, you really can focus on having fun and going surfing. There was a time when people thought that we were down in the sticks, away from the centre of the universe, which might have been the Northern Beaches or the Gold Coast or whatever, but the reality is we’re not from another planet, we’re only a two and a half hour drive from Sydney. But we’re probably alot more in touch with other things. Developing a business down here has become easier and easier as times gone on with improved communications and transport, and it’s the perfect testing ground for any surf product. There’s more people in the water now than days gone by, but it’s still a good lifestyle, healthy living. And within easy range of Sydney airport. It’s a pretty good place to live for sure.
Where it’s all heading… I was talking to Phil Macca about wave pools the other day, about what’s going to happen to surfing in the next ten years. I think it will open up surfing to middle America, lots of landlocked countries in Europe, and maybe Dubbo or something (laughs). Its going to be exciting and amazing to see. It will certainly be good for some aspects, but whenever surfing has gone too far mainstream it ends up imploding. You just wonder if it will happen again. It might… Everything is cyclical. If surfing enters the mainstream again through wave pools, who knows? It could grow and grow until its reaches a point where the novelty wears off.