The Enemy at the Gate
In the beginning there was Rip Curl. And there was Billabong, and Quiksilver too. In the beginning these three countries stood alone on a beggared surfing landscape. They'd go on to shape the history of the world.
They weren't the first countries of their kind however. Others had come and gone, felled by fashion revolutions or internal impropriety, but fortunate timing saw Rip Curl, Billabong and Quiksilver flourish beyond all their forebears. They became the Big Three.
But not by skill alone, nor good management did they come to dominate the world. The Big Three were the beneficiaries of fate; they were in the right place at the right time, as each had a solid toehold when the world experienced the first surfing boom.
The first surfing boom saw the Big Three countries elevated to superpowers and they began to wield their influence and shape the world as we know it.
The first thing to happen was that many smaller, less developed countries, created in the wake of the boom, were quickly colonised by the Big Three. Billabong in particular had a penchant for plundering the resources of young exotic countries and sending the profits back home. On the back of others toil did they advance their standing.
At the same time some countries were simply crushed. Strategically squeezed by the superpowers till their infrastructure inwardly collapsed, and for no reason other than a small slice of market share. The surfing almanacs of the day are littered with the products of these failed states.
Yet despite this some countries were neither colonised nor crushed. Small though they were they began to occupy the periphery and fill niches that the cumbersome countries couldn't. Common among them was a desire to be larger but also a resigned acceptance of their fate. They would always be lesser countries held at bay by circumstance and collusion unable to make the leap forward.
It would be easy to believe that this iteration of world affairs would be permanent. That the current convention, where the Big Three have all the means to keep the lesser countries down, would be the end of history. Yet a threat to the stasis is occurring.
From the east the enemy is approaching, and from outside the known world. Too rich are they to fall in a Billabong-style buyout and too strong to be bullied from the marketplace. They have no history in this world but their intentions are clear and strategy transparent: buy loyalty, start with the young.