Mark Kelly of GSI on the collapse of BASE

Stu Nettle
Surfpolitik

In the wake of the BASE collapse I spoke to Mark Kelly, founder of Global Surf Industries, about the business of surfboard manufature and how it is changing. GSI, who've been producing boards since 2002, are one of the world's largest board manufacturers. If backyard builders represent one end of the board-making spectrum GSI occupy the other, selling 15 different brands of surfboards in 70 countries around the world

Swellnet: When you started, did you have the current business model in mind or did you evolve to this?
Mark Kelly: My goal was always to have the biggest smallest company in the world. We currently turn over well into the eight figures and we have fifteen staff around the world – all of whom work from home. And we outsource what we do well. We outsource manufacturers globally.

SN: All in south-east Asia?
MK: Yep. If we could find a manufacturing operation that was competitive in Australia or the US, or anywhere else in the world, we would use it. But at the moment we feel we have the best manufacturer. We have a couple of different manufacturers for our boards depending on what technology they are. We sell boards in 70 countries and we run 15 brands.

SN: My perception is that GSI used to cater to lower-end surfers but in recent times you've begun catering to the higher-end market: Is that a true statement?
MK: Yeah, in the beginning the low hanging fruit was stuff that no-one else wanted. So in 2002 if you wanted to buy a beginner board, like a mini-mal or something, you'd struggle to find one. You could buy a second hand but there wasn't much out there. So we targeted the beginner and the intermediate surfer.

Once we got going retailers came to us and said, 'You guys are unbelievable, you've got great service, great prices, great quality. Can you get a brand?' I think the first person to approach us after that was Greg Webber...

SN: He approached you?
MK: Yeah. We've never signed a label that hasn't approached us. I've knocked back over 200 people. So it was Greg first and then Steve Walden. And then around about the same time McTavish and Aloha came on the program and then from there Bill Stewart and Hayden [Hayden Cox – Hayden Shapes] have signed up. We've also done deals with Thomas Meyerhoffer and Tom Wegener for a more alternative product, and, again, because those guys approached us with an idea.

SN: Did you ever think you were in competition with BASE – similar business model, similar markets?
MK: Not really. They made super high-performance boards and we didn't go there. We just didn't think we catered to that audience. We made stock boards with different models, different sizes and brands. We had a nice menu of boards that people could buy through retail stores around the world, whereas BASE had been basically shooters, you know.

Once they started opening stores I think they worked out that that market was pretty tight and there were a lot more beginners and intermediate surfers than there are people on the world tour. They then came into out territory a little bit – they sort of came down to our level. But they came down to it on price and started selling shortboards really cheap. They were selling boards in their own stores for less than $500. That's just insane.

Our boards – and keeping in mind people sometimes slag off GSI – are some of the highest priced boards in the marketplace. The Webbers, the Alohas and even the Superfish, their prices are well above a lot of name brands in the stores, yet we continue to sell them because the quality is good, there's branding recognition, the boards work, and consumers keep coming back and buying them.

SN: Where did BASE go wrong?
MK: They had a lot of big names at BASE but one of their problems was all those names targeted the same consumer.

SN: And what sort of effect do you think it's collapse will have on the industry?
MK: From my point of view the whole industry lacks professionalism and I think thats a big thing. Like, a lot of the domestic manufacturers just go direct to consumers.

There is always someone in Australia every September who comes out with some cheap board and they never last a year and all they do is drive the prices down. I personally think that the whole backyard industry is the worst part of the industry. They don't put too much in but they tend to copy everyones boards. They do a lot of stuff that is undermining the core market.

SN: Can I just interject, one of the claims is that the cottage industry leads the way in surfboard innovation. Would you say that's a false perception?
MK: Yeah, I would. I think if you asked all the domestic manufacturers to pool the amount of money they spend on R&D we wouldn't have a big day at the pub.

The custom surfboard will always be around. I don't agree that it is the leading edge of innovation because a lot of domestic manufacturers don't have the time or money to do R&D, and nor are they that way inclined. A lot of them just follow someone else's shapes. Say Kelly Slater goes down to Bells and wins the thing on a 5'3" quad - guess what everyone starts making! No-one's going out doing that shit by themselves. They follow a trend and very few will create a trend.

You look at materials. The cottage industry, when it was run by guys like Clark Foam for instance, was like reading the Grapes of Wrath: they wanted everyone to be in a semi-co-operative, but then they're weren't really working together. Then by giving them all old technology they kept everyone down.

The other thing about surfboards, and the surfboard industry in general, is no-one really likes it when anyone makes a profit. Profit seems to be a very ugly, untidy word that people just don't like. But if you don't make a profit things like what happened to BASE happen - and then where's the industry after that?

So if you want to run a business you make a profit and you act professionally and you try to grow your market either through innovation or better service. And all those things require making a bit of profit. Without that you've got nothing.

People don't like Gordon Merchant because he's a multi, multi-millionaire. Yet I say 'well done'. The amount of money that he's put back into the industry is vast. And the amount of innovation that he's been able to cause, and also what he's doing with his money and the amount of projects that I know he's involved with is unbelievable. But if you've got no money then you cant invest in anything.

SN: A lot of your success is due to cheaper labour...
MK: Not necessarily. One of the big things for us is that one of the factories we use buys more than a million yards of glass a year. So you tend to get a pretty good price. When you buy resin by the 6000 kilogram lot you pay a lot less than a domestic manufacturer. Some of our raw material prices are one-tenth of what a domestic manufacturer would pay. So I think the bulk of the cost saving comes in raw material rather than labour.

Labour is still there. It takes a long time to make a surfboard, it is highly tuned and nothing happens automatically. Even the term 'popout' is just so wrong. Like an NSP takes 23 hours to make. Nothing pops out of anything. That always grates me because it's so wrong.

SN: Well, about the 'Asian popout' tag. In the past people have been derogatory toward GSI, have you ever tried to counter those perceptions?
MK: In actual fact we've gone the other way. When we first started a lot of the retailers were like, 'I don't want anyone to know this board is made in Asia'. And we were like, 'Well, it is, and it always will be'. So we actually started putting our GSI logo under the glass with 'Made in Thailand' on it. We did that so retailers couldn't hide the fact that our boards were made there. We put the label on as a control factor.

There's a lot of Asian manufactures, but our models are very different to everyone else's and we don't want to be associated with them. So every board that has come out of our factory since January 2003 has had that logo under the glass.

SN: You don't see it as anything to be ashamed of?
MK: No. We think we've got a really good reputation. We've put hundreds of thousands of dollars back in to surfing through sponsoring of festivals, board giveaways, team events, charities - again, add what all the domestic manufactures put back in and it's not a lot. And we try to have very high ethical standards. We've taken domestic manufacturers to our facility in Thailand, for instance, they've been able to walk through the whole place. There's nothing to hide. I couldn't say that about everyone.

There's a big manufacturer in Australia who imports boards and doesn't have 'Made in Asia' labelling on them and they pass those off as Australian-made boards. I've spoken to customs numerous times about those people and sooner or later one of their containers will just get held up on the wharf and their money will go straight down the drain.

We do all we can to make sure people know that, (a) they're our boards, and (b) where they're made.

SN: Despite that it seems to hard to shake the stigma.
MK: Yeah, I think it's like the music industry, a lot of people hate Kylie Minogue because she's popular but at the same time she's done a lot of good stuff.

SN: I'll beg to differ with you there.
MK: Oh, you could say the the same thing for say Madonna.

SN: You're gonna have to find better examples Kel.
MK: Well, whoever it is people want to call others out for what they're doing or not doing. Particularly in Australia where everyone likes to back the underdog. At the end of the day what are they putting back into the industry? And what are they doing for the benefit of innovation, or are they just copying other people?

People whinge and bitch about where we make our boards but at the end of the day, literally, I sleep really well, and I know that we've got a great company that makes great products.

SN: A common gripe from surfers parting with large sums of cash is that a board might snap soon after buying it. Have you ever considered warranties or similar guarantees?
MK: I think with PU technology it's pretty tough. With some of our other technologies it's better. We do break tests on a lot of the boards and we'll test different lay ups. One of the boards we've started producing under the NSP label is a coco matt. We use a coconut husk as the strengthening device between a couple of layers of fibreglass and that has the highest break ratio of any board probably ever made.

If we get a bad product review on our website it's flagged and that person is sent an email within an hour and called by one of our staff to the point that that person will be happy within 24 hours. We bend over backwards to make that happen, and that's pretty much globally.

SN: Where do you see the board-making industry in ten years time?
MK: The thing with normal surfboard production is that the barrier to entry is very, very low, so the custom board will never go away. Yet the barrier to entry to what were doing now is very high. Surftech was a big competitor a few years ago and now you don't see a Surftech board anywhere in the world. Firewire did a good job at introducing technology and they probably rode the back of the Clark Foam demise pretty well. They did more in 100 days after Clark Foam closed down than Surftech did in eight years – introducing new technology really quickly. But as it is, they've got a single technology and they target a single audience so I think they're quite exposed.

For us, we've got eight different technology of boards now and we look after all types of surfers. We don't want to be the dominant force in surfboards in the world. I've got no interest in doing that. Our main goal is to make our customers happy and the consumers happy and if we get those things right our business will be really good. If we lose any of that well probably go the way BASE did. It's simply about keeping everyone happy, being profitable and keeping everything working.

Comments

victor's picture
victor's picture
victor commented Monday, 7 Nov 2011 at 8:47am

greg webber,can you confirm,you approached G.S.I. ?......

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 7 Nov 2011 at 9:24am

@Victor,

Last week I interviewed Greg Webber for another post-BASE related article. To the question "What did you see in [GSI] that appealed to you?" he answered:

..."I knew that there was a need to mechanise things in board making - partly for production and partly to have some control over the shape. Unfortunately there's always a negative. You know, 'Oh it's mass production'. If it's at the expense of quality then it's a bit of a pity, isn't it? But that's the balancing act that's gotta be taken and the only way to get in and get the quality up is the have the best designers get involved with that mass production. So that's why I put my head in the chopping block earlier than anyone else, as I did with Surftech as well. I went, fuck, we've got to get in there and actually try and make the product better."

There'll be more from Greg later...

mantown's picture
mantown's picture
mantown commented Monday, 7 Nov 2011 at 10:08pm

Backyard Asian surfboard dealers. 'We have fifteen staff around the world – all of whom work from home.'

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Monday, 7 Nov 2011 at 10:56pm

Hi,

I'm a happy to answer any questions anyone might have. My only request is that you use your real name and where you are from. The ability for people to throw shit from a hidden name isn't exactly a great basis to run a discussion from.

Cheers

Kel
Mark Kelly
Global Surf Industries
Mobile - 0403045159
Email - [email protected]

Kel

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Monday, 7 Nov 2011 at 11:32pm

Hi Mark, Steve Shearer here. Lennox Head.

I think what most people refer to as innovation in terms of backyard or small custom surfboard shaping operations is their ability to rapidly improve/modify design by working with surfers to customise equipment.

That is obviously something large Asian surfboard manufactures can't do.

Maurice Cole using tow-surf concepts in shortboards, Mitchell Rae with concaves and flex-tails etc etc and many many more examples exist.

it's also pretty clear to most people that innovation in materials ie epoxy resins and differing blanks as well as sandwich surfboard construction has come from backyard/small manufacturers.

This is then appropriated by large mass-manufacturers such as yourself.

I have no particular beef with that but to claim that innovation isn't coming from the backyard or custom shapers is clearly at odds with reality.

Also, could you clarify what you mean about Surftechs not being around anymore?

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Monday, 7 Nov 2011 at 11:39pm

Hi Steve,

I agree with you for sure about the ability of small producers to innovate shapes. We have bought some designs of small producers to include in our range. The 7S Super Fish is a good example. We bought that shape of Gary Loveridge ( Wiz Stix ) on the central coast about 7 years ago and have paid him a royalty on every one sold. The Meyerhoffer and Wegener deals would fall into these categories as well. I would say.

My comment on Surftech wasn't quite verbatim. It should be that their distribution has dropped right off, you don't see many in stores around the world these days and their focus seems to be on SUP where their strength is right now.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

yoohooo's picture
yoohooo's picture
yoohooo commented Monday, 7 Nov 2011 at 11:46pm

great interview - it's always interesting to hear how things work.

totem-of-scrotum's picture
totem-of-scrotum's picture
totem-of-scrotum commented Monday, 7 Nov 2011 at 11:47pm

Hello Mark,

Steve Scrotum. Ball Bag Bay, Queensland.

With SUP's gaining proficiency in the surf zone what's the next cumbersome craft likely to become a fad for impotent middle-age men? Kayaks? Outrigger canoes? Hobie cats perhaps?

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011 at 12:24am

Hey Steve,

Must have been fun at school with Scrotum as a surname... anyways..

Not sure where it is going, I think that etiquette with SUPs needs to be followed for sure though. Thankfully there are schools now that will be able to teach people to do the right thing as opposed to just getting one and trying to work it out for yourself. I am sure Laird, Dave Kalama and the rest of the crew in Hawaii are currently working on the next biggest thing.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

totem-of-scrotum's picture
totem-of-scrotum's picture
totem-of-scrotum commented Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011 at 12:40am

The next biggest thing to what?? The Spruce Goose? The QEII?

lowers-winki's picture
lowers-winki's picture
lowers-winki commented Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011 at 12:55am

Hi Steve,
I agree with your comments on Maurice Cole-though I'd wouldn't be inclined to think of him as a Back Yarder. He's an innovator in design and construction and has shaped for the World's best with great results over many years. Similar with Mitchell Rae I'd imagine. Guys of that ilk who are established designers who employ staff and have purpose built factories and contribute to surfing on many levels are on another level to backyarders.
Worth adding here is that I'm one of the 15 staff members at GSI who work with Kel at GSI. Currently in my home office in Jan Juc. Hoping for swell.
We aren't neccessarily relying on our manufacturer for the design innovation-that comes from the Designers like Webber, McTavish,Walden, HaydenShapes, Meyerhoffer etc and from inhouse also, but our manufactuer can definetly provide innovations in construction, materials, technology etc which combine to make imporved boards.

Matt Martin
Global Surf Industries
Mobile - 0407278538
Email - [email protected]

Matt Martin

norv's picture
norv's picture
norv commented Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011 at 1:19am

First up, I had to chuckle at this... "I personally think that the whole backyard industry is the worst part of the industry." ... that mantra must be 40-50 years old by now... those backyarders are a tenacious breed...

I'm interested in the OH&S aspect to this discussion. In the past* I've worked for/alongside more than a few names mentioned here and OH&S was often an interesting concept ;)

The true backyarder, working out of a lean-to, in a stiff sea-breeze, has the luxury of watching all the toxic fumes and dust rapidly disappearing downwind. I've heard that some of the big Asian factories do very well in regard to OH&S. It's in the middle ground where the challenge of providing a safe yet profitable workplace was sometimes not met,IMHO.

Norval Watson, Byron Bay

*early 1970s to 2005, worked at many factories in five different states.

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011 at 1:59am

Hi Norv,

If you see Bob McTavish around ask him about the factory we use in Thailand, He has been there a number of times. I am sure he gives it a 5 star rating for a number of reasons - OH & S being one of them.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

derra83's picture
derra83's picture
derra83 commented Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011 at 2:02am

Gday Mark,

Marc Derham. South Aust

Whats currently being tested in R&D? What new innovations can we expect in design or materials?

fishfan's picture
fishfan's picture
fishfan commented Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011 at 2:46am

Dave from Newcastle.

I purchase an Aloha Bean last year and it snapped in the first week! This experience could have easily ended up with me becoming another GSI detractor if not for the personal service from Mark and his team (family).

They responded quickly to get my board assessed and worked with my local surf shop to have a replacement to me within a week. All I can say is that's great customer service and let's be realistic,
how often would your local shaper replace a snapped board.

Whatever your feelings about GSI and their direction, don't hate them just because they run a successful and professional business that happens to sell surfboards.

So long as Mark keeps giving back to surfing, I think surfing's better with GSI in it.

idratherbesurfin's picture
idratherbesurfin's picture
idratherbesurfin commented Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011 at 4:59am

Hi Mark.
Paul from Piha NZ
I like your products.
Can i have a job please?
I have lots of transferrable skills and i will work from dawn to dark in between surfs if i can get to ride a few of your quiver of boards.
Keep them coming

Paul

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011 at 5:22am

Hi Marc,

We always have a number of things in R & D, right now we are introducing a new resin that Hayden is using already across a lot of our range. It is an epoxy resin that we will use with both Pu and EPS blanks. The Epoxy has a much better elasticity than Polyester resin and will help the board remain 'alive' for longer. We also have a number of new shapes. We employ a full time Product Manager who is our mad scientist. He lives in Oregon in the US and is continually developing, testing and refining our products and working with our vendors.

We don't really let too much out of the bag until it is ready to go just incase it never sees the light of day. But one we have finalised is a new soft version of Tom Wegener's Tuna. It is called the Ablacore and is set to help get a lot more people excited about finless surfing. Tom is claiming the board as a complete success already. He is pretty excitable though.

Thanks

Kel

Kel

rees0's picture
rees0's picture
rees0 commented Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011 at 6:15am

Hi Mark,

When you say that we wouldn't have a big day at the pub on the "backyard" r+d fund how big of a day would we have on yours? Material's are constantly progressing i remember looking at a board by Chris Garret made from paper crate.

The design of the board itself however was well tried and tested so as far as progression on the design front it wasn't moving forward it was just progressing the material component of manufacture.

How are you guys progressing the design of boards themselves? whilst finless boards are still seen as alternative there has been plenty of other shapers testing and creating thier own designs. Tom Wegener just seems to be the one whos taken the step into the mainstream.

I've got a smorgasboard magazine with a finless board test and the seaglass model is the board with the least progression in comparison to the alaia its based upon. The other boards shaped by Richard Harvey on the Gold Coast and Mark Pridmore on the Sunny coast who i think would fit under your "backyarder" banner seem more evolutionary to me.

I think it's unfair to try to put a price on r+d of surfboard design because progression comes from experimentation and it's these "backyarders" who in my eyes do more experimentation with things like fin placement, outlines, rockers etc. Not the popout market. Are you constantly testing these things? And why would you be afraid to make your design endeavours public? Prototypes are interesting and refreshing and i don't understand why you wouldn't want to show the surfing world where you as a company want to take our sport.

Regards,

Reece Hall, Sunshine Coast

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011 at 6:25am

Hi Reece,

Our program has a budget of about $500,000 per annum. This includes all expenses for the staffing as well as development, tooling etc. I reckon you and I would have a pretty head ache if we spent.

One way we are progressing is by allowing the brands that we work with to focus on R & D themselves as well as us. Aloha for instance, which is run by Richie Lovett is constantly developing new shapes that they test with the team. Hayden is constantly doing this and is keen for our production to start so he can focus on this in more detail and take the pressure off his production.

I think our goal is to commercialise products we develop and also assist others who have great designs to commercialise them. My Super Fish example from a previous post is a good example of this.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

shaun's picture
shaun's picture
shaun commented Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011 at 6:48am

Hey Kel, in your interview you dodged the question on cheap asian labour by pointing out that you save more money by the bulk buying of materials and i reckon you would. You brushed the whole labour thing aside claiming that the labour is still there but the real saving was in the materials. Well if this is so, why didn't you set up in Australia, the savings would be the same if you were buying that much material here, the savings in labour is insignificant isn't it?

I'm the scab you keep picking off and is there again the next day.

rees0's picture
rees0's picture
rees0 commented Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011 at 6:56am

Thanks for the response Kel,

The fish template is hardly a design progression of recent times and a flick through the aloha stand at a local shop will not exactly blow your mind. Stringerless boards and parabolic rails have been around for a long time..

I don't quite understand who you are are referring to when you say backyard industry and cottage industry. I think my wires may be crossed and i am referring more to these smaller shapers i.e Mark Pridmore and Richard Harvey as mentioned above who to me are doing more for R+D then your side of the industry. Obviously there would be plenty more but there not in the mainstream.

I feel your stance in the marketplace and success is justified in terms of what you offer your customers which is good service and a large selection to cater for most surfers but in my eyes it's at the cost of individuality and the character that comes from a custom made board. But this is the choice of the consumer.

I congratulate you for making your business successful however i don't agree with your comments regarding R+D because i feel your side of the market is the one that holds progression and innovation on the design front back.

Regards,

Reece

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011 at 7:56am

Hi Reece,

Yes the consumer is always the King, they decree what works and doesn't thats for sure. We try to do our best to foster innovation I can understand your comments and respect your opinion.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011 at 8:01am

Hi Shaun,

Again it Stu printed part of an hour long conversation. Would have been pretty boring to put the whole lot into print. Regarding labour, our factories pay more than the award wages, the factory in Thailand for instance has to compete with many other manufacturers in the local area for skilled workers. The Union movement is strong and workers have a lot of rights, the picture in anyone mind of a sweat shop is so far from reality it isn't funny. The hourly rate might be lower than Australia but the cost of living is as well. The workers in the factory in Thailand have paid parental leave, holiday pay, bonuses, free medical assistance for themselves and their families.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

everclear66's picture
everclear66's picture
everclear66 commented Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011 at 8:31am

Hi Kel, appreciate you taking the time to shine some light.
I have over a few years purchased multiple boards fron DHD & Murray Bourton at Base in Coolangatta. Been super happy with the advice & board performance. Would have loved to have paid a little less... but I as a small business owner understand.. man has to make a dollar ! I like to see Aussie crew having a real go and was really disappointing to see them fold. I would like to read the business plan ??
I have also purchase 2 x GSI Mals to add to an ever expanding quiver, both Mc-Tavish models.
I was never going to out lay $1500-00 EA for Mals , but at your competitive pricing I was more than happy to add some small wave logs. Ive been really happy with the quality of the boards and have had countless hours of small wave fun teaching my kids to surf on them. I say good luck to you in making surfing equipment more affordable. Regards Mark Cleary. PS I was in Byron Bay a few weeks ago and had a good look in the Mc-Tav factory... Got my eye on new log.

derra83's picture
derra83's picture
derra83 commented Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011 at 8:34am

Mark,

I didn't expect you'd disclose much in the R&D department. Thought I'd ask though!

Thanks anyway
Marc D

byronic's picture
byronic's picture
byronic commented Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011 at 9:33am

The Tuna's are a mad! Ive ridden one a couple times, alot of fun... Good to see the alias get a contempoary spin on the whole feel of them, plus Tom is a incredibly talent shaper. Want one, Just couldn't part with the expensive aspect of the board. It seems strange new shapes and progression is limited to its price. Especially went you know you can just get a a standard board that you know you'll def shred on. Designs like the Tuna are definantly worth it, least your spreading alittle more excitement and getting things like the Tuna 'Out there'... Glad to hear your not just caning them, bring the Ablacore out soon!

cheers

B

carlos's picture
carlos's picture
carlos commented Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011 at 12:40pm

Just thought i might add something to this forum. Not in favour or defence of Mark. Just my observations. I used to work in surf shops and started as a wannabe on the fashion floor and ended up as a hardware buyer several years later. I was lucky enougth to know a few shapers mentioned in this story before I started working in the industry but met many more during my time. Catching up with them many years later from a another angle (buyer for a surf company) was quite a surprise. I used to go to the factory and haggle on price then, when agreed, discuss what I wanted to get my surfing to the next level. Boom. two weeks later I was killing it on my new custom board.(Normally it takes any where between 4 & 8 weeks).
We sold all the name brands. Webber, Dahlberg, McTavish, Channel Islands. The customer would come in and buy what they saw off the rack or get a custom. Now this is where the fun starts. As a buyer you need to make sure all boards you ordered from the manufacturer were going to sell so we basically custom ordered all stock boards going off what customers had purchased & ordered in the past. So stock boards in the racks of your local have been ordered by some one. Mark & the GSI team are doing what we did on a global scale. They are making what customers are buying. If you don't like it then get a custom!
Which leads to my next issue. I once had a surf up at back beach Angourie whith my friend Greg and his brother Will. Only the three of us out having a ball as the point was packed. This older guy with grey hair paddles out and says hello to Will then Greg and proceeds to rip the shiitt out of the next right all the way to the beach on a newish looking Dahlberg. We all had a great surf and later on the beach Greg introduced me to Rod. I mention how well that board seemed to work for him and he said "best board I've had in a while, Murray shaped me a beauty" (lets see who knows who I'm talking about)
Out of all the boards we sold the only ones that sold well were shaped by the branded name. MR was the best. We gave him dimensions and a colour way and the finished product would turn up 4 weeks later with a hand drawn, full colour spray instructions from the shaper to the glasser using coloured pencils no less. We sold these boards for full price and included the MR art work. The customers loved it.
The other more commercial brands all sold well but if you think going to your local surf shop and ordering a custom will have Darren, Al or Jason rushing to get you in the line up on that hand crafted custom shooter ASAP, your kidding your self.
My point being if you like the look and feel buy it and go and have fun now. You might be surprised as it is still a custom order.
Sorry to drag on. Just my opinion. If it floats you can surf it!

robb-the-kid's picture
robb-the-kid's picture
robb-the-kid commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 12:19am

Mark,

Congrats on the success. I know the Asia issue is controversial for some, but you are doing it in all transparency which is commendable (unlike others). I feel that this is the realities of the market, and in the end market forces will win. You mention that every year or so some cheap operations pop up and then disappear quickly due to their pricing structure, I take this to mean that they don't leave enough 'room' in there for store front suppliers. How important are the stores in the overall sales mix vs online?

Cheers

Rob

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 12:27am

Hi Rob,

My comment is about people wanting to come into the market and sell things for a very cheap price. At all levels you need to be making some money on your products to provide a service, service isn't free as it usually involves paying people to do the service or trucking companies or phone providers or the list of other providers who help get your product to the market. If you are just selling stuff cheap then sooner or later you will work out that you can't survive.

Stores are very important to our mix 95% of our revenue comes from our dealers and only 5% comes from online sales. We work very hard to support our dealers with service, brand advertising on a myriad of different platforms, all of this is vital to our business right now and for a long time to come. I can't see online overtaking Store sales anytime soon, surfboards are a real hands on product.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

non-local's picture
non-local's picture
non-local commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 12:30am

and the surf just gets more crowded. ;-(

one good turn deserves another

mjd's picture
mjd's picture
mjd commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 12:30am

Hey Scrotum, I shit you not, but yesterday I saw someone on a stand up canoe/kayak thing. It was on the river but only a matter of time before they're in the surf...

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 1:36am

Not much sole in a board made by some guy in Thailand who dont surf.

Cheers,

savyoperators's picture
savyoperators's picture
savyoperators commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 2:08am

I'm like Everclear, bought a brand new Walden Mal 4 years ago for $500! and it goes great, like he said I was never gunna fork out $1500 for a summer slopper and I felt like I was getting ripped off paying >$600 for a 2nd hand job.

Thankfully my Thai model hasn't got any sole through the bottom... would cause too much drag

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 4:44am

Interesting comments here regarding the surf being more crowded and surfboards with sole - probably means soul. As Savyoperaters has pointed out.

I always find these two comments amusing. Firstly, the crowd factor. Everyone has a right to surf when they can, the difference in Manly, one of Australia's most crowded beaches, between 7am and 10am is amazing. If you have some flexibility in your working hours then use it to your advantage. Don't complain about crowds just get smart about it. If you want to whinge about everyone else surfing, i doubt you have any more rights than anyone else.

The soul comment is hilarious in my mind. Beginning a craftsman who makes great product has little to do with being able to rip a wave apart. Being a great designer is where the tipping for it and I can tell you the team of designers we have has about 400 years of surfing soul in it. Sure Bob, Steve and Bill are taking up close to half those years but still the rest of the designers have surfed thousands of waves.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

psommerv's picture
psommerv's picture
psommerv commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 4:53am

Hi Mark,

You mentioned a few times about innovation and what shapers bring back to the industry. Have you been exposed to the 4 Way Fin System developed by a "small time" shaper? I have used this setup for some years now and the advantages for the consumer are fantastic not to mention the ease of installation... being able to transform your boards performance by moving your fin positions and splay so easily should be well received by industry yet it seems they have resisted this technology blindly in my opinion.. when you get a board that doesnt quite feel as loose as you would like for example you can move you fin setup to provide you with a board that now becomes more responsive withing a few minutes...

Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers

Paul Sommerville Qld...

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 6:07am

Well Kel,
When it comes to throwing yourself over the ledge at 6 ft Money Trees I would prefer to be on a finely crafted Gunter than a mass produced board.Your product does have a place and good luck to you but dont try a tell me your boards high performance because in my opinion there not.

Cheers,

victor's picture
victor's picture
victor commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 6:24am

psommerv, i to have used the 4way fin system for many years,brilliant product.one well known shaper i spoke with about this setup said that with the ability to fine tune a board to perfection surfers would keep there boards much longer -less orders for him.how many boards have you owned that were not quite right,but with a minor adjustment to toe in or cant may have transformed it to a magic board..

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 6:27am

Hi Paul,

I've seen them for sure. One issue we have with fins is that we sell boards in 70 countries so people need to be able to get replacements easily. FCS is where that is at. We struggle with Futures even because their distribution is so low outside of the key surfing places like Oz and Southern Cali.

Hi Lopez,

I think your best sticking to your local maker for sure. Gunter makes a great board. I am unsure of your soul reference to finely tuned high performance boards but never the less Gunter is your guy.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

carlos's picture
carlos's picture
carlos commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 6:27am

Hi Mark

I see nobody understood what I was on about.Then Lopez goes on again about mass produced boards. HELLO. All custom shapes from the big labels are computer shaped and finished by the factory workers (much like boards made in Thailand or china)
Lopez, what is a Gunter? if you mean the shaper from Balina with a simillar name. Great shaper but the quality is very questionable.
If you spend the $$$$$ you want something that looks and works like $$$$$

Cheers

Carlos. Sydney.

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 7:25am

Hi Kel, if the soul reference escapes you, all ok. But surfing boards made in Thailand is not for me.

Cheers,

upper-winky's picture
upper-winky's picture
upper-winky commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 8:28am

I can only recall two "soul" surfers (they would probably hate to be classified as such so maybe they weren't) - Wayne Lynch, who I think has an excellent surftech model...so I guess according to the real soul crew out there Lynch handed in his soul licence...and Gerry Lopez...and he rides a SUP everyday now - and I believe he has excellent mass produced SUP models!...so again...according to the real soul crew hitting this forum...Gerry also handed in his soul!...or is Gerry the Lopez blogging here? Don't I love the soul surfers of this world!

lastwave64's picture
lastwave64's picture
lastwave64 commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 9:46am

HI
must compliment your service levels - i bought a Mctavish S4 after a couple of surfs i wasnt happy with the wax so dewaxed the board - the board looked like a egg carton - 1 ph call and there was a replacement board at Lastwave surf shop to collect - i also had a 7s fish which went bubbly on the bottom i took the board back to Lastwave surf shop in Gladstone Qld by the way i didn't buy it from them - 1 ph call while i was there and was told come back next week - new board no questions - Jeff - Rockhampton Queensland - yes is there surf up here we just don't won't u suckers to know bout it

psommerv's picture
psommerv's picture
psommerv commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 10:34am

Appreciate your response Kel. I guess this is the difficulty for up and coming shapers etc. The innovation is often left behind due to lack of support or in this case simply because of shorterm "logistical" reasons. fins and plugs etc can be sourced online and shipped anywhere in the world... in this day and age online pipelines are fast becoming a reality.. fins and plugs are small items to ship and 4WFS can ship within 24 hours of order - worldwide... just some food for thought.. also suggest if you havent used the system give it a go it will open your eyes to how small fin adjustments have large performance impacts.. once again i appreciate your candid response... and i will pass this information onto the creator...
Cheers
Paul

p-funk's picture
p-funk's picture
p-funk commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 10:37am

Some of these comments make me laugh. Surfers are generally good purveyors of fear mongering on new products or ideas.

At the end of the day, the market will always decide who's right. As others have eluded too, a significant proportion of boards from most well known shapers is a result of pre-shaping with minor finishing from trained 'ghost' shapers. I have bought quite a few boards from of all the shapers involved in BASE, many customs, but I don't kid myself that Simon or Darren has even battered an eyelid at them before they leave the factory. Does it bother me? Not in the slightest. Will it be in the back of my mind when paddling over the ledge at solid Cloudy. Certainly not.

I think GSI have a good model, and with the right QA checks and policies in place (seems to be peoples main concerns) and a competitive price point, I'm sure they're on their way to success and good luck to them. They have clearly stated that they are only just entering the hi performance market, so it will be interesting to see who else jumps on board.

To me writing off the idea of buying a board purely because its 'made in Thailand' is a bit of a joke.

psillakissurfboards's picture
psillakissurfboards's picture
psillakissurfboards commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 12:09pm

I liked reading all of these comments and obviously there are different views right across the "board" here. But thats the great thing isnt it. There will always be different markets, and what we are seeing here is the two sharing each others views, and neither is right or wrong. "what ever floats your boat" as my mate Rex would say.
So here is my view. I know that shaping machines have done wonders to fine tuning boards to a certain degree, and taken the "hard labour" (as some people would put it) out of shaping a board. But in my view, the reason surfboards are so competitive and a downward pressure on prices is because the market is flooded.This is because a generic surfboard can be easily produced by a shaping machine with relative minimal skill. This creates the "rat race" of the surfboard and the market share.
I know that the consumer wouldnt care about this. In fact you guys would be cheering!
I have been shaping for just over 20 years and have learnt the priceless skill of handshaping, and love it everyday. I get so excited about it. I only make 2 to 3 handshapes a day, but thats a full day for me. Some have said, "oh, your crazy. You can do that in a morning and have the rest of the day off". But , hey , I love what I do. Its not about numbers for me. Its about talking to the customer in person, getting into their head about what they need. And creating a board that will suit their requirements. Lots of happy "customers". Hand shaping is sustainable. There are great handshapers out there who have a great personalised service, you just have to search a little harder than just your "generic" store. They dont need machines. Their boards feel different, better. Wouldnt it be sad to see such a craft of handshaping gone?
Wouldnt it be sad to see Qantas not Australian anymore? Oh , and then there is Vegimite gone , ugg boot gone, Gee help me out here Dick Smith!!!
My point is, lets not loose what is an Australian tradition.
Ps: Mark is doing something great, and so are a lot of handcraftsman out there.
"What ever floats your boat" Choose wisely
Mike Psillakis . Psillakis surfboards

shaun's picture
shaun's picture
shaun commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 8:34pm

The post by upper winki made me think about if I had seen any epoxy boards that I really like, can't say I have, not a performance board anyway. I can see why some people would buy one for crap waves in crowded surf, but I will try to keep my money in Australia. I and my friends have surfed custom lynch boards over the years and none of us would touch one of his surftech models, their blobs made for people who want to buy a name board that floats well. All of these GSI Surftech boards by name shapers are dumbed down versions of the boards that made these guys big names as shapers, and that is their market,Dumb. Give me a board with "for Shaun" penciled into the foam under the glass any day, at least if it is stolen it is not going up for sale on ebay the next day as you could with a generic untracable pop out.

I'm the scab you keep picking off and is there again the next day.

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 8:51pm

Thanks for jumping in Mike, I think you are a great example of someone in the business of making surfboards not just a glorified hobbyist. You have built a great reputation for quality performance boards.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 9:56pm

Hi Mike,interesting post but I fail to see what or why Kel and GSI are doing that is Great.Seems quite basic to me, take your manufacturing to Asia produce boards at a cheaper price , undercut the local industry.The end product is not revolutionary or superior so whats so Great?

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 10:18pm

You say 'glorified hobbyist' as though it's a bad thing.

Man, you want soul, a hobbyist is a good place to find it, work done up to a standard, not down to a price/deadline.

I don't make my own boards, yet, but I design and make bookshelves, libraries, desks, kids car shaped beds etc.

Every one of them better than what you would find in a shop. Every one of them higher quality, longer lasting, lovingly thought up and put together, screw holes filled, sanded, painted, installed.

I know what you are saying, but don't be dissing glorified hobbyists. The only real craftsmen left in the world are a few hard to get specialists and the gorified hobbyists in their garages.

And I is one! :-)

Can't be too hard on the Thai popouts. The godddamn blank on the only one I have had, a webber afterburner, must have been damn close to the final shape. After 4 years of riding it there was one small depression on the deck and none underneath. It was petrified. Damn fine glass job too.

If you are looking for quality workmanship and blanks/glassing, it doesn't always follow that a local custom job will have it.

victa-lazlo's picture
victa-lazlo's picture
victa-lazlo commented Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 10:38pm

Looky here, everyone's coming out of hiding.

Didn't know all that much about GSI before reading the interview but if hes not undercutting the market who cares? Still a 'level playing field ' so make up your own mind about what you want. I'll always get customs because I like visiting a shaper and seeing him shape my boards. That's part of the surfing experience for me. (No, I don't ride Channel Island 'customs'). Good to see Mike Psiallakis jump in because I used to ride his boards in Sydney. Great to see youre still enjoying shaping MIke and as passionate as ever.

The surfboard business isn't dead if we don't want it to be.

Matt L, Narrawallee

tonyg's picture
tonyg's picture
tonyg commented Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 at 12:50am

G'day all, Tony from Freshwater here,

Some evidence on the price/quality debate. I bought a GSI 7S fish, from memory around 2004, since then have had a number of boards including both customs and and off the rack. The 7S made in Thailand has been the standout both quality and performance. The blank is whiter than a board I've had for 18 months, still floats well, and shits on a Simon (Base) Summer Mollusc (3 years old) which has completely browned off and compressed and the 7S was alot cheaper.

Power to you Kel!

Soul comes from within not the board I'm riding!

Cheers
Tony

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 at 2:00am

Hi Tony,
Sounds like your indeed a convert, or on the payroll.(LOL)

cheers,

backhand's picture
backhand's picture
backhand commented Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 at 3:12am

James Taylor, Ulladulla.

I think this article had a problem from the start because it compared GSI with backyard builders??!! Mark Kelly your comments then sounded like you meant that the domestic surfboard industry was a bunch of backyarders??!!

The term 'Backyard' seems to attract the same negative stigma as asian/3rd world surfboard importer. To agree with batfink if your a 'craftsman' it doesn't matter where you make your product, whether its in a factory or on your own property does not dictate the quality or service that you produce. A couple of excellent shapers who I can think of who are 'backyards' include: Chris Garrett, Mark Rabbage, Michael Mackie, Vern Jackson ..add to this if you know more I'm sure there's plenty?

Due to the high cost of renting factories they have chosen to work from home to reduce overheads in a tight industry. How does this differ from GSI with it's 15 staff working from home and outsourcing EVERYTHING?? Going straight to the customer is a way of maximising profits the same measures you have taken, seems hardly a bases to stroke your ego over?

And aren't your boards made in the Cobra factory? The same factory which makes Surftech? So the factory is not yours, the production, overheads, workers, materials, designs, innovations....not yours??

'Backyarders', professional or hobbiest, don't even have the capacity (nor interest) to fill the Quik, Rip and Bong shops which require a large range of consumer products which is where GSI fills that consumer need and has a good business model. So why they were both mentioned in the interview seems illogical, BASE were far from being Backyarders?!

I think Mark you’ve demonstrated that your ego is as big as any in the industry. You’ve sledged Base, who were trying to do a good thing by keeping everything local, you've sledged Firewire who actually have 3 different constructions and cater to a wide range of users including kitesurfers. Your 'Hi Tech' Fiberflex is a board glassed traditionally with carbon tape down the rails, they are prone to snapping and at a similar price (more expensive than RF models) to Firewire offer a lot less value, Firewire also offer custom. You big noted yourself over Surftech who get their boards made in the same factory, good work.

Mate you put your head on the chopping block for this one...

backhand's picture
backhand's picture
backhand commented Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 at 3:14am

Maybe swellnet should do an article on Cobra, they do run a tight ship. Will they end up making all the worlds surfboards?

Article I found on Cobra http://www.islandlongboards.com/0/pdf/gsi.pdf

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 at 4:09am

Hi James,

The article you pulled up is written on the back of a tour where I took 6 of the best Hardware Retailers in Australia plus Keith Curtain from Australian Surf Business Magazine to one of our Vendors, Cobra in Thailand. I instigated this trip to help people understand that GSI is different to other companies that import boards.

I have not said that we own this factory, I have said that they are one of our vendors. We use a number of factories that specialise in different constructions.

The article is a good one albeit about 5 years old now.

Trust me I don't have a big ego, I think many people will tell you that. I am person who loves to surf, to travel to surf and to have fun, who just happens to have started a company that has been able to do well in a marketplace that is like no other I know of. I don't see my head being put on any chopping block. I do see people wanting to blame for a lot of things that GSI has not really been a part of. When Stu approached me to do a story on my thoughts about the collapse of BASE I thought it was a good way to let people know what our reality is.

Today I visited three stores in Sydney. All three stores have boards in there racks that are made in Asia that do not have Country of Origin labelling on them. They are being passed off to the consumer as Australian made product due to this lack of labelling. I believe that this damages the Australian domestic manufacturers and is unfair on the consumers as well.

Cobra will never make all the boards, nor will they ever all come from overseas. Domestically made boards are here to stay that is one thing that is certain in my mind.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

bum_acid's picture
bum_acid's picture
bum_acid commented Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 at 6:41am

GSI: flabby boards for flabby weekend warriors who wear booties in indonesia cos they lack the skills necessary in navigating over a reef.

end of story.

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 at 7:18am

Is it just me or does everyone see the correlation between ridiculous remarks and the non willingness to put your real name and where you are from? A waste of time really.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 at 8:22am

Ya gotta admit though Kel, 'bum acid' is one of the more humorous user names we've seen in a while...

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 at 9:23am

Hey Kel,
If you bring out a Bum Acid model Ill buy one, so should Ben.

Cheers,

cuttlefish's picture
cuttlefish's picture
cuttlefish commented Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 at 9:38am

I got caught out when I bought a GSI made Webber afterburner from a Sunshine coast surfshop approximately 4 years ago.
Board caught my eye and I liked the shape but obviously I didn't look hard enough.
I failed to see the 1cm X 0.5cm oval sticker on the bottom at the tail which proclaimed "Made in Thailand".
I honestly thought I'd bought a stock board made in Australia.
On the subject of using non-surfer labour there's another side of the coin.
No one stops to think what all the Thai workers did before they came to work in the surfboard and other large factories that produce goods for export to developed countries.
The funny thing is how people from all over the world travel to Thailand to experience it's wonderful culture and then can come away confused about why the country is turning into another westernised nation.
By playing your part in luring people away from villages to work in large factories and live in urbanised environments for the profit you are so proud of turning I have no respect for your "business".
Have you ever asked the children what they think of their parents working for the big factories while they have been left to be raised by grandparents or other relatives for years at a stretch?
Often children have been left with relatives as soon as they've been born and they don't even recognise their parents when and if they come to visit.
At least all the backyarders and other Aussie shapers, sanders and glassers can knock off work and go home to their families.
Pete Webb.
Sunshine coast.

Only a rat can win the rat race.

billie's picture
billie's picture
billie commented Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 at 12:19pm

I like your style, I like anything that mentions John Steinbeck

Billie

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 at 7:43pm

Hi Peter,

Thanks for your comments. I think they can be related back to the Industrial Revolution not just workers in Thailand.

People in all Asian countries are wanting more it seems that why they travel to find regular work. I watched a presentation recently by the Chief Economist of NAB at the Surf Retailers Federation meeting who said that basically the the number of people in China moving from subsistence farming to paid work on a monthly basis is equal to the population of New Zealand. He suggested that these people are doing this because of the want for a better life them themselves and their families.

Backyarders don't have to nock off and go to their families they are already there sharing their dust, resin and other fumes with them. This is the true nature of a backyarder.

Cheers,

Kel

Kel

backhand's picture
backhand's picture
backhand commented Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 at 8:48pm

Seriously Backyard 'hobbiest' make no dent in the surfboard market producing bugger all surfboards per year and should not have been mentioned in the interview. Swellnet???!!

To cement the 'backyard' critique is wrong here's another 2 shapers I researched both effectively work for GSI. Chris Goulding, long time Aloha shaper moved down here after the Aloha company was sold to an investor. Guess where he makes his Aloha surfboards...in his BACKYARD at home with his family!! (its on the Aloha website)!!! I'm told Aloha no longer have a factory of their own and the shapers use other shapers facilities to cnc and have boards glassed. So Aloha is a 'Backyard' company?

Also does Greg Webber have his own shaping bay any more? I vaguely remember reading somewhere that he doesn't personally shape any more just designs. The videos on his website describing his boards look like they are done in his bedroom? So Greg Webber...backyard designer/shaper!!! Hayden Shapes website says he started in his garage..professional ex backyarder!!

Johnny Gillis built one of the worlds first shaping machines..in his garage!! It was probably the same place he developed his CET epoxy resin which I'm told is what Hayden and Fiberflex were using..a whole ozzy business developed from the backyard!!

So the 'backyard' idea is dead, I think the real people flooding the market are the Ebay type sellers and surfshops attempting to improve the mark up by getting their own boards (mostly entry level) direct from south east asia. Really these people are no different to COBRA, GSI and SURFTECH its just that they don't pay for the branding of reputable name shapers to bump up their prices.

The other type would be the professional hobbiest who pop out of nowhere using cnc services (because its easy and like you said cheap) and local glassers to punch out boards (kind of the same as the other Aloha shapers now?). Both of these types of producer have no branding to sell their product off so low price is the only entry thing they have going. Many now 'name' shapers (especially young ones like Hayden Shapes) started out this way from pumping and dumping boards. Can you blame them? It's just market principles really, at least the professional hobbiests use and support ozzy cnc and glassing businesses.

Anyway I think BASE was a good company which involved some full on legends of our sport whose life long expertise were shaping and professional surfing, not marketing and business. It had the good intention of keeping jobs and production in Australia. Maybe if the surfboard industry wasn't so underground the government could have intervened to save jobs and an iconic ozzy industry from going under? Didn't Firewire get a $1mill grant for their product and then they went offshore? What a waste. Ulladulla has a great local surfboard industry so we're all good down here, thanks everyone.

Cheers,
James

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 at 9:41pm

@Backhand,

Seems the definition of 'backyarder' is a bit hazy and there's many interpretations leading to people talking at cross purposes. If you're getting angry that someone has a different take on the state of backyarders you best check that they are talking about the same sort of board builders as you.

FWIW I only mentioned 'cottage industry' in the interview as it was a direct quote from the last BASE-related article ('The surfboard industry can only exist as a cottage industry').

@Billie,

I dig Steinbeck too and when Kel mentioned it in the interview I had a quiet chuckle to myself.

@Cuttlefish,

There's a touch of implied racism in your comment that Thailand 'wants to turn into a westernised nation'. By that I assume you mean one with education, a health system, rule of law and general prosperity. Yet you appear to wish the natives remain in their 'natural state', which I guess means staying in their village living a simple life. That reeks of ignorance and arrogance. Wake up, most of the world wants to advance their living conditions. They want opportunity and prosperity. In short, they want what the west has got. Are you going to tell them they can't have it?

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 at 10:06pm

I agree with you there Stu, but the terrible, terrible irony is that non-western countries may get what they want at the precise moment in history when the World realises that all that economic growth and profligate consumerism is a giant house of cards.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 at 10:08pm

And that more localized economies: the "village" model if you like with the "backyard" local shaper is the only way the human race can survive.

brutus's picture
brutus's picture
brutus commented Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 at 11:07pm

What an interesting article,great to see so many people interested in the demise of BASE ( bad management ,too top heavy with office workers) and then to see GSI,and an example of how to be a success.
The BASE story will unravell over the next few months with criminal investigations continuing into the claims of insolvency,preferential payments to familly members etc......It's hard to understand how with a cost price for making a s/bd of about $250,and selling 10000 a year how ya could lose money,unless the company was too top heavy.
Kel says his world wide infrastructure is 15 people...now theres a lesson....and the fact that GSI's market is/was different to BASES,show BASE did not explore and understand the global market well enough to build a sustainable business....
I think Kel has explained himself and GSI's position extremely well,and he saw an opening in the market for a cheaper massed produced board , & with great service and good product,he created a professional S/bd company that has flourished,and not at the expense of local manufacturers.....most of the custom bd guys that I know are flat out at the moment,all we have had to do was relook at our old business models,and realise they were no longer sustainable,and to redefine where local makers/designers long term future markets are.
If a board is ghostshaped in Qld,glassed in Qld,whats the problem in getting a ghost shaper in asia and getting it galssed there...they are both sausages from the sausage factorys!
Product differentiation is the name of the game...have newer ,better designed bds,work towards educating better than average surfers the virtues of a custom board,and service them....you will find that by catering for a 10 bd a week business,there is a great lifestyle,a good living and less stress......its the egos of "how many are you making," attitude...or penis syndrome....
the real worry for the aust Shaping designing industry,that there are no real designers coming thru the current system,and the older shapers are not handing down or passing on their knowledge.....
Maybe mark K could comment on where the next designers are coming from.....and I do not mean technology based design...but actual s/bd hull designs....

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Thursday, 10 Nov 2011 at 11:38pm

Hi Brutus,

Interesting post. Regarding your question about the future surfboard designs. I think that with the ability people to design boards easily on computers, make them locally, pretty easily and tweak that design it will come from surfers themselves possible. Sort of like an underground movement of design. I know that you can do this now, design a board, get the file cut and glassed, and be surfing in in days. This is the equivalent of prototyping for companies like us.

I can see Channel Islands have already giving the reins of design over to surfers, when Al Merrick sold out of Channel Islands to Burton Snowboards a few years ago you can see how they have modelled their product offering on how they do it in the Snowboard game.

We are always on the look out for designs to licence off people who have had made something quite unique, we have paid millions of dollars to the various designers we use over the past 9 years.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

brutus's picture
brutus's picture
brutus commented Friday, 11 Nov 2011 at 12:13am

Hi kel
sorry i forgot to put my real name at least ya answewred to Brutas
thanx
Maurice Cole

s-r's picture
s-r's picture
s-r commented Friday, 11 Nov 2011 at 1:04am

Hey Kel and others I know here...Steve Robertson here...I worked with you a few years ago at the Noosa evet...anyway...to my question...which might be a bit sidetracking...but i think it has relevance...

First up...I declare I have little expertise...but I'm interested and keen to get views...

My question...or maybe it's my theory...

Are the mass produced epoxy boards from where ever...basically copies of what have been best modelled desigened and shaped PU (don't even know what that stands for) surfboards?

And... as such, being of expoxy and I think polystyrene core?...flawed in their design slightly because the materials are different, react differently in the water.....so....a board made in epoxy...off the design of a PU board, isn't the ideal for that contruction.

Now...if the epoxy made boards were super successful...and had money to pour into R and D...would they likely come up with lot's of differences that might make for a better product, which may or may not be superior to the PU boards --- but at this stage not in a position to test that because a design researched purely on those materials does not exist?

I could be right off the mark here...but I have this gut feeling that there's something in this....

Put my mind at ease!

Cheers

SR

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cuttlefish commented Friday, 11 Nov 2011 at 2:01am

From Stu-
" @Cuttlefish,

There's a touch of implied racism in your comment that Thailand 'wants to turn into a westernised nation'. By that I assume you mean one with education, a health system, rule of law and general prosperity. Yet you appear to wish the natives remain in their 'natural state', which I guess means staying in their village living a simple life. That reeks of ignorance and arrogance. Wake up, most of the world wants to advance their living conditions. They want opportunity and prosperity. In short, they want what the west has got. Are you going to tell them they can't have it?"

Stu you need to go back and re-read my comment. Don't accuse me of racism!
I said people travel to Thailand to experience it's wonderful culture and come away confused about why it is turning into another westernised nation.
Your reading comprehension leaves a lot to be desired if you understand this as "Thailand wants to turn into a a westernised nation".
I lived and worked in Thailand for 11 years as a an adventure tour leader for a small group travel company.
So I have very sound basis on which to make my statement about peoples expectations.
Thailands largest industry is in fact tourism.
You've assumed a lot in your further statements about what you think I want for Thailand.
Far from the truth.
Then go on to accuse me of arrogance and ignorance about what you've imagined I want for Thailand.
I'll point out that our own family business has been running for 13 years and is totally centred around cottage industry with family hand weaving fabric in Thailand and sending it to us to make into products here in Australia.
Our family members spend most of their time growing their own food and only weave fabric in their spare time.
I can sincerely say I want only the best for my family on both sides of the globe.
Our small business has paid for all of my wife's younger brothers and sisters educations and they've been free to choose whatever path they choose in employment.

Anyway on to Mark's reply...
Your referral to the industrial revolution is interesting.
That revolution centred around technical advancements in basic manufacturing and the birth of mass production.
What we have occuring in lesser developed nations is western countries setting up factories to utilise the cheap labour, factory set up and maintaince costs and in some cases sidestepping environmental and safety standards.
I know the large factories like Cobra and Rip Curl don't sidestep the safety and environmental standards but lets not assume that is the standard.
The sad fact is once the labour costs go up the companies are all too happy to relocate their factories to another country with a chaeper labour supply.
Mark's said the cheaper labour is only a part of the reason that they use Cobra and pointed out the saving made in buying raw materials in bulk.
Surely these raw materials could also be used in Australia so the cheap labour force comes to the fore.

Only a rat can win the rat race.

victor's picture
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victor commented Friday, 11 Nov 2011 at 2:48am

brutus...maurice cole,as a founder of base can give a bit more insight on the going ons of the company,a brief rundown of why you left e.t.c. without putting you in a awkward legal area....and its great to hear your health issues have improved.

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stunet commented Friday, 11 Nov 2011 at 2:57am

@Victor,

Check into Swellnet early next week for a full interview with Maurice regarding BASE. It'll answer a lot of your questions and, more than anything, it makes for great reading.

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stunet commented Friday, 11 Nov 2011 at 3:04am

@Cuttlefish,

You haven't addressed any of my points, merely obfuscated with irrelevant claims. Your reply is off topic so I'll reply with a resigned 'whatever'. You also questioned my reading comprehension when Mark Kelly typed this just a few comments above your very own:

.."Regarding labour, our factories pay more than the award wages, the factory in Thailand for instance has to compete with many other manufacturers in the local area for skilled workers. The Union movement is strong and workers have a lot of rights, the picture in anyone mind of a sweat shop is so far from reality it isn't funny. The hourly rate might be lower than Australia but the cost of living is as well. The workers in the factory in Thailand have paid parental leave, holiday pay, bonuses, free medical assistance for themselves and their families."

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kizza_1978 commented Friday, 11 Nov 2011 at 3:34am

Kieran Boyd, Collaroy Plateau

There is an ad on one of the daily surf reporting sites for $349 (delivered) custom surfboards as a Groupon deal. The label is Xpose, and a quick google search shows them on pretty much every group buying / discount website in existence.

Any thoughts on this as a business model Kel? This can't help either GSI or the local "cottage industry".

KB

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the-bower commented Friday, 11 Nov 2011 at 5:00am

Hi Pete ( Cuttlefish )

A couple of things to come back on here from your post -

I think that your comments are very generalised and knowing the specifics like I do you are way off the mark. A couple of things. All of the factories we work with are owned by locals i.e. Thailand Factory owned by a Thai guy, Chinese factory owned by a Hong Kong guy, Taiwan Factory owned by a Taiwanese guy. I don't think they are going to move to another country. They have all been working in their businesses for 20 odd years.

Brutus = Maurice Cole - I should have guessed. Nice to have you join the conversation.

Keiran - We have been approached by Groupon a number of times. I don't really like the idea of people buying a board solely because it is cheap. This lead to people getting the wrong board, not enjoying surfing and giving it up. Our goal is to get you the right board so you can get your share of the waves and become a better surfer. No matter what your budget. I doubt at $349 you will get much service if you have a problem. These guys are parasites in my mind.

Kel

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the-bower commented Friday, 11 Nov 2011 at 5:50am

Hello Steve,

I see you're pumping out the Press Releases for the Girls Go Surfing Day recently. To your question about he construction affecting the designs due to the nature of the materials. In essence you are correct. We try to cater for this by offering different boards in different materials. In recent years the designers we work with are now accustomed to the materials and are designing boards to suit these materials to allow for flex which some epoxy board are been accused of not having.

There is a huge miss understanding about the word Epoxy. It is the most misunderstood type of construction I think. We have 6 different types of Epoxy lay ups. Firewire has a few, Surf Tech has a couple now as well. Most people think that they are the same but they aren't. People need to read up on what each manufacturer is doing and with Epoxy resin.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

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cuttlefish commented Friday, 11 Nov 2011 at 8:22am

Stu,
If adding background to my comments by letting you know I've spent 1/2 my adult life in Thailand and built a great cottage based family business can be dismissed as irrelevant claiming when you've claimed I'm a racist, ignorant and arrogant so be it.
Mark,
What's wrong with looking at the big picture?
You'll make a good poly some day.
You haven't in any way addressed my comments about the social cost of using Thai labour.
You can talk about how you provide health cover to the workers.
I'll let the readers in on a little secret.
Any Thai national can be treated at the public hospitals and clinics for the sum of 30 baht ($1 Australian dollar) and receive free medication to boot.
If you are now buying so much raw materials in bulk that low labour costs aren't the greatest cost componenet of building boards why not start producing boards in Australia?
When I talk about factories I know the owners are locals but I'm talking about the corporations being all to ready to quit using these factories to move their productions to countries offering cheaper labour.
This option to bail when it gets too expensive as the living standards rise and and labour costs go up is a handy one. Beats setting up a purpose built factory and being tied down like the Aussie board manufacturers as you've pointed out.

Only a rat can win the rat race.

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wreckybuddy commented Friday, 11 Nov 2011 at 9:45pm

Right on Maurice!

If the shapers would keep their egos in check, we'd all be better off. I run a small operation that caters for between 10-15 custom boards a week, have low overheads, do all the shaping myself and even do a bit of the glassing process and have a couple of guys that part-time sand and laminate. My business model seems to be working well for me and I have the option of surfing every day and still love what I do. Simplicity is the key to success in this industry in my opinion.

It's when there are too many hands in the pie (including team riders) that things start to fall down. And I suspect that this is where BASE failed. I'm just so surprised that it continued on for so long.

As far as outsourced generic boards made in Asia, it really has no effect on what I do. And that is offer a personalised service to a clientele made up mostly of core surfers that would never buy a board that was made by non-surfers in Asia. Australia has a rich history of Surfboard manufacture and culture, and I believe that most core surfers would prefer to speak to a shaper, be involved in the design process, know what materials are being used, feel the boards on offer and smell the resin whether it's polyester or epoxy. Which is the type of experience that the ritual of ordering a custom board is all about. You simply don't get that with an Asian generic, mass-produced model.

Mark, we've had a discussion in the past and you know I don't support what you do, but you have been successful in a difficult industry, so my hat's off to you. But you are starting to sound like a politician.

And to the "surfers" that prefer to get sucked in by the bombardment of GSI propaganda and online advertising, -"Whatever floats your boat".

Rex Marechal
RMS Surfboards
[email protected]
0414 378 764

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the-bower commented Friday, 11 Nov 2011 at 10:48pm

Hi Pete ( Cuttlefish )

Re your comments about the social costs, you can say this of any culture not just Asian culture, my comment a while ago about the industrial revolution was that it made workers go to factories and the 9 - 5 work week was created. There are plenty of men and women in Australia who work hard to feed their families, its the social cost of having a family. Everyone deals with their own situation the best way they can.

Hi Rex,

Fuck mate you reckon I sound like a politician, it sort of it politics but my tenure isn't for a term or two it is for the rest of my working life. People want to hang shit or find out more about on what I am proud of building then I will happy to give my position as it is what I believe in and have poured many years of my life into now. There is too much generalisation about imported boards and everyone of our team worked very hard everyday to ensure that GSI is different to the rest of the industry. We support about 3,000 retailers around the world who buy and sell out product.

We have made a real positive difference to many peoples lives because of our community based actions. I am very proud of what I have built in the last 9 years and it that makes me sound like a politician then so be it. People make their own minds up when they want to buy a board whether it is their first or their 100th. I truly don't believe that any one gets sucked into anything. That's just spin.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

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non-local commented Friday, 11 Nov 2011 at 10:55pm

Nobody from Nowhere here,
Mark you seem to be dodging the labour charge issue here quite well, do you work for Gillard by any chance? I travel in south east Asia a lot and know a thing or two about labour charges in that reigon of the world, and the prices of living.
What standard of living are your wages providing the locals with? Village squalor accomodation getting to work on a thousand year old pushbike that still has square wheels or a decent car to get there and a nice soft bed at night with all the needs of a western person, able to take the wife and kids out to dinner?
I am interested in this and your opinion.
Also one thing that people here have not yet mentioned is the sheer amount of tax involved in producing surfboards in Australia, there is so much tax on resins it is crippling the industry, anyone want to roll with this idea?
Mark it baffles me as to why you want to put shit on an industry that you are a newcommer to, what makes you so good, your bank account?

one good turn deserves another

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non-local commented Friday, 11 Nov 2011 at 10:55pm

Nobody from Nowhere here,
Mark you seem to be dodging the labour charge issue here quite well, do you work for Gillard by any chance? I travel in south east Asia a lot and know a thing or two about labour charges in that reigon of the world, and the prices of living.
What standard of living are your wages providing the locals with? Village squalor accomodation getting to work on a thousand year old pushbike that still has square wheels or a decent car to get there and a nice soft bed at night with all the needs of a western person, able to take the wife and kids out to dinner?
I am interested in this and your opinion.
Also one thing that people here have not yet mentioned is the sheer amount of tax involved in producing surfboards in Australia, there is so much tax on resins it is crippling the industry, anyone want to roll with this idea?
Mark it baffles me as to why you want to put shit on an industry that you are a newcommer to, what makes you so good, your bank account?

one good turn deserves another

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the-bower commented Saturday, 12 Nov 2011 at 12:49am

Hi Nobody - breaking my own rule here I will address your questions.

I would be interesting in what you are doing in Asia when you travel there frequently. Are you one of the people who go there for continual cheap holidays because it is fantastic value maybe? That would be ironic wouldn't.

The unemployment rate in Thailand is about 1% at present. Workers have a lot of power at the moment due to the shortage of labour. The factory in Thailand is a multimillion dollar enterprise in an multi multi million dollar industrial park in Bangkok. It is clear to me that you have no clue what you are talking about. Sorry but your comments show a complete lack of understanding.

Also you comment on me becoming a new comer to the industry, again lack of knowledge. I have been working in the surfboard industry for 14 years now. At what stage are you not a newcomer one whole life time perhaps?

Do some research and put your real name on the site please.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

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upper-winky commented Saturday, 12 Nov 2011 at 1:42am

Hey Mark.You'll have to stop this forum soon and get to work I'm sure, it could go on forever BUT, before you do, could you break the no name rule one more time and answer this....Is it really a GFC at the moment, or is that a media hype, with hundreds of millions of people through asia/india/china and sth america moving from poverty to middle class? -- how's that for putting a twist to this topic.

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the-bower commented Saturday, 12 Nov 2011 at 2:19am

Hi UW ( You're killing me )

This is the view of the Chief Economist at NAB's view which made sense for sure. USA and Euro have major issues within their economies. US is debt related and now the political mayhem to try and get themselves our of it, this isn't going to happen in a hurry especially with an election next year. Euro is a different kettle of fish because of the whole EU thing and it will go on for year. Australia is well placed albeit with the two speed economy in full swing. So buy some mining or related stocks because that side of the Australian economy isn't going to stop anytime soon.

Now Asia & India are not affected at all because over the past few years they are still having strong growth but this is being more and more funded by internal domestic growth. It all those people in China getting jobs are creating more jobs within China because they ascending their pay so that country is less and less reliant on the Western worlds needs and as such demand for skilled workers is going up as the middle class emerges in it's own right. People want better housing, cars, lifestyles etc. This flows on to education, health and wellbeing etc.

I am sure that there is an economist or two reading this who could chime in. A couple of Analysts have contact me this week so maybe they could chime in.

The world seems to be in both a ragged and interesting state right now to say the least.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

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upper-winky commented Saturday, 12 Nov 2011 at 2:29am

Thanks Mark....that's how I figure it...there's probably more numbers world wide (global) from China/Asia?India/Sth America/Mexico.. who would call this time in history the Global Boom Time (GTB)...but somehow , someone has labelled it GFC....now that to me might be racist....what do you think soul surfers?

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andy79 commented Saturday, 12 Nov 2011 at 4:26am

Hi Mark,

Andrew from Newport Beach

I am glad business is going well for you... I find it funny that a lot of the readers are so upset about your boards being made in Asia, a lot of other things that Australians use every day originate there... Ha ha... typing this now on an apple computer....

My industry is residential building, where I run a local remedial building company, I understand how difficult and costly it is to get good labour for projects, deal with all the government red tape and earn a living, maybe a little profit.

I would imagine that a lot of visiters that come to Swellnet are of a reasonably high surfing ability and have a strong opinion about what type of board they are or aspire to riding - a 6"1 thruster from Chili in my case.. So to hear about your boards being made in Asia and not be what the top guys are riding probably doesn't go down too well... I do imagine that there are some very happy beginners out there that have just learnt to stand up on their very own NSP.

Maybe a lot of tall popie syndrome is going on with this crowd...... maybe a lot more respect would come your way if you had a local factory here as well- for the high performance side of things.. Maybe you could give it a go - if the Profit from Asia permits..... Maybe if surfers in Australia weren't so stingy BASE would still be around... Looking at the raw material and labour costs involved in making a board, a $850 price tag would be about where it is at in comparable industries i.e trades.

best regards,
Andrew

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bonza commented Saturday, 12 Nov 2011 at 4:56am

I'm for all supporting quality local producers and manufacturers when the price is right or certain factors are too important to me too ignore. Fresh fruit and veg and surfboards spring to mind.

I know nothing of the local shaping industry but I assume at least several items or materials they use to shape my boards are made or owned by off shore companies produced by the these same 'migrant' workers mentioned above.

Why is it that we should attack GSI for our hypocritical demands for local made and owned surfboards only? Practically almost anything we touch these days and ever increasingly so is made overseas in 2nd or 3rd world countries. We all know that.

Why attack GSI when if we take Mark's word he is working well within the rules of the globalised movement and in accordance with the country of origins laws. Based on his answers one could argue with a degree of ethical purpose. In fact one could say it is companies like his that are helping improve living conditions in these 2nd and 3rd world countries.

As I type on this Chinese made keyboard I am dressed in shoes made in Thailand, bangladashian t-shirt, jeans & socks made somewhere in south east Asia etc. I mean - to all those who criticise GSI and the wage factor - do you use these same values when evaluating every purchase you make? If you do I applaud you. It must be very difficult to dress, eat & travel sometimes but all the same well done to you. Can you explain to an aspiring anti capitalist & anti globalist battler how does one apply these values across the vast spectrum of life day in day out? Where are the boundaries when applying such standards to my purchases?

I too question the merits of globalisation in a capitalist society. We the plebs have been sold the concept that a globalised free market would solve all the world’s problems - poverty, war and famine. Clearly that has not only failed but globalisation has also created more than many disturbing factors. Am I prepared to give up my cheap flights, my lap top, my smartphone etc.? Well I am not so sure on that. I certainly believe we need to demand the corporate organisations and governments to play within a legal and ethical framework and to always do better. With that in mind we also do have somewhat of a choice to shop where we want.

It’s the hypocrisy that irks me.

hate the game. not the player.

kenny
global citizen. custom board buyer. food direct from farmer buyer. sweat shop tshirt wearer.

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the-bower commented Saturday, 12 Nov 2011 at 4:57am

Thanks Andrew,

We sell a lot of Alohas, Webber and very soon HaydenShapes in Australia and around the world. We just did the deal with Hayden Cox who has his own factory in Mona Vale but is finding it hard to make his factory profitable and lacks the distribution foot print we do.

I am sure the custom board will never die, people will want to fine tune their boards, I also agree with your comment that people should be more than willing to pay for the privilege.

Hope we get some sell soon hopefully we can all start surfing instead of talking about it.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

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mick63 commented Saturday, 12 Nov 2011 at 7:26am

Quite a few people seem to be missing the obvious here (Lopez?). A huge portion of the surf 'industry' is derived from asia. The vast majority of wetsuits, boardies, T-Shirts, sandals etc are made in asia and none of them are cheap so why single out GSI for basing their manufacturing over there? Stop and think about the profit margin in a $70 pair of boardies. At least Mark is upfront about his target market and the range, it wouldn't matter how good a board is, if you're a kook it's not gonna matter and in fact I've surfed a few boards from local shapers that were dogs, but I guess they were full of SOUL so at least I should be pleased about that. Also you don't have to surf to be able to make a good board as long as you know what you're doing and if you are making hundreds/ thousands of the things you're going to get pretty good at it. In fact probably better than some grommet in a local factory that's just had a big scoob and just wants to get down to the beach for a surf.

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cuttlefish commented Saturday, 12 Nov 2011 at 9:37am

Mick63,
It's true the vast majority of products produced for the surf industry is produced in Asia.
The only thing that someone needs to go surfing out of this vast array of products is the surfboard itself.
It's understandable that Aussie board builders would be concerned at losing market share to GSI because the rest of the surfing products market has long gone offshore.
It's like defending the last bastion.
I took Mark to task primarily because I wanted to point out an over-looked side of using Asian labour (using Thailand since it's close to my heart and I have in-depth experience) with the social cost of using dis-enfranchised workers.
Because Mark doesn't own the facilities he employs to make GSI's boards he doesn't have any responsibility to the workers and their circumstances.
But it also gives him the freedom to choose where he has the boards made so maybe one day we'll see GSI making boards back here in Oz too. :-)

Only a rat can win the rat race.

wreckybuddy's picture
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wreckybuddy commented Saturday, 12 Nov 2011 at 9:45pm

Hey Kel!

Now that's a little better. Have some passion!

It's what us shapers have always had...

And don't think for a minute I haven't put back into the community. Having donated countless boards to raise money for non-profit organisations, organised beach clean-ups and charitable contests, not to mention the support of many team riders and Australian and American workers that I've sourced. Over the past 30 years, I've probably put a much higher percentage of profits toward the surf and beach community than GSI (quietly, and only now have pointed that out). It's great that you put back into the community but shouldn't we all? It's our responsibility. (Have a look at www.take3.org.au, it's a non-profit organisation that I'm involved in.)

It's unfair to state that the small guys whether they are backyarders or small manufacturers don't put back into the community and/or research and development. And that most of them just copy what other people do. Aspiring shapers need to start somewhere. You can't say GSI doesn't copy. it's what the business model is based on - copies of Webbers, McTavishes, Hayden/fibreflex etc. And the fact that Cobra was originally a Sailboard and watercraft manufacturing facility that had technologies that most traditional surfboard brands are not exposed to. So most of the innovation that GSI incorporates is copied from other industries.

I know you are proud of what you do, fantastic!. But marketing, logistics and a bit of quality control isn't really building surfboards though is it? Do you have a background in the design and manufacture of surfboards? I think the readers would like to know.

Most domestic surfboard manufacturers can't afford to have someone on the top end of their business like you who is obviously skilled. The only way GSI can be sustainable, is to have their products manufactured overseas with much lower production costs. You've found the right balance, low overheads, good supply and distribution network, and obviously enough margin to grow. I agree, the surfboard industry is very unprofessional but it's because too much time is spent on actually working on the boards to make ends meet. So while we're all frantically trying to get things out the door and money trickling in, GSI employees (all 15 of them) are chilling at home organising the day-to-day business enjoying a huge slice of the pie. Damn, wish I would have thought of it first. Ha!

Kel, you put your head on the chopping block and I'm just contributing to the discussion.

As a shaper, designer and builder, I've faced years of scrutiny and criticism and in this game, you're only as good as your last board.

Rex

upper-winky's picture
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upper-winky commented Saturday, 12 Nov 2011 at 10:58pm

What an informaive forum! ...My two cents worth here... Both sides are right...except Lopez and his Soul crap..

I can't see custom PU boards going to disappear anytime soon...because..they are better...that's why 99.9% of professional surfers ride them -- Taj and Bourez the exception...Firewire might actually get a product that equals or is superior to the PU things because they seem to push really hard to tweak deign to match materials.

Why are PU boards superior? -- Just my opinion but...buoyancy and flex differences are significant at the high end....and it's so significant that even in the face of the epoxy/polystyrene being able to claim greater strength and lightness....the PU still reign supreme.

A personal experience to reflect on...I once rode an epoxy fish type board at a break that rarely breaks but is super fun when it does...I had an amazing session on the board...got out of the water thinking the board was actually superior.....but was later disappointed when riding the board at other more conventional breaks...it surfed OK...but that was all.....That first surf was on a wave that was clean and had this ridiculous sweep running through it and I reckon the added buoyancy of the polystyrene board made it superior in those conditions -- it took advantage of the sweep way better than what a PU board could have, like the wave it was surfed in it was unusual and not the norm...so I've concluded PU is simply superior at this stage --- so keep shaping Rex, Maurice and others!

That said, I reckon 60% of the surfing population would be better off on GSI/Firewire/Surftech/ boards....I reckon most surfers probably demand their shapers make them boards too thin/light/narrow...occassionally they ride a wave well..most of the time they look as tho they're having a below average time in the water and would have way more fun on something more designed for fun.

Then there's the entry and very recreational surfer who are probably way better suited to the Epoxy boards...so... keep making them Kel and don't feel guilty about using O/S labour....from what I've seen you're contributing in a small way to hundreds of millions of people moving from poverty to middle class and I don't think these people are being exploited...and if you pull out and bring it back into Australia I'd imagine you'd be going bust faster than BASE....you'd know those sums way better than me!

Upper Winky looks fun today but I know Lower Winky is actually the better wave!

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upper-winky commented Saturday, 12 Nov 2011 at 11:54pm

One more thing rex.... MK's design background...he's clearly aligned with Webbers and others with that skill...who have elected to align their expertise with his (overseas construction mass), so the design component is covered IMO.

psillakissurfboards's picture
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psillakissurfboards commented Sunday, 13 Nov 2011 at 12:21am

@Lopez
What's so Great? - Mark Kelly is providing for a different market, point of difference; and that's only going to prop up the Local Market. That’s what so great - It helps distinguish what is the Local Market - it gives the Local Market leverage because the Local Market offers "service" in addition to a product. There will always be an entry level, base performance product – not just in surfboards, in any sporting good (tennis rackets, golf clubs etc). If I were going to try tennis, I’m not going to put money into top of the line racket to muck around on. I’m going to try the base level model until I get good enough to distinguish what works for me.

What’s undercutting the Local Market, are local shapers punching boards out off a machine, flooding the Local Market creating downward pressure on local prices. I totally agree with Maurice aka Brutus its:

“the egos of ‘how many are you making’ attitude...or penis syndrome....”

which is ruining the surfboard industry as a whole, not what GSI is doing. GSI can make all the boards they want, they fill the entry-level niche market and I will continue on providing my local service and hand-crafted boards for any surfer who appreciates their name penciled on the board.

As I said before, my business model is sustainable. We need to get rid of the numbers attitude. Let’s look at Skip Frye’s business model, the demand for his boards and what he’s created - would love for him to jump into this forum.

Let’s not point the finger at GSI but re-visit the Local Surfboard Market business model – let’s create something sustainable. Really, this discussion is just another lesson in Marketing Basics.

Mike Psillakis - Psillakis Surfboards

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psillakissurfboards commented Sunday, 13 Nov 2011 at 12:27am

ps: I provide 100% hand-shaped epoxy surfboards - made in Australia :o)

Mike Psillakis - Psillakis Surfboards.

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sunny commented Sunday, 13 Nov 2011 at 7:29am

The local board manufacturing issue has made it to primetime TV. On the news last night there was a feature on Darcy boards downsizing. Darcy was asking for tariffs and identification on imported boards. I think it's a little to late, reactionary. Should have got the Union in!

Life is good when ur tubed :-)

wreckybuddy's picture
wreckybuddy's picture
wreckybuddy commented Sunday, 13 Nov 2011 at 7:29pm

Darcy was trying years ago to form a shapers federation. Sadly it fell on deaf ears as too many egos spoiled the formation.

It seems all of these forums end up in a PU/PE vs. epoxy debate. I think you'll find that most manufacturers offer an epoxy solution for their customers.

Hey Mike, I liken the custom surfboard experience to having a coffee. Would you rather throw a spoonful of Nescafe into a cup of boiling water or have your local barista make your special blend exactly how you like it?

Some people won't really care and some people will. The fact there are more people who don't necessarily care make Nescafe the biggest coffee brand in the world.

As I said before GSI doesn't effect what we do. They are good at what they do and we are good at what we do.

Rex

non-local's picture
non-local's picture
non-local commented Sunday, 13 Nov 2011 at 8:22pm

Mark I will put my full name in when you answer the all important question about the wages. You have dodged this question very well here. I assumed the factory would be in a multi-million dollar industrial park, what do the workers get per month in Australian dollars?
14 years in the surfboard industry still makes you a newcommer compared to Murray Burton, Greg Webber and the likes.
Money buddy, how much in AUD do the workers get in your factory on average and not including management?

one good turn deserves another

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Sunday, 13 Nov 2011 at 9:45pm

Hi Non Local,

I do not know the weekly wage. I do know however that employment is a very competitive think right now and that whole departments of people are being poached by companies looking for skilled workers. The cost of anything in AUD outside of Australia is irrelevant.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Sunday, 13 Nov 2011 at 10:06pm

Hi Mike, I would have thought it better if entry level surfboards were used boards not cheap imports.Surely that would be better for the local industry.My first board was an old mal my brother and I cut down.It went crap but it did the job.

Regards,

upper-winky's picture
upper-winky's picture
upper-winky commented Sunday, 13 Nov 2011 at 10:10pm

I'm think I'm seeing a thread between this forum and the Maurice Cole Base article and wondering if anyone else percieves it.
Most of these top shapers, who are unquestionably great, are looking for a mass prduction formula of their designs, which allows them to concentrate on R&D without grinding away under the current model which is probably too labour intensive and not fairly costed....
The Hayden/GSI models I'm also thinking might be a step in the direction of higher end performance Epoxy?

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Sunday, 13 Nov 2011 at 10:12pm

Now there's a gap in the market just waiting to be exploited: cut-down-old-mals for beginners!

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Sunday, 13 Nov 2011 at 10:19pm

Hi Ben, why that piece of sarcasm.Kel needing some back up?

Regards,

benski's picture
benski's picture
benski commented Sunday, 13 Nov 2011 at 10:19pm

Props to Mark Kelly for sticking around so long and answering these questions. It's been very informative and an enjoyable read.

I'm one of the people who is a brand snob, if that's the phrase, so won't buy a GSI board. I'd rather a handmade board if possible, or at least shaped locally. That's because I like my coastal community to be a complete one, for want of a better phrase. I like the fact that there are local shapers , farmers, bakers etc. So when I wanted a summer log but didn't want to spend a shedload on a new one I looked around for a second hand one. I scored a beautiful old (25 years) board shaped by Lawrie Hohensee for a good price. I'm not good enough on a longboard to tell the difference between a handshaped old bird and a GSI made epoxy or whatever; it's purely a preference on my part to buy from a local shop.

But to address the questions about pay and conditions of foreign workers, in my opinion, it's a no brainer. Of course GSI operates out of Thailand because it's cheaper. Big deal. The average Aussie household would probably consist of about 10% made in Aus goods, at the most. We benefit from this in every way. To expect surboard manufacturers to deny themselves this chance is ridiculous. And sure that might be changing the social fabric of a specific developing country, but would you rather they were stuck living their "village" lifestyle? Are you not prepared to grant individuals, and by extension entire societies, the chance to change themselves as time progresses should they wish?

By all means have a preference for locally made boards, as I do, but for crying out loud unless you only buy Australian made goods for every purchase you make, get off your high horse about manufacturing in developing nations.

benski.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Sunday, 13 Nov 2011 at 10:22pm

@Upper Winky,

You are absolutely right. In the course of these interviews I spoke to another very well known and respected shaper whose name has popped up a few times in this thread, he also was looking for 'a mass production formula for his designs'. It seems odd that so many sideline punters are dead against the GSI model while many lifelong shapers - fellas that have toiled for years to create state-of-the-art boards - would willingly jump onto the GSI roster and have their boards mass produced. 'Why not be rewarded for all the hard work?' seems to be their rationale.

I recently had a surf with Hayden Cox (Haydenshapes) and asked him if he'd copped any grief about licensing his designs to GSI. "Not really," he said "but if I do those people can always order a custom off me. The factory at Mona Vale is still open."

It's all about choice.

whaaaat's picture
whaaaat's picture
whaaaat commented Sunday, 13 Nov 2011 at 11:29pm

I’d like to add to the conversation re low wages. Some obvious questions occur, being: who are we in the rich developed world to tell the underdeveloped world to stay poor and in their villages because of global warming, low-wage exploitation, natural resource depletion or whatever middle-class anxiety is in current vogue? Or, worse, impose tariffs that remove the underdeveloped world’s key natural advantage – low wage costs?

Furthermore, as disdainful of profit as some of the commentators on this blog are, you can’t stay in business without it. Profit margins count. And as keen to buy Australian as you might be, you simply cannot avoid buying some stuff that’s made overseas. Production of any item with relatively low production and shipping costs and/or that can be engineered for mass production will, sooner or later, be moved offshore. Margins on mass-produced offshore stuff are, usually, higher than locally-produced stuff. So, as a businessperson, the real question is often not whether but which offshore factory.

I was buying for a national retail chain at the time that manufacturing in Guangdong exploded. Thousands of factories were being thrown up in the Pearl River Delta, and hundreds of thousands of villagers flocked to them for the chance to replace backbreaking, poverty-ridden lives with new ones. Even so, competition played its part. Crappy, poorly ventilated, poorly lit, badly-managed factories who didn’t pay well couldn’t keep staff. They’d just walk down the road to a better one. And if I didn’t get the goods I’d booked, on time, as specified, I’d walk too.

Mark doesn’t strike me as stupid. 14 years seems to me a reasonable length of time to prove his business model works. Nor does he strike me as venal. Venality would quickly lead to strained relationships with good suppliers (you only dud them once) and you can’t stay in business using crook ones. I’d bet a decent sum on all of his factories being leaders in their respective countries’ regions.

With respect, I think the question about low wages should be directed to the real back-yarders – those eBay sellers that order crap boards from sweat shop suppliers, untroubled by those nasty concepts – decent supply chain relationships, and great customer service.

One final point: BASE’s case is a telling one. How much damage to how many good people and their reputations is this situation going to wreak by the time it finally plays itself out in 3 or 4 years time? Good, clear-eyed management and a sustainable business model will trump good intentions and ill-based hope all day, every day.

And before anyone asks: no, I’m not and have never been associated with GSI, nor have I ever bought a GSI board. For some ill-judged reason, Mark has decided against catering to us cripples.

Steve Beach, Port Willunga

victor's picture
victor's picture
victor commented Sunday, 13 Nov 2011 at 11:35pm

mark. you are running the g.s.i. show and cant or will not give us the weekly or monthly salary of your workers ? to you it may be irrelevant but many of us would like to know,$aussie or local currency ....one person on this forum has a relative employed in your factory? so a honest answer if you will......

savyoperators's picture
savyoperators's picture
savyoperators commented Sunday, 13 Nov 2011 at 11:40pm

@ Benski

You got a nice 25 year old Hohensee for a nice price? good score , any others under the house?

benski's picture
benski's picture
benski commented Monday, 14 Nov 2011 at 12:05am

savy, I was pretty happy with it I gotta say! But it's the only true gem I've got I'm afraid.

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Monday, 14 Nov 2011 at 1:30am

Hi Victor,

You are correct I run the GSI show but we only buy finished products made to our specifications from our vendors we do not own nor manage the factories. There is no 'your' factory. I am giving you all the information I have from my 14 years of dealing with them.

Again employment is a competitive game in many Asian countries right now. When unemployment is down around zero to 1% the workers can do what ever they like as it is super easy to get another job with the pay and conditions that favour them.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Monday, 14 Nov 2011 at 2:10am

Hi Upper winky, Is the reason you dismiss a board having some soul because that is one thing Kel cant offer manufacturing in Thailand with non surfing labour, who could be just as happy making TV sets.

How can you replace knowing who makes the board,having it made to suit your weight, ability, wave type,not to mention custom spray.

I cant say I have seen too many GSI boards out at 8 ft speedies or 10 ft sunset but I do see a lot of guys backing themselves out there riding their special favourite board.Boards with proven performance in critical situations and with what I call soul.

upper-winky's picture
upper-winky's picture
upper-winky commented Monday, 14 Nov 2011 at 4:26am

Keep charging soul surfer - Is that you on the front page today? -- if not, when you do get lip launched at speedies, rest assured you'll be ok because Huey looks after all sould surfers!

p-funk's picture
p-funk's picture
p-funk commented Monday, 14 Nov 2011 at 4:32am

I think he dismisses soul in a board Lopez because their 'special favourite boards' are either proven designs from well known shapers that they have repeatedly ridden and know the performance characteristics of inside out - or its merely a placebo effect (of which ive been a victim off before). Not soul though - it's an inanimate object. Bit like my saturday night lucky undies.... (placebo effect that is - not the repeatedly ridden bit)

For all you know Backyard Baz might have punched a quad papered super Spliff Richard of Gary Green before he handshaped your 'soul' filled board, leaving you with a proverbial aysemtric dogs breakfast. Personally, id rather mm precise pre-shapes based on proven designs from reverred shapers such as webber, DH, SA etc. But each to their own....

The reason you dont see GSI boards out at 8ft Speedies or 10ft Sunset was addressed in the 3rd question - they have, up until this point, been targeting beginner to intermediate level surfers. When was the last time you saw a beginner/intermediate level surfer out in said conditions? With a move into hi-fi boards, im sure you'll be seeing more of them out in said conditions.

Now having said that - anyone know if Simon is still shaping? Got to get me a new 6'6 step-up....

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Monday, 14 Nov 2011 at 4:43am

Upper winky,
Post where I mentioned soul surfer and Ill send you a carton.

Cheers,

wreckybuddy's picture
wreckybuddy's picture
wreckybuddy commented Monday, 14 Nov 2011 at 6:20am

Soul is overrated.

tylerdurden's picture
tylerdurden's picture
tylerdurden commented Monday, 14 Nov 2011 at 10:58am

GSI represent the modern corporate world applied to the otherwise idealistic world of surfing.
They got in at the right time and did whatever it took to produce a similar quality product at a reduced price.
They foresaw the explosion in baby boomer surfers and catered to this market.
They have capitalized on the weakness of their competitors (ie a lack of business sense, given that most of them were shapers with high school educations) and exploited this advantage to the hilt.
Sleep well at night? Of course Mark does. He gives enough back to the industry to justify his position for public relations purposes but of course takes a large chunk of that 8 figure turnover for himself.
He is a capitalist, who defines success as "financial success" and considers those who did not exploit the system as well as he did as inferior.
Welcome to capitalism!

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Monday, 14 Nov 2011 at 11:39am

Hi Tyler,

Funny you know more than I do. 9 years in and GSI has never paid a dividend, I get paid a good salary from the company. We do way more than anyone will ever be told and we do not use our charity or community work for PR purposes. Once again another uninformed mouthpiece willing to give your opinion on a subject you have not researched or asked any questions on from reliable sources.

Cheers

Kel

Kel

tylerdurden's picture
tylerdurden's picture
tylerdurden commented Monday, 14 Nov 2011 at 7:58pm

I thought you were only going to respond to people who left their real name?

15 staff, "well into 8 figures", probably doing ok I reckon.
The only research I did was read your answers.
The following is pretty obvious:
GSI is a capitalist venture, with a business plan to produce an equivalent product at a competitive price, and to target a market not catered for by BASE
You have run your business very well, an inherent part of which is exploiting the system (ie cheaper Asian labour) and capitalizing on the weakness of your competitors.
Business school 101

Uninformed mouthpiece? Perhaps the opposite, a little too close to the truth

non-local's picture
non-local's picture
non-local commented Monday, 14 Nov 2011 at 8:15pm

Tylerdurden he thinks it is your real name, he obviousy hasnt seen fight club.
I am over guys flooding the surf market to capitilize on it, the only thing it leads to is over crowding of an over crowded sport. I have some mates who did this in the early days and they made a shitload more cash than mark will ever make. Now they are so tied up in business that they have lost the stoke involved in going surfing with mates.
Mark doesnt know the labour costs involved in making his products so how can he be so savvy?

one good turn deserves another

cuttlefish's picture
cuttlefish's picture
cuttlefish commented Monday, 14 Nov 2011 at 10:53pm

To answer Victor's question about wages.
For workers in factories owned by foreigners/foreign corporations they have to adhere to a number of standards.
For example the factory that produces one of the big 3's wetsuits paid it's workers 150 thai baht ($5.17 ex rate 29 thb-Aud) a day 7 years ago when I left Thailand to move back here.
Having said that Cobra being a Thai owned factory do not have the same constraints (such as minimum wage in a foreign owned factory) as the foreign owned factories.
I recall there was a strike at the Cobra factory a while back...played havoc with the inventory no doubt.
Furthermore if you do set up a foreign owned factory I quote from a reliable source .any western business in thailand pays no tax for first 8 years then only 5% for next five years.. They go on to say,
boards are sold from gsi thailand to gsi australia for around $1 profit per board, australia runs at a basic loss but thailand company makes huge profit and no tax..
The internet is available for anyone to check the facts with the Thai government about setting up foreign owned businesses in Thailand.

Only a rat can win the rat race.

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Tuesday, 15 Nov 2011 at 2:32am

Hi Winky, you getting thirsty yet.?

a360's picture
a360's picture
a360 commented Tuesday, 15 Nov 2011 at 7:56am

Howdy all Benton Moran from Perth

I have been enjoying the to and froing on the discussion over the last week or so.

Although most of the boards I shape are for the average surfer and I probaly only do between 100- 150 a year at most and all are PU.

What I have noticed in the Repair area of the factory I share that there is now over a 50% representation of epoxy boards in for repair and a good number of these are snaps. It may be that the Perth market is perfect for these epoxy boards and they maybe over represented in the sales out of the board shops but what is interesting is the poor workmanship overall once you start sanding away the layers.
I do not take too much notice of the brand just that they are of epoxy manufacture presumably offshore manufacture.

Not pointing any fingers here but we are finding it interesting as the repair demographic is changing.
But I can tell you that the fellows do not like paying for epoxy repairs and have trouble understanding that it takes a long time to dry out and you will not get the board back in time for the Weekend.

Cheers

Benton

victor's picture
victor's picture
victor commented Tuesday, 15 Nov 2011 at 8:19am

cuttlefish.thankyou for that. kym 'roader' thompson from cobra,is that how it works in thailand ?

fishheadsushi's picture
fishheadsushi's picture
fishheadsushi commented Tuesday, 15 Nov 2011 at 11:09pm

Joel - Shellharbour

Re: hand shapes / machine shapes

I own a second hand 7S super-fish and it's by far and beyond the best all round board I've ever owned. My perspective on mass produced equipment has definitely swayed on that one boards performance.

I have a flyer directly in front of me for a shop/brand board offering $495 '100% aussie made' customs until the end of November. The idea the Aussie made stamp could be deliberately false to mislead and secure my dollars, is a frightening thought! Dick Smith is on the case

I'll always be in your 5% online bracket. I wouldn't buy a board from a t-shirt shop, just Like I wouldn't buy a car from Ikea.

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Wednesday, 16 Nov 2011 at 3:03am

I must say having the Noosa surfing festival sponsored by a Thai surfboard manufacturer seemed somewhat sad in my opinion.

Regards.

whaaaat's picture
whaaaat's picture
whaaaat commented Wednesday, 16 Nov 2011 at 6:02am

Yeah, shoulda passed the hat around at the Cronulla riots....

Aussie, aussie, aussie.....

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Wednesday, 16 Nov 2011 at 6:48am

Why were they taking sponsorship donations back then?

Would think that some aussie company could step up to the plate.

Regards,

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Wednesday, 16 Nov 2011 at 7:13am

Sure like Quiksilver, Billabong, Rip Curl, Rhythm i Which company do you think should drop the wedge there Lopez?

Cheers

Kel

Kel

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Wednesday, 16 Nov 2011 at 7:23am

You most probably out bid them with that 8 figure turnover.

Regards,

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Wednesday, 16 Nov 2011 at 7:26am

Imagine if Mark was American....

Then you'd really have something to whinge about 'eh boys?

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

whaaaat's picture
whaaaat's picture
whaaaat commented Wednesday, 16 Nov 2011 at 9:28am

@ Lopez

You do get that the IP of each licensed shape for each surfboard built by GSI off that shape belongs to an Orstrayn, don't you??!!

And that each such Orstrayn gets paid a royalty for each such board sold???

And that GSI directly pays the wages of 15 people, some of whom are Orstrayn, and indirectly the wages of many more, most of whom probably aren't Orstrayn, but all of whom are Humings and grateful for the work????

Jeebus...

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Wednesday, 16 Nov 2011 at 10:25am

Hi Whaaat,
If your trying to tell me Bob and Greg are rolling in it do go on.
Also I was of the impression that Bob sold the trade name Mctavish.Maybe someone could enlighten me on that.

I just dont see what Kel has created is that Great.Going overseas to manufacture boards with $10 a week labour is to me nothing ground breakingl.Maybe its me thats wrong and all you GSI employees that are posting are right.(LOL)

clubfoot's picture
clubfoot's picture
clubfoot commented Wednesday, 16 Nov 2011 at 11:25am

Don't noramally throw my hat in the ring on these forums but Ive been watching this one from the start and its been fascinating to see the comments for and against offshore production. Just about all the major board makers on earth have product produced in Asia (JS, Firewire,Simon Anderson, Channel Islands aka Burton Snowboards) yet they don't seem to be copping the heat that GSI are. Guess its because they have their feet in both camps of domestic and offshore production. Saying that, if all these shaping legends are happy to put the cash in their pockets from the Asian boards they're selling surely it should be ok with the rest of us!
As for your comment Lopez regarding the Noosa Festival you clearly haven't been up there and experienced it. Amazing event. Showcases all styles of surfing without all the hype you get at the CT events run by the big clothing companies.

whaaaat's picture
whaaaat's picture
whaaaat commented Wednesday, 16 Nov 2011 at 8:30pm

@ Lopez

Yup, you caught me out. I'm designing the new GSI bikini line, coming to a store near you, just as soon as I've completed my research.

Could be a while yet...

shaun's picture
shaun's picture
shaun commented Wednesday, 16 Nov 2011 at 8:42pm

Clubfoot, if I can talk all the shaping legends to jump of a cliff, will you and all the rest of "us" jump off too?

I'm the scab you keep picking off and is there again the next day.

Phil Jarratt's picture
Phil Jarratt's picture
Phil Jarratt commented Wednesday, 16 Nov 2011 at 9:39pm

Is this a world record yet, Stu? Sorry to add to it but can't let Lopez go unchecked on Noosa Festival of Surfing. Without GSI it wouldn't exist, that's fact. And having run big events as both an indie and as a sponsor lackey, I can tell you that the sponsorship comes from the heart, not the hip pocket.

Phil Jarratt

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Wednesday, 16 Nov 2011 at 10:45pm

From the heart not the hip pocket.Thanks for that Phil.

Regards,

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 16 Nov 2011 at 10:57pm

Actually it's not, Phil. We had 218 comments for the 'Social Media Killed The Secret Spot' article so we've still got a way to go. There's a tip for editors, if you can combine secret spots with Asian-made boards you're onto a winner. And if, somehow, you can include the Bra Boys in the mix you will have cracked the Holy Grail.

shaun's picture
shaun's picture
shaun commented Thursday, 17 Nov 2011 at 12:05am

Okay then, can someone tell me then, are all the "My brothers keeper" clothing line made in Australia. I assume they are, as they are always banging on about pride in Australia.

I'm the scab you keep picking off and is there again the next day.

p-funk's picture
p-funk's picture
p-funk commented Thursday, 17 Nov 2011 at 2:27am

Dem boardz are made by cunce who cant farkin speak 'shtrayian - aye.

victor's picture
victor's picture
victor commented Thursday, 17 Nov 2011 at 8:45am

a little soul maybe. pancho sullivan surfing 6-8ft haliewa on a pancho 6'6 epoxy ,watched that footage on a friends home vid,that board would go well at speedies i reckon........mark richards when travelling o.s.his quiver all offshore made epoxy surfboards. please correct me if im wrong M.R.

upper-winky's picture
upper-winky's picture
upper-winky commented Thursday, 17 Nov 2011 at 9:31am

Hey Lopez -- hope you're eyeballing the coming 10 foot west swell at Sunset (there's gotta be a swell soon) --- you'll be there hey..with trusty soul filled hand shaped? Or, are you already there and you really are Gerry Lopez?

clubfoot's picture
clubfoot's picture
clubfoot commented Thursday, 17 Nov 2011 at 10:49am

@ Shaun

If I make a list off the top of my head of all the famous shapers who have had boards made in Asia it would include Mctavish, Webber, Merrick, JS, Walden, Nev Hyman (Firewire), MR , Simon Anderson and don't forget some of the most famous "soul" surfers like Terry Fitzgerald, Wayne Lynch, Gerry Lopez, Mike Hynson etc. I'm sure there are a few more that I've left out. Some pretty heavy hitters in there and I think it would be fair to say more than a few of them have had a direct influence on what everybody is riding today. Are you saying you know better than these guys Shaun?

shaun's picture
shaun's picture
shaun commented Thursday, 17 Nov 2011 at 7:56pm

@clubfoot,
No I don't know any better than anyone else, but just because they all think it is great idea and for there wallet, it probably is at this time. But doesn't mean it is a good thing to do in the long run, a few years ago every one was investing in the stock market so everyone else jumped on the wagon, that ended well didn't it, a few of the names you have mentioned have proved time and time again the they are not very good businessmen, as a matter of fact that is probably why they sold there name(brand) to get a business man like kel to sell it for them. I can see why boards are being made in Asia, I just don't think it is good for the economy of Australia.
Just because someone is a great shaper or surfer does not make them particularly good at anything else, there just peolpe like you and me, stop trying to make them more than that.
You mention that Simon Anderson has board made in Asia,I thought Simon Anderson was a co-owner in Base, did he have a foot in both camps?

I'm the scab you keep picking off and is there again the next day.

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Friday, 18 Nov 2011 at 3:53am

Hi Winky,
is it just you thats trolls forums flaming people or has Kel got the whole magnificent 15 online.
This thread is dead or dying but what I will say is GSI in my opinion are doing nothing special and its a little rich for Kel to stick the boot into Bases demise as he is not a shaper, not a designer,not a board manufacturer.GSI are just middle men who get a product made by whoever is cheaper and sell at a low price to undercut the market in Oz.

Long live the custom Aust. made surfboard.

Regards,

clubfoot's picture
clubfoot's picture
clubfoot commented Friday, 18 Nov 2011 at 12:19pm

@shaun

Yep Simon has his surf tech models made in the Cobra factory in Thailand, same place that GSI's boards are made. At the end of the day I don't care where my boards are made as long as they surf well.
In a perfect world boards would be made without any logos or branding at all. That way people would just focus on the shape, volume, dimensions, rocker etc instead of choosing what's fashionable and being ridden by the pros. Would improve a lot of people's surfing & enjoyment level in my opinion.

shaun's picture
shaun's picture
shaun commented Friday, 18 Nov 2011 at 7:34pm

@Anyone like clubfoot that does not care where there board came from.

At the end of the day, this attitude by Australians will shoot themselves in the foot.

I'm the scab you keep picking off and is there again the next day.

wreckybuddy's picture
wreckybuddy's picture
wreckybuddy commented Friday, 18 Nov 2011 at 7:45pm

Yeah! Support your local shaper.

Rex
RMS Surfboards
www.rmshapes.com

brendo's picture
brendo's picture
brendo commented Friday, 18 Nov 2011 at 10:24pm

you'll never stop someone going for a cheaper board (globalisation won't go away), but those who know go local shaper customs to get what they want! I had a GSI Webber fish and found it pretty ordinary, now I have nothing but Rex's custom boards. I get advice, I get what I need exactly to the specs I am after and a lot of local guys have them too, good to compare boards etc., see how they go before buying. And I support local economy/people by doing so.

top-to-bottom-bells's picture
top-to-bottom-bells's picture
top-to-bottom-bells commented Saturday, 19 Nov 2011 at 1:39am

..."Yeah! Support your local shaper.

Rex
RMS Surfboards "

Get 10% off if you mention Swellnet!

ritchie-rich's picture
ritchie-rich's picture
ritchie-rich commented Saturday, 19 Nov 2011 at 6:58am

All I can say is good luck to Mark. All the people bagging him have to realise that, as is said by all the big shapers on here, they are all looking at ways to make the industry become more cost efficient. This obviously will help all involved in the industry.
There will always be custom shapers if thats your deal, so what's all the fuss about.
The whole soul bullshit makes me laugh. Its marketed just as hard as any aspect of surfing. Take Rasta for instance. If it wasn't for corporate sponsorship he'd have to do a normal job like us and wouldn't have the money or time to do all his environmental escapades.
@Tyler Durdon. Man you write the biggest unsubstantiated bullshit I have ever read.Go back to all your conspiracy theories or better still. Move to North Korea and see how bad life really is over here. I agree corporate greed has gone too far, but if you've read anything on socialist states they don't run too well either. It would be interesting for you to share the answers to the world's problems with all of us, just to see if you in fact are an educated person or just the wanker you come across as. I can tell you one thing though. Mark Kelly is having no direct negative effect on your life.
You can't blame someone for working their ass off and receiving some reward from it. I look forward to your scathing retort haha.

victor's picture
victor's picture
victor commented Saturday, 19 Nov 2011 at 8:02am

ritchie rich, well said that was f ing great....

wreckybuddy's picture
wreckybuddy's picture
wreckybuddy commented Saturday, 19 Nov 2011 at 7:36pm

Thanks for the kind words Brendo!

And t2b bells, yeah we'll look after you if you mention this thread. Get your orders in before Christmas! Ha!

Rex
www.rmshapes.com

tylerdurden's picture
tylerdurden's picture
tylerdurden commented Tuesday, 22 Nov 2011 at 10:21am

G'day Ritchie, nice to hear from you.
If you have a look at one of Rex's posts way back at the top you will see that my sentiments are pretty similar.
Mark Kelly is trying to sell himself as an all round good guy, community servant etc etc when all he really is a capitalist, a business man running a business and not much else.
In my opinion he has increased the separation between shaper and surfer to the point where now no relationship exists for the majority of people, which I think is a bit of a shame.

Also, a bit of advice: if you are going to question my intelligence it might not be a bad idea to sharpen up your grammar, it certainly does not do you any favours.

Rex, as an aside I have a beautiful RMS 6'6" pin tail which I ride when it is solid and it goes like a dream.
I hope GSI does not force people like you out of business

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Tuesday, 22 Nov 2011 at 11:24am

Strange how certain people take soul in boards and turn into soul surfer.If you have no understanding of a special board then you should keep buying your Thai models.

Yeah Rasta is a bit much actually Billabong are as well.

Cheers,

ljkarma's picture
ljkarma's picture
ljkarma commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 2:34am

lopez i have been a silent witness and like your approach here. Soon kels halo will crumble and his disciples who make up the support network on this post will dry up or be exposed. Others who have lined their pockets from his capiatalism, are i would bet, being ralied to chuck in a kel bonus plug.
There a many out there that know some of the truth behind GSI and a few who know nearly all, but they are unlikely to post as they are too afraid to speak out...previuos wounds have a tendency to scar, but time will telland the skeletons could run wild

victor's picture
victor's picture
victor commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 4:16am

mrkarma + lopez...many out there know the truth about g.s.i. but unlikely to post..to afraid to speak out .what twisted shit are you on about.?????????PLEASE TELL US.

victor's picture
victor's picture
victor commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 4:48am

lopez. just looked at g.s.i. prices,$600aud for a new shortboard,hardly undercutting the oz market,my last aussie custom made ,6 weeks ago $620.

whaaaat's picture
whaaaat's picture
whaaaat commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 5:09am

@ljkarma, lopez et al

Tell us!! Do!! The truth!! We're all agog, and not just at the prospect of rampaging skellingtons!

Agree or disagree with Mark, capitalism, offshore production, the profit motive, etc, he at least had the balls to go publicly on the record. As did those of us who put our names to our posts.

Talk is cheap.

Have a crack. If you have the stones for it, put your allegations in writing and put your name to them.

After all, the truth shall set ye free. And provide a complete defence for any claimed defamation.

Otherwise - meh!!!

ljkarma's picture
ljkarma's picture
ljkarma commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 5:52am

whaaaat,
whoa, strange to hit such a nerve with a lawyer like you, must be quiet down there in SA for you to spend so much time defending someone you say you have no association or knowledge of?. You are a lawyer , yes? and as you have said above (talk is cheap) you must be the only lawyer in the land who works for cheap rates, maybe you bill in Bart

victor,
like me (you don't have the stones to put a name to your posts, see whaaaat above), so we have that in common, but can you or kel truthfully tell us you as victor, are not in any way associated with GSI?

victor's picture
victor's picture
victor commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 6:13am

karma. no association or connections to g.s.i. or mark kelly.

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 6:47am

Whaaat,Ill make the same offer to you as Upper winky who by his own admission works for GSI .Post where I have made an allegation and Ill send you a carton.

Nothing personal towards Kel or GSI.I just dont see why or how GSI can be an authority on the surfboard industry as the are merely traders or middle men.

Funny thing is most guys I know who work in the surf industry play golf and rarely surf.

Cheers,

ljkarma's picture
ljkarma's picture
ljkarma commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 6:51am

victor,
hhhmmm, not that i don't take your word,but nice if kel would come back and confirm or deny who of the posters he is associated with, because we have not heard a peep from him for nearly a week (somehow the dates on this have got screwed) and seeing he was so keen to contribute on an instant return basis, seems the cat has got his tongue..gee you'd reckon a bloke who put head is on the chopping block would not have lost his nerve yet

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 7:07am

I want to explore something Mark Kelly said back there in a curt and dismissive comment on crowds and localism. He said "Everyone has the right to surf" which is true but hardly the issue that was raised or the reason so many in my generation have a dislike of many aspects of "the industry".
My basic point is that we have many rights that we do not choose to exercise. Advertising and marketing strategies induce large numbers to exercise their right to surf who otherwise would not. Those in the industry benefit from this, the rest of us to a large degree pay the price in the form of over crowded conditions.
His further comment about flexibility shows how far out of touch he is with the traditional base of Australia's surfing community. No doubt having the frequent opportunity to surf, however incompetently, world class breaks blinds a man to the realities of the lives most surfers live, involving substantial work and family commitments.
Still I have to thank him for such a vivid example of the self serving rationalizations dished up by industry leaders.

Laurie McGinness
Northern Beaches

ljkarma's picture
ljkarma's picture
ljkarma commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 11:36am

now,it would seem, the tangent point of this thread shifts, with posts by steadfast and acclaimed persona , aka blindboy, we enter the phase where kel has a golden opportunity to re-engage and continue the debate centred around him personally, this would be a marketing dream for most.

Word on the street is that Cobra own a major %, if not the majority % of GSI and that you owe a shitload to them rumoured to be a 7 figure sum, c'mon kel tell us this aint true and that you swear you (or your disciples) own 100% of GSI.

the-bower's picture
the-bower's picture
the-bower commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 6:24am

Hi,

Sorry had to do a bit of work there. Not sure where to pick up so I just cut to the topics.

Ownership of GSI - I currently own 51% of GSI and yes Cobra is a shareholder, they have been since 2002, when they bought in. To be clear I have never said I own 100% of GSI. As for financial matters between us, firstly these things have fuck all to do with you, but we have a revolving line of credit that would exceed more than a million dollars at any time during the year. They are our largest supplier. All of GSI staff are offered an employee share scheme which at the moment find 10 of the 15 employees as shareholders.

Staff posting - to my knowledge Matt Martin ( lower Winky) has posted some comments but he made it clear when he did. I have not and would not ask anyone to comment works for GSI to comment anonulmously.

Laurie - My point about everyone having the right to surf doesn't really have anything to do with the Industry. It had to do with the comments made about the surf being over crowded.

I am not sure where all this is going. If anyone wants to ring and have a conversation with me please call. I am open to any discussion. Seems to be a bit of grand standing going on right now which is not the intention of the reason I agreed to do the article with Stu or contribute to this forum.

Cheers
Mark Kelly
Managing Director
Global Surf Industries
Email - [email protected]
Phone - 0403 045 159

Kel

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 8:41am

" My point about everyone having the right to surf doesn't really have anything to do with the Industry. It had to do with the comments made about the surf being over crowded."

WOW! It just keeps getting better. Talk about missing the point, you missed the whole needle! Let me try again. You seem to assume that the surf being crowded has nothing to do with the industry. If you genuinely believe that you might try to argue the case, I presented a reasonable argument that the crowding is directly related to the expansion of the industry. More precisely the advertising and marketing by the industry have change surfing from an activity pursued by a relatively small number of dedicated people into one pursued by large numbers of people with minimal commitment. At the moment the intention of the industry seems to be to market surfing, or some weird chlorine based simulacrum of it, to the Chinese. This is, no doubt, a wonderful money making opportunity but it is hard to see any benefit to the rest of the existing surfing community.
Grandstanding? Sorry, someone should have told me the thread was intended for commercial purposes only.

non-local's picture
non-local's picture
non-local commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 9:11am

I am with blindboy on this one.
I have watched the industry grow from the backyard to a multi-billion dollar corporation. And surfing is what has suffered. Good on ya GSI!!!

one good turn deserves another

whaaaat's picture
whaaaat's picture
whaaaat commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 9:26am

@ lopez

"Hi Whaaat ... Maybe its me thats wrong and all you GSI employees that are posting are right." (sic)

@ljkarma

Nope, I'm plenty busy, thanks for asking. I just have a real problem with anonymous mud-chuckers who play the person, not the ball. State and defend an opinion by all means, but vague innuendo and slurs without risk are pathetic.

And, again for the record, I re-state: I am not associated with GSI or Kelly; neither are or have ever been my clients. I ride a Neil Luke-shaped board.

Steve Beach, Port Willunga, SA

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tylerdurden commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 11:08am

Whaaaat, if you have a problem with anonymous mud chuckers you are in the wrong place.
This is the Internet for christs sake!
Nobody is slandering the guy, people are making comments about his answers and his company.
The worst I have said about the guy is that he represents pure capitalism, which he clearly does.
How much does he care about surf crowds, the environmental impact of his company or the cheap labour that he employs? Who knows?
I don't like it but good luck to him, if it is not illegal there is nothing anybody can do about it.
However, he does not seem to be the person I would have as a friend, and his company certainly puts a whole lot of smaller shapers(the "backyarders") such as Rex in jeopardy of going out of business

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ljkarma's picture
ljkarma commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 3:25pm

whaaat,
As you are a lawyer one would think you would know the difference between asking a question/putting a proposition and (as you call it) .. mud-chuckers who play the person, not the ball. State and defend an opinion by all means, but vague innuendo and slurs without risk are pathetic. I think you have got that part wrong, as this was not an interview with us to tell our story, it was with Kel. The value of such free publicity for GSI on this forum can be under estimate, a marketing dream. that is of course if you are who you say you are and do what you say you do etc etc
One of my questions was about ownership, which kel answered, and importantly, we are all the wiser now that a huge Asian company, Cobra, owns at least 49% of GSI, the biggest board maker in the world who has has the biggest influence on global surfboard production in history. That I feel is a serious twist that has been revealed to this whole story.
Read back over the thread now and view the questions and answers re labour, costs, GSI as a company as if being proudly ozzie , with a new pair of eyes and a mindset of the truth. It clearly becomes a different picture to what had previously emerged.
Take this quote from kels post above..."You are correct I run the GSI show but we only buy finished products made to our specifications from our vendors we do not own nor manage the factories. There is no 'your' factory. I am giving you all the information I have from my 14 years of dealing with them."

And this quote from kel "I do not know the weekly wage. I do know however that employment is a very competitive think right now and that whole departments of people are being poached by companies looking for skilled workers." So GSI owns the majority 51% of it's operations, sips glass, resin etc to Cobra (so they can buy cheap in bulk) and that pretty much leaves only a labour content to be costed and he does not know what they get paid or what the labour $/Bart component on his boards is????

Yet he can tell us that (kel quote) "Regarding labour, our factories pay more than the award wages, the factory in Thailand for instance has to compete with many other manufacturers in the local area for skilled workers. The Union movement is strong and workers have a lot of rights, the picture in anyone mind of a sweat shop is so far from reality it isn't funny. The hourly rate might be lower than Australia but the cost of living is as well. The workers in the factory in Thailand have paid parental leave, holiday pay, bonuses, free medical assistance for themselves and their families."

Several questions arise, the 'your factory' now becomes a half truth because half of the GSI ownership do own the factories. Also if kel stared dealing with them when GSI was created in 2002, that is not 14 years ago, but 9 in my schoolboy math.

Kel admits this ownership by Cobra has been in place since 2002, so if Kel did started GSI and funded it like most other board makers (own limited cash or bank loan) and did not partner with Cobra who by kels admission, allow GSI over $1million line of credit, the surfing world would be (for better or worse) in a very different position. So what happens (if word on the street is true) and GSI defaults on all or some of it's debt to Cobra, one would assume Cobra would then own nearly all ,if not all, of the worlds biggest board maker. Now that becomes a very scary thought indeed.

rees0's picture
rees0's picture
rees0 commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 6:00am

That was a rather juicy twist. You think where the money we spend as consumers goes to has fuck all to do with us Kel? I think those matters have alot to do with the consumer. That would seem a rather important part if you ask me. If a percentage of an offshore business profit was going to Al Qaeda people would not support them. So why the agro response? Was that something you weren't planning on been made public?

Seems the transparency that was such a cornerstone of your marketing exercise here has been foggy the whole time. Keep this shit coming and support your local shaper.

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blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 7:49am

I wouldn't hold my breath for a response to any of the issues you raised karma. I think it is called cut and run. No-one in the industry ever offers more than a token response to this stuff. They know the future is mass produced, standardized designs manufactured in low wage nations. They will pretend that traditional manufacturers have a future and in turn the existing manufacturers will cosy up to them because they know their only future is to do a deal to get their designs into the system. As for the consumer expect less choice and higher prices as the market "rationalises" to a few big players. Customer service, as in getting some real quality advice on design is already just about out the window, more and more surf shops are staffed by sales people chosen for their appearance and persuasive power ahead of any knowledge of surfboard design. You'll be buying your boards through a Woolworths or Coles owned outlet before too long.

whaaaat's picture
whaaaat's picture
whaaaat commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 7:50am

@ ljkarma

With respect, "...many out there that know some of the truth behind GSI and a few who know nearly all, but they are unlikely to post as they are too afraid to speak out...previuos (sic) wounds have a tendency to scar, but time will tell and the skeletons could run wild" is not a proposition or a question. At best, giving you the benefit of the doubt, it's a limp conspiracy theory.

All the stuff about GSI's ownership structure is on the public record. Do some legwork. It's not hard. ASIC, ABN Lookup - it's all there, out in the open, including who its shareholders are and secured creditor is. Which may or may not be Cobra - I don't care, so I've not bothered to check.

Yeah, the surfing world would be in a very different position without GSI. Probably a bit less crowded, but, frankly, there are a few more factors at play than just one surfboard company to sheet that fact home to: think baby-boomer demographics and a rampant global surfing industry driven by professional surfing to name a couple.

Blogs like this one at least gets the conversation and idea-swapping going. Seek first to understand the other etc etc ....

My point remains: this post has many questions about offshore production, wage rates, protecting workers' rights and other very legitimate and serious questions put by persons willing and gutsy enough to put their name to them.

You weren't one.

Greg Webber's picture
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Greg Webber commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 8:47am

gees you guys! I thought the KS and GW wavepool "battle" had some emotion!

upper-winky's picture
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upper-winky commented Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 9:38am

@gerryLopez...you been getting held under too long at speedies or Sunset? ...where have I ever said I work for GSI....never have!??

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Thursday, 24 Nov 2011 at 2:37am

I dont care who you work for Upper Lower Winky your a lightweight and have brought nothing of interest to the debate.Go away.

If anyone out there does ride longboards and does not feel like buying Asian see Tony Cerf at Local motion Ballina he is the Master.

Cheers,

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 24 Nov 2011 at 3:46am

Tony Cerff is a master shaper of all kinds of boards, not just longboards.

Phil Myers in Ballina also has vast experience in all kinds of boards.

ljkarma's picture
ljkarma's picture
ljkarma commented Thursday, 24 Nov 2011 at 4:46am

whaaat,
Whaaaat is your hang up with (to quote you) " persons willing and gutsy enough to put their name to them."

Look at the number of posts on this thread and see how many have a name (real or not, no-one knows) them and so whaaat,whaaat?
Just because there is no name does not weaken a question or destroy ones opinion. In fact for reasons I have noted, If Kel wants to put it out there and reap the benefits of free publicity (and he of all people knows ANY publicity is good publicity) then he has to be able to withstand questioning and criticism as much as accolades and props.
You have raised that there is some conspiracy going on here, that makes no sense unless you know of one lurking behind all this...please tell.
The fact that this thread is so long and involving such passionate debate tells one there is more to GSI and Kels impact than sits on the surface, look for example at some of the questions Stunet asked him eg "SN: You don't see it as anything to be ashamed of?" So even that tells you that GSI/Kel have a reputation of some sort that Stunet thought needed investigation.
Was this the tip of the iceberg or did Kell tell all and clear up once and forever issues and questions surrounding the impact, past, present and future on a fragile industry.
If you had your way and I was not allowed to ask questions would we ever have known the true ownership structure of this business that impacts upon so much of the global surfing culture? I think not.
So instead of trying to shut the likes of me up, why don't you use your lawyer brain to ask some probing questions yourself? Never know what we might all learn or who may be encouraged to join in.

whaaaat's picture
whaaaat's picture
whaaaat commented Thursday, 24 Nov 2011 at 10:03am

@ljkarma

What a load of old cobblers!

I'm not trying to shut you up; just wanting you to put your name to some (on the face of it, but who was I kidding) serious scuttlebutt you were putting about, about which you seemed to have the inside info.

Question and criticise by all means. Serious, probing investigations too. But don't kid yourself that that's what you were doing. Chris Masters you ain't.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Monday, 28 Nov 2011 at 7:06am

This argument about pop out boards (like many other circular surf-related debates) seems to have been going for a long time.

Check this excerpt from NZ Surf Magazine, circa 1966 (thanks to the McTavish blog).

.."Glad to hear that at last there are no longer any 'pop out' boards on the market, and that everyone has turned to 'custombuilt' boards. It is good to know that now everyone is getting value for their money".

http://www.mctavish.com.au/images_blog/nzsurf1.jpg

victor's picture
victor's picture
victor commented Monday, 28 Nov 2011 at 7:50am

popouts, pre 1966....well well well...here we go again ...this should be interesting reading.i wonder where they were made ?

ljkarma's picture
ljkarma's picture
ljkarma commented Tuesday, 29 Nov 2011 at 6:51am

pop out, pop outs...been around since adam was a boy and every time they failed to have an impact because those creating them had only one thing in mind....and no prizes there.
So nothing has changed, just the players...but now a very very very BIG Asian company is the player. With low wages, low costs,a pocket full of profit from the, sailboard, kitesurf and long board market that sold out and some street smart Cobra oil salesmen (pun intended) and goodbye 'backyard' and small business board makers having a chance to compete on a level playing field.
The playing field has financial goal posts, broke shapes laid head to tow form the sidelines and kel and his mates are the refs....game over

seethesea's picture
seethesea's picture
seethesea commented Tuesday, 29 Nov 2011 at 8:19am

I was with you until the last post ljkarma. Obviously inside the industry or with contacts that are.

I don't see the doom and gloom like in your post. Sure, if you want to compete for retail rack space offering the same kind of general generic kook product as GSI and expect retailers to support you while your products net 1/3 of the margin of theirs you could well be in trouble.

On the bright side however, they are pushing a profitable channel, their boards are retailing to the end customer at a higher price than most local shapers.

If we compete only on price we are screwed. There are 3 other things that start with P in the marketing took kit. If you're a savvy business person you'd be looking hard at the other 3 right now.

ljkarma's picture
ljkarma's picture
ljkarma commented Tuesday, 29 Nov 2011 at 9:57am

seethesea,
No disrespect, but you are wrong on all counts.
The thing you seem to be missing is the margin you speak of is where the playing field goes out the window. Kel has margins that others can only dream of and he could if effect sell his boards for 1/3 of his price list and stilll be more profitable than the average local guy trying to compete.

Any way why fight his battles for him, he started this thread with the interview and now seems that when he got his 15 mins of fame he hides under the bed and lets others answer for him...interesting that a guy with such brevado hs cut and run when the questions that he welcomed start getting a little close to the truth....yeah yeah yeah, the old excuse "we ain't gunna answer cause you don't have a name'...poor excuse and no matter who asks a question, it doesnot chage the answer...it it is the truth

seethesea's picture
seethesea's picture
seethesea commented Wednesday, 30 Nov 2011 at 7:17am

ljkarma,

Perhaps you misread my post or I failed to communicate clearly.

I was not fighting his battles for him in any way. I am simply pointing out that worrying about what he is doing rather than doing something yourself to stay viable is an exercise in futility. There is nothing you can do other than be better yourself.

My reference to pricing is that GSI boards sell for over $600 in retail stores, more perhaps. There are margins in making boards here and selling them for that price direct to the customer. Problem is most people are making the same board cut on the same machine and glassed in the same materials from the same supplier as the 5 other blokes in their factory complex. What do they do then? Cut each other throats on price to get the work.... They end up at $450 or the like and then blame China or wherever for killing their business. Sure it's competitive out there now but has it ever been any different?? Honestly? More than half of our problems we created ourselves.

The other P's of the marketing mix I was referring to are Product, Place and Promotion. How many local guys even have a website where you can find any useful info about their boards? How about customer relationships, there's a clear benefit GSI can never have. Product, we are an inventive country, do something different... IMHO the problems with the industry other than the GFC and Exchange rate are that most forgot to evolve and stay in front. We sold the technology to Asia and forgot to keep moving ahead of them. The closer the product is to Asian boards the harder it is to justify people coming to you, especially if they can't even find you...

Your point is that if you compete with these guys you don't have much chance. I'd like to think the people I deal and work with are a long way above the generic product GSI makes, I'd hate to think any of them are competing with them. But as you say, if you make generic boards and try to the be the cheapest as your only way to sell them you probably really are screwed.

P.S I use terms like you as a general reference, the points can be applied to many businesses. If I am wrong on all points you aren't in the Industry are you? Seriously, how wrong do i really have it?

jaunkemps's picture
jaunkemps's picture
jaunkemps commented Thursday, 1 Dec 2011 at 8:00am

Hi Mark
I got one for you, idea no . 777 for me though !!!
NC a mould of your shape and blow it with foam to the exact finish you require, why NC every stick, you have to mould the blank anyway so why not mould it to dimensions required, I guess you guys have already thought of that yes ?

Knowing the tolerances NC machines work with and if by chance you find you onto a cracker shape, nail it bud, I'll buy one 100%, as we all know how many boards have we had that have been dogs I'd guess - 85-95% yes !!!

How many days are perfect enough to even tell how your boards go and tell me that a shaper can get what your saying verbally into the finished product, yeh right !

I'd like to be able to design my own boards using online software now that would be fun guys wouldn't it, huh, log in, grab the shapers profile templates, bottom curve, rails, add this, loose that, pinch the rail to the point you want, pull the nose in, add some volume, now go see what it looks like, that could work !!!

Anyway, long live Rod Stock the surfboard Mechanic, that a story best left to another time hahaha, hi Ian M, hope your well mate, Wayne and Gaz Neylan.......

lomlombard's picture
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lomlombard commented Friday, 2 Dec 2011 at 4:38am

Here's an idea , Why not ask someone involved with BASE on the collapse of BASE ? I'm sure Murray Bourton would shed some light.Maybe this is all part of the GSI marketing plan ? seriously Ben was this yours or Mark's idea ? clever none the less.

GSI is what it is , un original , bland , boring and a great sucess !!Mark Kelly is a great businesman no doubt about it and i'm sure he would suceed no matter what product he was pushing.

Should we really care what each other are riding? cos i sure as hell dont give a flying fuck what you ride or where you ride it so long as its not in front of me! Surf etiquette now theres a topic, perhaps GSI and other producers of learner boards can attach an education leaflet to there beginner boards.....

Someone asked earlier if Murray and Dh are still manufacturing , the answer is yes , still at the same factory.Simon has taken control of his label and producing boards again also , just not with DH and Murray.

the-u-turn's picture
the-u-turn's picture
the-u-turn commented Sunday, 1 Jan 2012 at 10:29pm

A little late to the debate - but have enjoyed the commentary.

Not in defence of GSI, more the character and approach of Mark Kelly. He's put his hand up to be an entrepreneur and created something that wasn't there (in business model, diversity of product and commitment to service) before. He run's a lean business based on a good business model. He supports the community (generously) and, from my exposure to Kel over recent years, has a true passion for seeing people of all ages and abilities enjoy the surf and the rewards we all individually gain from it.

Ego? less than what one would deem reasonable.

I have two GSI boards in our family quiver - they work and work well. I have more than a handful or two hand shapes. Like a number of contributors to this article I enjoy the relationship I have with my local shaper. It's horses for courses.

For what many may see as a rather altruistic view that 'Life is better when you surf', it, as a descriptive and commitment, does hopefully take us back to a rather more non judgemental time of enjoying the pursuit of surfing. Whatever that means to you. The sheer joy it brings to us as a reward as a result of being immersed in the water. I'd rather have someone like Kel contributing positively to our community than so many others within the surf industry who do considerably, and noticeably, less.

Aloha,

Simon Phin - Freshwater

The U Turn
...a little Aloha goes a long way.

sidthefish's picture
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sidthefish commented Sunday, 1 Jan 2012 at 11:18pm

@ totem -

"With SUP's gaining proficiency in the surf zone what's the next cumbersome craft likely to become a fad for impotent middle-age men? Kayaks? Outrigger canoes? Hobie cats perhaps?"

Mate LOLOLOLOL, pissin meself laughing.... oh the memories.

THAT WAS CURRUMBIN ALLEY in the late 70s/early 80s, plus shitloads of goat boats, clubbies assorted, and them damn stand up jetskis... not to mention the bloody Air Sea Rescue shark cat and assorted fishos punchin over the bar.

Ahh, that was gold.

[Nuthin like gettin dropped-in on and run over by a Hobie Cat.!!! (Been there, done that.)]

trav's picture
trav's picture
trav commented Monday, 2 Jan 2012 at 12:08am

Great discussion, we've had a similar local scale scenario with a vendor setting up a store catering to the massive "pop out" market at our little beachside ave, much to the local core markets disdain (why not set your own shop up then...) There's room for everyone and in Marks case the guy has created a kick arse business model, I take my hat off to him even though I ride locally made boards.

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Monday, 2 Jan 2012 at 3:02am

Still cant see what Kels done is so amazing.Half the Australian economy is doing the same thing.Buy from Asia sell back here.

Kick Arse ,well beats me.

Regards.

trav's picture
trav's picture
trav commented Monday, 2 Jan 2012 at 7:50am

Kicking arse, as in making a good earn is what I meant! More power to him, it's not an easy industry to spin a profit as we all know.

lopez's picture
lopez's picture
lopez commented Monday, 2 Jan 2012 at 11:22pm

I gather you know as fact GSI are turning a profit.You must be privy to their accounts or you believe everything salesmen tell you.

If you are correct, making a dollar by screwing some Thai factory hand is not going to win too many business awards from where Iam from.

Regards,

trav's picture
trav's picture
trav commented Tuesday, 3 Jan 2012 at 2:04am

Nah mate- I run a construction company, don't know anybody at GSI... just enjoyed reading the topic, always good to see a business do well and from what I read here the conditions are fair based on the local job market.

mikehunt207's picture
mikehunt207's picture
mikehunt207 commented Tuesday, 3 Jan 2012 at 1:10pm

I think i am with you Lopez.Kel The Bower is sounding more and more like a car saleman with every post trying to justify himself and his boards. Pop out boards made in the 3rd world both exploiting the cheap labour and low safety concerns/laws of these countries makes them very cheap to produce- fair enough. Why then do these boards cost as much or even more expensive than a custom made Australian made PU surfboard? They certainly don,t surf as well ( abeit ok for the beginner market or the guy who surfs a couple times a month and likes his board to stay looking new which they actually do even if they surf like coolites), They are very difficult and expensive to repair (this won,t effect you Bower so thats ok cause you have already made your dollars on the thing). The wetsuit compare is weak as unfortunately we have very little to no option but to buy wetsuits made in the 3rd world and it sound like this is the dream of these guys to turn surfboard into the same. Pretty sad really. Don,t bother with a reply Bower, I am not looking for one, you have already dug a big enough hole for yourself, your product and your selfish Un Australian attitude.

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ljkarma's picture
ljkarma commented Wednesday, 4 Jan 2012 at 9:26am

Hello Mikehunt, I think i went to school with your brother yorkhunt, anyways...
Nice take on Mr Kel, me thinks you have him nutted out and summed up pretty well with the 'car salesman' that is exactly what many would perceive him as. It is common knowledge that the boards he sells can be got from the same sources for anything from $150 and he and his cronies are making a killing on every piece of crap they sell. No wonder he can come out as some kind of generous supportive hero ( whoever it is that is blind enough to see it that way) he makes margins a local builder could only dream of.
I saw his product in action again and again this past week or so under the arms (or in some cases dragged across the sand) of complete novices who (god love 'em) had swallowed the adds and sales pitch and got a brand new 'Seven' or even worse a "NSP" and they were off to cause havoc at every break they could find.
But just remember..."Life is Better with Kel", we are soooo lucky to have the likes of him as age age stallwart of our culture.
Soon he will default with his asian partners and Cobra will at last get what they want...total control of the industry...thanks Kel, suck some more people into your Noosa spell...poor old Jarrett and the crew have well and truely fallen for your magical salesmanship.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 2:28pm

does GSI still have webber models in there range of boards ?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 2:30pm

Not sure Udo. Probably on their website.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 2:33pm

had a look on there site and couldnt find the word webber anywhere ?

fitzroy-21's picture
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fitzroy-21 commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 2:34pm

Slightly off topic, but what is the latest news/outfall with BASE?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 at 4:32pm

Hey Udo,

I sent an email to Mark Kelly of GSI and he said they'd parted ways. Greg appears more focussed on his wavepools at present.

Fitzy,

No more news at present, though I'll confess to not really looking.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 2:39pm

Saw those headlines yesterday. "Learning From Billabong's Mistakes"? Are they kidding?

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thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 2:41pm

Actually, one of those articles had this quote:

"Mets is quick to point out that, while Boardcave has learnt from Billabong’s mistakes, they are very different businesses.

“We’re not relating ourselves in any way to Billabong. They’re a retailer and we’re really an online aggregator,” he says."

So, take the headline opportunity and then distance yourself from it. A tried and true media technique.

whaaaat's picture
whaaaat's picture
whaaaat commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 2:44pm

But to be fair, they're not the subs who wrote the headline.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 2:47pm

Sure. But even just entertaining the notion that their start up company has "learnt from Bong's mistakes" isn't a great introduction to the world.

whaaaat's picture
whaaaat's picture
whaaaat commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 3:00pm

You're a hard man Mr Matson

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Wednesday, 1 May 2013 at 3:01pm

I don't see that flying for too long.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Saturday, 4 May 2013 at 3:42pm

GSI had a half dozen webber models ,all with very good worldwide sales. with webber paid a royalty for each board sold, why drop the range ? sure he's busy with his wave pools - but had nothing to do but collect the cheques from gsi ? gotta be more to this story ????

ando's picture
ando's picture
ando commented Sunday, 5 May 2013 at 11:57am

I agree Udo...that makes no sense at all. Sparking up this can of worms forum after a year in hiatus also makes no sense but...one year on, has there really been much change to the surfboard making industry?
Has anyone ever wondered why on these points -

Why did Salomon invest and create what seemed to be really good boards then walk away?

Why did BB/Q /RC and even O'Neill never embrace board manufacturing even in their glory days when they made money?

If those money industries back then had embraced boards and spent on R&D - do you think board manufacturing and surfboards would be what they are today?

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wreckybuddy commented Monday, 6 May 2013 at 7:23am

A lot has happened since the forum. DH has found a new investor, Simon has teamed back up with Onboard Industries, and Murray is working out of his van at the beach. And ironically enough, Mark Kelly and his international sales manager have split ways and he started up another GSI type business model and took a few labels with him along the way.

To your queries Ando:
Salomon walked away because they lost millions in the surfboard investment. They overpaid the shapers for their designs, had labor intensive technology and high material costs.

Billabong, Quik, Rip Curl etc. have invested in board manufacturing and in fact they still do in certain markets. However, they have backed off because - yep you guessed it - it is unprofitable as a proper business model.

The sad reality of most of the surf apparel industry is that they only really care about the bottom line. Their money would be wasted on R&D on surfboards. The real R&D comes from the small board manufacturers who have a bit more time on their hands and a real passion for building something different.

I'd love to spill the beans on all the bullshit in the surfboard industry, but I'll save it for a later date.

www.rmshapes.com

excited_about_surfing's picture
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excited_about_s... commented Tuesday, 21 May 2013 at 7:24am

Hi, this whole things make me laugh. I'm the typical target for a GSI sale. Let me explain why all you "hardcore surfers" and "I have to have a hand shaped board guys" that YOU are the reason for this. You are part of the reason the market for GSI boards is alive and well.

a) I'm older, and just started surfing in my late 30's. (It's really hard to surf) duh... that's why its rewarding isn't it?
b) I feel alienated by local surf shops, and hardcore surfers who probably refer to me as a "kook", I'm just a beginner who can only find time to surf on weekends, and holidays. I have a job. I have a family. I love surfing. Hate me for it. Yes a I probably got in your way.. Sorry, I'm a slow paddler still. Still learning.
c)I have skateboarded for 25 years plus,(even competed successfully) I know how petty and immature and stupid the skate culture can be. Surfing isn't much different. There's always someone trying to ruin my stoke, or excitement. Theres always someone critiquing how I approach a trick or what my style is like. Imagine when you were a kid and you just scored your first wave. That's me. Hyped. Kook of all time I guess, don't ruin my fun.
d) I did go to the local shop that shapes boards, and asked about a custom board, and I was steered towards manufactured epoxy board because of durability and my inexperience. I wanted to support the "little guy"
e) I inquired about a custom shaped board because I wanted to support the local shaper, and small shop owner. I'm also a Big guy, and where I live nobody is selling used boards that can float me. PERIOD. The only used boards are all 6 foot boards that are 2 inches thick..full of holes and they will not float me.
f)Oh yeah, when your a beginner you can be called a kook just for having a nice new board. lol Yeah make me feel shitty about that too why don't ya..haha
g) I didn't want a long board for my first board, because I have a small apartment, and I knew I could get by, on a 7"6 fish or 8" minimal with lots of Volume.
h) A lot of the shapers, surf crews ect .. a lot of them are dickheads and holier than thou. It wears thin.I don't have time for it. I just want to get out on the water.
I)I'm sure many beginner surfers have had the same experience as me.
J) I wish I just ordered a GSI board online so I didn't have to deal with all the lame politics, pre-Madonna wannabe poser surfers, and cliché scene-sters that encompass the surf world.

I'm an old man for crying out loud ,I pay my taxes, let me surf.
So yeah for all the weekend warrior haters, and guys that hate pop-outs ect...Your a big reason why a guy might just avoid the local shop and order it online. To completely avoid talking to any of you wankers., SO HE CAN GO SURF!!!

patty's picture
patty's picture
patty commented Tuesday, 21 May 2013 at 8:04am

BEAT IT, KOOK!

blindboy's picture
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blindboy commented Tuesday, 21 May 2013 at 10:22am

That's a bit harsh patty! excited by surfing, I understand your point of view but there a couple of things you might clarify. The first is why you find such satisfaction in doing something so badly. There is a certain amount of fun in those early stages but surely after a year or so you need some sense of achievement to make it worth continuing. The second is how do you expect to be treated given the intensity of the crowds these days and your low level of ability. Do you expect more competent surfers to make allowances for you? If so this is a one way transaction since you cannot do anything for them. Sorry but you can't demand generosity.