Kelly Slater quits Quiksilver
Who makes big announcements on April Fools Day? Who, on the least credible day on the calendar, types a long Facebook message that reads like a joke yet contains just enough specific content to be plausible?
The answer of course is Kelly Slater and the news wasn't any joke. In a 500-word Facebook post, Slater created surprise and confusion in the surfing world. He subsequently duplicated the post on Instagram and by then it was all but confirmed. There were a few clues from the outset. The naming of his new business partner being one, and also a remark implying Quiksilver no longer shared Slater's values. If it was a joke I'd imagine neither party would've been laughing.
His new business partner is French multinational company, Kering, formerly known as PPR and current owners of Puma, Gucci, and Volcom, amongst many other luxury goods labels. Slater plans on starting a new brand that, in his words, “combines my love of clean living, responsibility and style.”
Slater had his own label, VSTR, at Quiksilver but that was axed during the last round of Quiksilver cost cutting. That decision may now have cost Quiksilver much more than they first thought; Slater had been the companies figurehead since he won his first world title two decades ago and the rise of Quik was very much in lockstep with Slater's own rise to the top.
It's worth thinking how this fits into the recent changes in pro surfing and the broader surf industry. It's hard not to think that with this news the traditional custodians of pro surfing – the surfing companies – have retreated further into the background. Since ZoSea took over the helm they've had naming rights only, yet it seemed Quiksilver had a de facto arrangement with ZoSea: Paul Speaker was once on the Quiksilver board; the new commentators are largely of Quiksilver pedigree; and Terry Hardy orchestrated the whole deal. Today's news would appear to sever that link.
It's also worth noting that Kering own Volcom, whose founder and current CEO, Richard Woolcott, has a long history with Slater. Woolcott worked for Quiksilver when they signed Slater and he produced Slater's first bio-film, the hugely popular Kelly Slater in Black and White. In fact, it's Wooly's voice stating “It's the morning of the final” in the film's most memorable moment.
Not long after he uttered those words Woolcott left Quiksilver to start Volcom, and his reasoning sounded eerily similar to Slater's own. In todays announcement, Slater said the current changes wouldn’t have been possible “without an incredible amount of work by a few key individuals” and it's very likely Woolcott is one of those people.
On that score, Volcom didn't renew their ASP license for 2014 – the Fiji Pro has no sponsor at present. It was no secret that Volcom weren't happy with the handling of the World Tour under the care of ZoSea. Today's announcement brings both camps a little closer together, and it'd be worth watching to see any developments there.