By the late 1970s Shaun Tomson had become a world champion (1978), tube-riding maestro and sex symbol. The erudite and well-educated South African always felt compelled to do more than just surf so, riding high on his fame, he launched the surf brand Instinct in 1979. Although his deep, frontside barrel riding at Backdoor and Off The Wall was his calling card, Shaun used a photo of a smaller left as the blueprint for his initial logo.

Shaun's original Instinct logo.

According to Shaun the name was still very much inspired by the barrel, “I called the company Instinct because the best moment in surfing is riding inside the tube, and the best tubes happen when you are relying on instinct.”

Shaun, surfing's suavest operator, enjoying a juice with Elise Ward. Photo: Nolan

Throughout the 80s, Shaun was obviously a great frontman for his own brand, however, he also signed Tom Carroll and Barton Lynch at the height of their respective careers, to give Instinct greater exposure and credibility. By 1985 a company Tomson had started to support his own surfing lifestyle had grown into the third-largest surfwear brand in the USA behind Quiksilver and Gotcha. By the early 90s it disappeared from the surf market, remembered as another brand that had thrived in the flamboyant 80s but failed to survive in a very different kind of decade.  

Barton Lynch blazing on a Greg Webber Insight with sponsorship backing from Instinct. Photo: Nolan.

Now Instinct is set to relaunch under the partnership of Shaun Tomson and surf industry evergreen, Cameron Williams. We spoke briefly to Williams about his vision for the brand, in a new era.

Why have you elected to re-launch Instinct at this point in time? 
The Instinct brand had a strong and valued global consumer base back in the 80s and early 90s, we want to reignite the brand stoke and redeliver the brand in a fresh new look and direction, whilst maintaining heritage values and obviously the logo and key marketing initiatives like “Surfing is Life the rest is details”, and “There is no such thing as a bad day at the beach!”  We have watched some older brands return with most being successful and some not. The 16-year-old kid in 1980 who had the Instinct poster on his wall is now 56 so our consumer has changed but they are still out there and want to see the brand return.  

Classic 'Instinct' ad from the 80s featuring artistic impressions of Shaun and Barton.

What point of difference does Instinct offer in the current market. Why should we be excited about this relaunch?
INSTINCT last sold to consumers in the summer of 1993/94 so it's been out of the marketplace a while. We want to redeliver the brand's stoke with a grassroots connection through boardriders clubs and local events. We feel that for the consumer the big brands are way too corporate and have lost touch with the core market. Consumers are looking for alternatives, we have hundreds of thousands if not millions of consumers we are hoping to reconnect with, and of course, a new wave who want something a little different. 

How to give your brand a little definition back in the 80s. 

Obviously you are trading on the nostalgia associated with the brand, how do you intend to make it relevant to a modern market?  Will you be sponsoring a new generation of team riders?
The heritage of the brand and its logos are being maintained through the tee shirts/jumpers/shirts/caps and accessories, whilst our shorts and pant program is tech and on-trend and will deliver an on-trend purchase option that is functional and let's say 80s colour- injected! Teamrider wise that will develop as the Instinct brand rediscovers its identity. The brand obviously has four world titles from team riders – Shaun's in 77 prior to the brand launching, Tom Carroll's double in the early 80s, and Barton Lynch in 88. Shaun and I will be looking at team riders who fit with the brand and our marketing direction.