The iconic Australian brand has been sold to Khatmandu
After 50 years of maneuvering their way through an ever-changing surf industry, Brian Singer and Doug 'Claw' Warbrick have hung up their rubber suits and sold Rip Curl to New Zealand based outdoor brand, Khatmandu.
To put it in perspective Warbrick and Singer were there to hand Michael Peterson the trophy for his three consecutive wins in the Rip Curl Pro Bells between 1973 and 1975, while last year they farewelled favourite son, Mick Fanning, who finished runner-up in his final Bells event after claiming the event four times throughout his career. Along the way, Singer and Warbrick built Rip Curl into an iconic Australian brand that resonated across the globe.
Rip Curl was built on the scent of salt air and the belief in a surfing future. In the late 60s Singer and Warbrick made boards out of a Torquay garage and their first wetsuit factory was a rented basement near the local pub. While boards became less of a focus, Rip Curl became a world leader in wetsuit manufacturing and revolutionized the way surfing products were made and marketed. The Rip Curl Search campaign remains one of surfing’s most successful marketing initiatives, while the careful selection and nurturing of team riders has always been at the core of the Rip Curl business model. Michael Peterson, Tom Curren, Tyler Wright (Steph Gilmore early in her career), Mick Fanning, Owen Wright, and Gabriel Medina are just some of the names that became synonymous with the Torquay-based brand.
When other surf companies went public, Singer and Warbrick held on to the strings of the company they had started from scratch, for as long as they could. Amongst other things, they became famous for throwing ostentatious parties. In the recently released book, The Rip Curl Story, former marketing boss, Shayne Patterson, reflected on an era in the 80s when rock stars like Dire Straits would be part of the Rip Curl scene and Australian Crawl co-sponsored the entire Rip Curl Bells event, “We’d take those guys surfing and go and see them in concert. I measured up Australian Crawl one day and fitted them out with custom wetsuits.” At the media night parties associated with the Bells event that Claw and Brian organised, you might have seen sky-divers plunging into the event or fluoro-lit night surfers tearing up the Bells lineup. Industry folklore has it that after one media party at Bells, guests were told to go into the Rip Curl store and help themselves to the stock. Despite their financial successes, Singer and Warbrick never forgot how to have a good time.
In a press statement released this morning, the two founders were understandably sentimental about the sale. “After 50 years it’s an emotional event for us. Surfing and the surf industry has been an integral part of our lives for more than 50 years. We realise, Rip Curl, our baby has grown into an adult recognised all over the planet and we are proud that we have created one of the world’s great brands. We are confident the crew at Rip Curl will continue to look after the brand and products into the future. We look forward to supporting the crew on this journey”.
Singer and Warbrick may have kicked out of Rip Curl but they left the brand in good shape and, while the details of the merger are being nutted out, the official press release indicated that both brands will operate independently while endeavouring to benefit from their shared knowledge. “It will be a new world for all of us after 50 years of private ownership, and our entire Crew would like to thank the Rip Curl Founders for everything they have done for surfing over the years,” said Rip Curl Group CEO Michael Daly. “Professionally, my team and I are excited by the opportunities that this will create and we look forward to joining Kathmandu and retaining our Vision of being regarded as the ultimate surfing company in all that we do.”