It's no secret that the surf industry has become somewhat homogeneous. Monochromatic, non-colorful boardshorts are almost impossible to find and "aspirational" brands and advertising tactics are leading the market's platform.
While the current market inspires creative expression and promotes surfing to a broader audience, it seems like most brands are targeting the same demographic.
Waves Brigade is among surfing’s newly-emerging brands, run by deeply-rooted San Clemente locals who say they saw corporate surfing taking over their scene and wanted to incite change.
Although officially launched in February of 2017, Waves Brigade has been making rounds in the San Clemente surf community since 2010. Earlier this year, founder Brian Boles moved the brand to Los Angeles, gave it a fresh aesthetic, and began a strong marketing push that landed Waves Brigade at Agenda Show in Long Beach, where we were able to connect with Boles and hear the brand’s story.
The following is a look inside Waves Brigade, their work with a few key brands in the space, and some background on the brand’s “Made in the USA” mantra.
Brian, would you mind sharing your background leading up to founding Waves Brigade?
For the past 9 years, I’ve owned and operated two other businesses. One of them is Off The Wall Printing and the other is I Do What I Want Inc. Both brands are based in Los Angeles. Off The Wall is my printing business and I Do What I Want is my packaging and logistics business. Those businesses have sold to brands who sell at Tilly’s, Pac Sun, and more.
We also provide Kelly Slater’s brand, Outerknown, full packaging services and have worked with Seven Jeans, Lucky Brand, and True Religion.
How did you decide to go from managing those two businesses to pursuing Waves Brigade full time?
While managing my two businesses, we were always doing things with Waves Brigade on the side.
I always wanted to have my own brand and running my two businesses for 9 years gave me the assets to do it. So in February, I decided that it was time to rebrand Waves Brigade and pursue it full time.
What’s the strategy for the brand in an ever-evolving market?
We view all of the vibrant colors and flashy lifestyle photos as white noise. To us, it’s all just a big fad just like how it was in the ’80s.
If you go to our website, the first thing you will see is our slogan, “We say f*ck a lifestyle brand.” So as long as we keep staying true to who we are, we will be just fine.
Right now you are focused on apparel and wetsuits. Any plans to get into swimwear?
Yes. Our Summer 2018 catalog is already completed and includes surf wax, leashes, and a couple other surf accessories as well as our apparel and wetsuits.
We really want to get into swimwear, but we want to make sure our products are dialed first. It’s in the works.
My wife [Megan Godfrey, Waves Brigade co-owner] actually used to work on Quiksilver Women’s contemporary programs and has a lot of knowledge in that field, so swimwear is definitely on the horizon.
At Agenda, you mentioned that all of your products are made in the US. How does that work?
Yes, everything is manufactured locally, right here in Los Angeles. We import fibers then mill the fabrics with Project One Apparel which is an L.A. based clothing manufacturer. We then cut, sew, print, and mail everything out of our office in Los Angeles.
Our wetsuit provider is based out of Seal Beach so even though the actual neoprene isn’t USA made, all of the manufacturing is done in-house.
Any exciting plans for the future?
Even though we’ve been around for a while and have a lot of experience, we are still a young brand. Overall, I’m excited to see where Waves Brigade is headed because we already have a lot of surfers that are into what we are doing. Nate Yeomans is a good example. He actually hit us up and rocked a Waves Brigade leash at the US Open.
We also want to use our reach to help Los Angeles surfers get into the contest circuit. A lot of these kids rip really hard, but don’t have the resources to prove their talents in coastal Orange County. That being said, I think it would be cool if we could host our own contests so groms from L.A. can have a chance, too.
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