Staying high with Quiksilver

There’s never a bad time for good news. On a sunny Monday in early October, I had nothing to do but skate all day. I got a phone call from Tom with news of a trip to the South of France on behalf of Quiksilver. Four days of sun, surfing and skating during the World Surf League Quiksilver Pro France event. I didn’t have to think too hard about whether I could go or not.

The idea behind the trip was to explore what was happening at Quiksilver. A few weeks prior to the trip the company had filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US, clearly there were some pretty hefty changes starting to materialise. The most subtle of those changes is the new creative direction in their clothing lines, headed up by Josh Rush, but it wasn’t immediately obvious that this was what Quiksilver wanted to show us. First we got a taste of the high life, and stayed on that high for the entire trip.

Travel is always easy, but even more so when it is filled with introductions, tales of surfing, the science of waves, a 411 of the WSL, stories from Quiksilver’s heritage right up to today’s golden boys, expired driving licenses, airport carpark skating and the sights of South West France flicking by the window. We pulled up to our accommodation, entering through an inconspicuous gate into a three storey apartment with full length glass doors on a westerly facing balcony. A fridge full of beers and a setting sun set the tone for the entire trip. That evening was our first introduction with Josh Rush, getting stuck into the beers that night probably left him feeling slightly worse for wear the following morning when we took the drive to Quiksilver’s HQ, a huge campus style office complete with showrooms, concrete skate park, sweeping architecture and happy workers. Josh took us through his inspirations for next season’s line of clothing and explained his creative process.

It’s fully inspired by travel, immersing one’s self in a new place, and finding positives. “Getting stoked and staying high.” The line was not what I had come to expect from Quiksilver. No logo tees here, but consistent themes and nuanced messages, referencing the best of Quiksilver’s history, while taking that lifestyle forward into new, unexplored areas. I think it’s working, but it takes time for these changes to sink in; Josh has been working on his ideas for well over five years, and it certainly wasn’t easy for him to get these pieces seen as the showcase for the brand. There are still people who cling on to that generic Quiksilver that most readers of this magazine will remember from their teenage years. While there probably still is a market for that stuff (Dad’s), I’m glad that Josh knows that’s not where he wants the brand to be in the near future.

“Our lifestyle is about finding positives, getting stoked and staying high. There’s an infectious youthful attitude that draws us to the ocean and makes us surf down mountains. It’s a spirit and approach to life that is alway fun first. It’s Quiksilver’s job to remind everyone of that spirit. Stay high.”

So after that pitch Quiksilver succeeded in showing us that lifestyle. Armed with a few choice pieces from the new collection I managed to explore Hossegor by skateboard, bombing some hills in the afternoon warmth before heading out towards the Basque Country for Travis Rice’s birthday party. There had been talk of a party at Maison Desillusion, but Josh clearly had other ideas for us. We piled into the car with the guys from What Youth and were greeted by melodies of a band, smells of BBQ and dancing flames in the garden of a secluded house under a moonless, starfilled sky. Beer and burritos, weed and white wine, champagne and cuban cigars, polaroids and interviews, inspiring conversation and tales from Quiksilver surf trips rounded off a mellow evening that I won’t soon forget. Definitely radical times.

Sunday morning. Brutal hangover. Coffee, cigarette, croissants. Straight into the glistening water for a surfing lesson with the glamourous Roxy girls. The whole group did amazing, a lot of waves were caught but they were dwarfed by the ones we saw later that day during the final heats of the competition. Surfing was followed by yoga and lunch, after which I had another skate and found some amazing beachside spots. The hangover was long gone at this point, and I was enjoying the simple pleasures of a day spent riding two different types of board. Exploring the areas of Hossegor and Capbreton, soaking up the sunshine, keeping my eyes open, pushing fast through relaxed beach goers, bombing more hills not giving a fuck about cars behind me, staying high as my mood continued to elevate. It’s easy to see why the surf lifestyle is so contagious.

As the afternoon rolled around we met with Josh again to talk about his background, his mentors at Quiksilver and his motivations for the brand. He had to shoot off fairly quickly so we took some beers and headed back to the beach to watch some more surf heats, enjoy the sunset and waves. For the record, surfing is fucking hard. I have much respect for those guys doing what they do, dropping in on monster waves, oozing style, flowing with the water, reading the waves so naturally and paddling out hard to do it again. Gabriel Medina came away a worthy champion after scoring a perfect 10 in the semi finals.

On our final morning we toured the Euroglass factory to see where so many World Champion boards were once shaped. Getting over excited we borrowed two brand new boards from the factory, with the only insurance being that if we broke them, we would pay for them. We headed down the coast to squeeze in a final session before our flight home, with hopes of catching some bigger waves. Sam and I got destroyed. But came away with a newfound respect for the ocean and an admiration for the guys I had seen surfing throughout my days there.

Quiksilver wanted to show us the lifestyle that inspires them. Josh explained how it all came from travel and really getting engrossed in your surroundings, moving outside of that comfort zone. It’s where you’ll discover new ideas, unlock your creativity and learn the most. Even though most of my attempts at catching a huge wave failed, I took everything I experienced about the surf lifestyle with me, threw my energy back onto my skateboard and into the concrete wave. Thank you Quiksilver for reminding us of that spirit, that approach to life and helping us stay high. Radical times.

Words and photos: Will Sleigh
Thanks also: Dean at ‘Coffin on Cake PR‘ and Sam of ‘The Look In

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