The Mullets sat down with Rob Farrow, VP of Marketing at Surftech, during Surf Expo and were excited to hear about what’s on tap for Surftech in the coming year. Lots to look forward to! Here are his thoughts.
Mullet: Can you tell us about the new direction for Surftech:
Rob: Surftech has an amazing history going back over 25 years. We were the first company to introduce composite construction to the surf industry back in 1989. Since then, we have pioneered new technology and board categories including traditional paddleboarding and SUP. The new direction for us is about celebrating that history and all the things that makes us Surftech. We were the “Original Board Manufacturing Company” and I really wanted to let that be known and make it part of our brand story moving forward. We have been a part of so many lives, surf sessions, paddles, life experiences and just pure stoke on the water I wanted to capture that and share it. That is where the “We Live For This” campaign was born.
Mullet: So what is “We Live for this” all about:
Rob: “We Live For This” and the whole #weliveforthis movement is really about celebrating those moments that connect us all and make us part of this global tribe of watermen and women. I think too often, especially in SUP, we get caught up in results, times and training. Although all of that is a big part of the elite nature of the sport, it is a very small part of the bigger picture. “We Live For This” is really a way to celebrate the lifestyle we are all a part of on the water. I really wanted to take the conversation about Surftech in a direction that was inclusive of anyone on the water who could relate to those moments.
Rob: It all started after Expo in Florida last September. A group of us were having a beverage after the show, talking about all the things surf and paddle when we starting talking about Surftech. It was amazing the number of “firsts” this company had, from technology to product categories. Surftech had truly pioneered the surf and paddle industry. That’s when we landed on the “Original Board Manufacturing Co.” concept.
We made the decision to introduce a few new logo treatments as part of our softgoods and show strategy for the January show to test the market and see what the response from retailers and customers would be like. So far the responses has been overwhelmingly positive and we cannot keep the shirts, hats or decals in stock. Our original logo is not going away by any sense of the imagination- the original red “S” and the Surftech script has come to define the industry, representing quality and consistency in the market. However it is time to expand on what we are as a brand and celebrate all we have done and will continue to do.
Mullet: You have a new “Ambassador” program. Tell us what that is all about:
Rob: Surftech, like many brands, had a “team” made up of mostly elite athletes that rode or paddled our boards and represented us at competitive events. When I joined Surftech, one of the things I wanted to do was expand on that concept to reach a broader audience of paddlers and enthusiasts. One of the changes I implemented was shifting the focus of our program to include more lifestyle athletes, watermen and women who represented the “stoke” that is the experience of paddling and surfing. Initially it was interpreted that we were getting rid of our entire team, which was complete nonsense. I did get rid of the term “team” opting to replace it with the term ambassador, which may have fueled the confusion. Since we launched the new program, we have expanded our roster aggressively with a combination of new lifestyle athletes and elite competitors. As the dust has settled the overall outline of the program is taking shape everyone involved is super excited about the changes and I am confident it will be a good thing for all.
Mullet: What of the rumors that have been circulating?
Rob: I guess I should ask which ones? I have heard some absurd ones and some hilarious ones. Regarding all the rumors, I think anytime there is a series of changes within an organization you subject yourself to the interpretation from the outside, and the further outside folks are the wilder the rumors.
It is true we have gone through a lot of changes in the past few months. The changes have been operationally, on our executive management team and with our team riders. These changes are all part of a strategic shift that has helped us to become a better company and better positioned for proactive growth moving forward.
Mullet: Can you expand on your relationship with Joe Bark?
Rob: Joe is awesome. All of us here at Surftech have a very close relationship with Joe and he is extremely accessible to any of us. For me, it is not uncommon to start my day at 6:00AM with a call from Joe, sharing his latest test run, new design, antidote of the day or just checking in to make sure everything is right in the world. We all have a huge amount of respect for Joe, his family, the extended BARK family and the program he has built around the globe.
One of the many great things about Joe is, he is always working with top tier athletes, not just BARK or Surftech athletes, but the best of the best to test, refine and perfect his shapes and designs. This, in turn, guarantees the boards we make are the best.
This past year we introduced two new BARK boards into our SUP line up, the D2 and the Downwinder, and we expanded our Paddleboard line up with the addition of the 14’ Commander. Next year we will be launching a couple of new BARK boards that will blow some minds, but you will just have to wait and see what those will be…LOL.
Mullet: Where do you see the sport growing and what is Surftech doing to be a part of the growth?
Rob: There are several verticals that have taken shape within the sport of Stand Up Paddling: Surf, Race, Touring, Rec, Fitness and Inflatables. We are taking a focused approach to all the categories to ensure we have the best product mix for each and serve the greatest cross section of consumers. Race is where we have the strongest position and one that will continue to strengthen through our line up of BARK boards. As for growth areas, it’s no secret that the TRFI (Touring, Rec, Fitness and Inflatables) verticals are the ones that will see the biggest growth in upcoming years.
Our strategy is to really focus on building relevant high quality products that are priced right, available and accessible. We started to revamp our entire line for 2015 and are going even further in 2016, introducing new construction technologies, shapes and accessories to better serve the needs of the consumer.
Mullet: Any new plans for supporting your dealers?
Rob: From a marketing perspective, we are introducing several new in store initiatives to help retailers educate consumers and smooth out the purchasing process. We are using our ambassador program to better connect with retailers in every community who can get out the water with new products and let folks demo boards. We are also working on a new merchandise display program to help our retailers better showcase products and maximize the square footage of their stores. Ultimately our retailers will get a lot more support than in the past, they are a big part of our success and we want to do what we can to help.
Mullet: Parting thoughts?
Rob: Well…Let’s see. First thank you for giving us/me a platform to share our vision, without companies like Distressed Mullet, our industry would not be able to grow or connect with others. I am very optimistic about the future of both the sport of SUP and Surftech. I think we can all expect some great things to come and some exciting times.