“BE WATER MY FRIEND”
It is with legend Bruce Lee and his famous quote that Jean-Louis Rodrigues opened the 21st edition of the Surf Summit conference, held at the Casino in Hossegor last October 13 & 14. Speaking to an audience of over 360 people, the EuroSIMA President illustrated our industry’s ambition through the martial arts actor’s philosophy: « when you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup, when you put water in a bottle it becomes the bottle, when you put water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot; water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend! ». The ambition is to transform in order to rise to the challenges of our time.
“This year, we have chosen to question our balance: how to find better balance in our lives and for our planet. Our water element is a reminder of our ability to adapt and face current challenges in an era of uncertainty. Whether through the presentations of athletes, entrepreneurs or scientists, who will share their experience, or through interaction with innovative exhibitors in our 8th edition of the Surfing Lounge exhibit, I hope these two days of the Surf Summit will help you find new ideas and to launch the necessary changes to stay competitive while implementing the social and environmental transition towards sustainability,” he said.
Drawing inspiration from another film reference, Arthur Guerin-Boëri followed suit and kicked off the first presentation. The most titled freediver in history, who holds five world titles and eight world records, discussed his passion as a teen for Luc Besson’s award-winning movie The Big Blue and how his fascination for Jacques Mayol led him years later, at the age of 26, to try freediving as a sport.
“I immediately felt at ease underwater. I love both the athletic and meditative aspects of the sport,” he said in his interview with Dave Mailman. Arthur Guerin-Boëri then went on to explain to a captivated audience just how he has managed to consistently set his own objectives shifting from a leisure activity to elite competitive diving, «managing in 2016 to swim 300 meters in a single breath, which is 12 laps in an olympic-sized pool. That’s a record. Eventually, I’d done it all in my field, so I started searching for challenges elsewhere.» The « elsewhere » would still be underwater, because he « craves the weightlessness, being in contact with the water element and the mental strength required to refrain from going back to the surface, » but henceforth, the challenges would be in cold to near-freezing waters.
« Cold water is good for the body, but our medical knowledge on the body’s reaction to spending extended time submerged in water that cold is still experimental. The biggest challenge for these records was therefore to manage my fear, » admits the champion. He then discussed the lessons he has learned along the way and how we can all apply them to our daily lives whether personally or professionally. « When you master something, you need to push further, leave your comfort zone and accept to take risks. It’s difficult at first, but you have to find a way to just let go and give in to your passion and move forward with small steps. Only a person who has never known failure really fears it. » he said. Today, Arthur Guerin-Boëri has his sights set on two new challenges: producing a freediving film to show the most beautiful diving spots in Europe and swimming with Orcas.
“THE REBIRTH OF SURFING”
When it comes to failure, Maurice Cole has had his share in life, and he shared them with the audience without any sugar-coating. He did it here in Hossegor, right where the legendary surfer and shaper had lived for fifteen years and caught the « best wave of his life » before returning to his native Australia in 1995. More than a lesson about shaping or surfing, he offered a life lesson to the Surf Summit audience, discussing the ups and down of his life, starting with his childhood. « From the moment I stood up on a board, the passion for surfing has never left me. Surfing was a world that welcomed eccentric people like me, people who innovate and who grow in harmony with nature. Now is the time for the authenticity of surfing to be reborn. We’re lucky to be attractive to a new generation, and I’ll be there to support it. » he promised.
Nine-time world champion bodyboarder and bodysurfing champion Mike Stewart also insisted on the need to share “everything about surfing, from getting to the beach to the moment you look at the ocean before you go into the water. Everything you can’t get in a wave pool.” The self-proclaimed « wave lover » who has mastered legendary waves such as Pipeline, discussed the totally different experiences between riding natural or artificial waves. « Kelly’s wave doesn’t push you, rather it pulls you back, for instance and it’s freshwater, not saltwater. The sensations are very different. » Mike is also involved in research on ocean movements with MIT researchers in order to increase understanding of waves and to raise awareness on protecting them.
During the roundtable of EuroSIMA board members, Ocean52 Marketing Director Nicolas Dazet agreed with the above-mentioned speakers : “we need to re-tell the history of surfing to the new generation, they are new riders and there are so many of them.” Kévin Lestrade, General Manger of Bythewave technologies and Philippe Sirech, Spotyride founder, confirmed this idea, discussing the attractiveness their respective businesses are currently enjoying. Thus, the absolute need to hold key and strong events throughout Europe, Jean-Louis Rodrigues added. “We tried everything” he said regarding the decision from the WSL and Boardriders to cancel the Quiksilver/ Roxy Pro France last July 29, an event which should have taken place in Hossegor, Seignosse and Capbreton from October 12 through 23. “Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, the Minister of Sports contacted us during her recent visit and assured us of her support. She is prepared to open a conversation with the WSL to bring back a large event to our coast in 2024, when surfing will be in the spotlight during the Olympics, though those events will be held in Teahupoo.”
“STAYING AGILE IN A WORLD OF THE UNKNOWN”
During his overview of the European Outdoor and Sports retail markets, Frédéric Tain, sport-guide.com Editor-in-Chief, painted his own portrait of the new generation of surfers and athletes in general. They do sports in a variety of ways and venues: with friends on the week-end, with colleagues during the week or even with their family on vacation.
“The needs vary for each type of use. And beware: now customers expect it all: the lowest price but also advice. Flexibility to order a product online and pick it up in the store because nowadays they want to do both. But only in stores that are attractive enough to make them want to go in. Not to mention the fact that customers will increasingly buy from other users and we all need to sell second-hand products as well.” Though forecasts by Deloitte for ISPO Münich have announced an annual 6% growth rate and a market that is set to reach 164 Billion euros by 2025, according to Frédéric Tain, “only the most agile in this world of the unknown will reach such targets”.
Agility as a matter of fact, is no longer simply an option but a genuine survival skill in the post-Brexit context for our British colleagues, Tom Copsey (Wetsuits Manager at O’neill), Sean Harris (European Sales Manager at Rip Curl) and Richie Jones (CEO of VVAST Europe) who joined the conversation with a roundtable led by Wilco Prins, Salt Only CEO and former EuroSIMA President. « For us, the post-Covid and post -Brexit context was turbulent, to say the least. We had to adapt, namely in terms of logistics, » explained Sean Harris. « The market was disrupted but you mustn’t forget it isn’t as massive as on mainland Europe. Cold-water surfing is not the like surfing on the coast in the Landes. French surfing has a head start, which will be consolidated with the Olympics but the British are on their way to catching up, » said Tom Copsey. “What’s interesting to see, is the boost of e-business during the pandemic, which many in Britain thought had become a given, but it’s not. Physical stores still have a future” said Richies Jones, who added that new brands like Animal are also confirming their growth.
“The pandemic had a multitude of impacts on our industry but what I take away in particular was the enthusiasm and appetite for our nature sports, which today, continue to attract newcomers. It’s had a positive effect on our sales, which soared in 2020 to the point where supply chains couldn’t keep up, in particular for wetsuits. Even though quite logically, sales have slowed down, figures are still positive, apparel included. What I’d also like to emphasize is how the crisis really cemented our values in terms of sustainability and responsibility: most of you were already active in those areas but clearly efforts were increased, and yet we still have a long way to go. We also must do better at communicating to our customers what we are indeed doing” said Jean-Louis Rodrigues.
“SOBRIETY HAS BECOME A FACTOR OF PERFORMANCE”
Among the list of responsible and sustainable actions, some are harder to reach than others said Emmanuel Debruères, Oxbow CEO, referring to their Made in France collection. “We should not hide from the facts: the reality is that manufacturing apparel in our country is still an uphill battle. For instance, we had to work hand in hand with our DSL Tex Manufacturer in Capbreton and on our own, we had to look for and find the fabric and all the parts from various suppliers in different regions whereas its easier with asian industrials who can provide an all-in one, full package finished product.” But the first results are finally visible: “this 2022 spring-summer collection for which we reworked prints from the nineties already represents 10% in turnover for our shops.”
Ludovic Quinault, former General brand manager for SKFK also insisted on the challenges when trying to shift away from Asia towards more ethical and sustainable sourcing, which is “a choice we made and implemented in 2013 when there was basically no information available on the subject.” After calculating their carbon footprint as early as 2015, the Spanish apparel company started offering a fully recycled collection in 2016 and even started renting their outfits by 2019. The rental program was met “with immediate success, namely in France, with a young demographic in particular” the entrepreneur added.
“It is a great example of how some brands are switching from a volume-based s
trategy to a value-based one. It’s absolutely necessary because nowadays sobriety has become a factor of performance. CSR is not longer restricted to a few select companies or a part of your work force.” said Aude Penouty, founder of the creative and sustainable sourcing consulting firm Entada Textile. After giving a presentation full of concrete examples of brands that are paving the way towards a circular economy, she then led the roundtable on the issue with a group of committed players in the field.
The first of these key players, Nin Castle, of Reverse Resources explained that “a circular economy begins with sorting waste, because if waste is sorted properly, it can then be turned back into products”. Identifying, localizing and quantifying the amount of available waste for other manufacturers is exactly what their platform offers with the objective of reaching circularity throughout the industry by 2030. Jenny Lartizien on the other hand, discussed the vision she shares with her associates former pro-surfer Vincent Lartizien and François Payot, former Rip Curl CEO. Together, their company Les Chanvres de l’Atlantique is doing its part by introducing hemp in the South-West of France. “It’s a plant that was traditionally given bad press, but it’s incredible. It grows in three months in all environments across the planet, it has a cleansing effect on soils and can be used for a multitude of applications.” The young business even used it in the bricks of the walls for their first factory that has just been completed in Saint-Geours-de-Maremne. They sell the seeds for consumption, the essential oils for medicinal purposes and scents and are currently working on an apparel line.
Gabe Davies, Ocean Marketing Manager at Patagonia Europe, also encouraged his peers to trust other materials such as the natural Yulex, which the brand is trying to promote as an alternative option to oil-based neoprene. “Every little effort put together is what will allow us to change the entire system” the former pro-surfer insisted. He also reminded the audience that Patagonia now answers to nature only and having “our planet as our sole shareholder gives us a long-term perspective to better protect it.”
“WAVES IN ANTARCTICA”
They are all part of those who “protect our playgrounds, namely the Ocean” as Jean-Louis Rodrigues often says. And that playground is particularly at risk these days according to David Salas Y Melia, Head of Research at Météo France, the French meteorological research center. “As it is clearly stated in the IPCC reports, human influence on the climate is a certainty and extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts or severe rainfall will indeed all continue to intensify” the climatologist reminded the audience. In his presentation he also discussed the impact of Climate change on the oceans through increased temperatures as well as rising sea levels, caused in part by the melting of glaciers and sea ice.
“Forecasts also predict that there will be more waves in Antarctica, though I’m not sure that’s the most relevant for your industry” he joked. “One thing is for sure though, there is still time to limit warming to 1,5° or 2°, but we won’t succeed if we continue with the same carbon-based growth. We all have to play our part”
“SURFING, AN ECONOMIC SECTOR SO SPECIFIC TO NOUVELLE-AQUITAINE”
How does one measure the overall business generated by the ocean in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region and more specifically to what extent is it driven by its world-famous waves? That was the question the Region set out to answer statistically in their first study on “the weight of the twenty or so regional maritime industries for the economy”, which was presented for the first time during the Surf Summit. To draw up a clear picture of these industries and their significance, various sources and data were used, including elements from the Insee, Urssaf and ADI. This data was then cross-referenced with additional data from professional federations, including EUROSIMA. In all, 19 000 entities and 58 000 individuals were found to be professionally linked to the ocean. This represents 2,5% of the jobs within the region and 13,5% on average along the coasts.
All these businesses have generated a total turnover of 4,8 billion euros in the Region in 2019 for an added value of 1,5 billion euros. “Setting aside coastal tourism activities which accounts for 35 000 jobs alone, we have identified 7000 companies that can be sorted into four different maritime sectors: first: nautical, naval and boardsports activities (where the surfing industry is to be found), second comes ports, logistics and transportation followed then by marine resource management and development and finally research and training” explained Marjory Gorge, Task officer for Nautical, Naval and boardsports activities in Nouvelle-Aquitaine. In all, 22 000 people work in those four key sectors, of which 60% are located in three key zones: In the North, La Rochelle, centrally Bordeaux and the Arcachon Bassin and finally Bayonne for the South of the region. These industrial activities represent nearly three-quarters (73%) of jobs in nautical, naval and baordsports. According to the study, the “nautical and naval industries generate the most jobs with more long-terms positions, skilled requirements and there are currently 800 vacancies that still need to be filled”. For Action Sports retail, figures are even stronger: for 1400 existing jobs, the Region believes that and additional 460 could be created. Furthermore, contrary to the naval and nautical sectors, it is a field in which “a majority of women are hired”.
The surfing industry is “a segment that is specific to the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, with multi-activity businesses registered in over 36 different NAF codes, which illustrates how hard it is to breakdown the field and apply statistical analysis”, she pointed out, having voluntarily focused on coastal activities and chosen to no include other Action sports such as skateboarding or snowboarding (which are nevertheless widely included in offers from a majority of EuroSIMA members). The research team identified 322 companies generating a combined added value of 80,7 million euros. Two-thirds of these businesses have headquarters in the Landes and Pyrénées-Atlantiques departments.
In terms of number of jobs however, apparel and sports products manufacturers clearly take the lead with 951 jobs. “The ten largest employers represent 69% of all jobs” Marjory Gorge explained. Eric Sargiacomo, Task Officer and representative for the Conseil Departemental of the Landes was in the audience and underlined the fact that “it is an ecosystem that is mostly made up of small businesses and start-ups. Among the local entrepreneurs, several started in this industry on a very global level before settling in our territory. Not to mention the significance of surfing, which attracts tourists to our region, whether they actually practice the sport or not”. Just as outdoor and nature sports are currently thriving, the surfing industry is pursuing its impressive growth, both economically and symbolically in Nouvelle-Aquitaine.
SEALOCKER AND THEIR CONNECTED LOCKERS WIN THE CALL FOR INNOVATIVE PROJECTS
After the Anglet-based surfboard foam manufacturer Polyola last year, it is now Sealocker’s turn to win this year’s Call for Innovative Projects and take home the 2500 euro cheque. The start-up, which was created in 2021 in the Izarbel business-center in Bidart, is now based in Hossegor and had already won last year’s sponsoring program for a full year of business support and sponsoring. Clearly the program was put to good use as they won this year’s innovation contest, outperforming the twenty or so other applicants, including the two other short-listed applications: Trashboards (skateboards made from recycled carboard) and My Sessions (an online platform to share surfing images). Sealocker founder Nicolas Farolfi and his new business partner Matthieu Guyonnaud are developping a two-fold innovation: an app to book surfboards (which has over 800 users at this time) and a self-service rental and purchase of those boards with connected lockers in key locations. “Sealocker aims to solve the problem of transporting large or troublesome sports hardware, whether it is a surfboard, a kayak or skis for people who are traveling somewhere on vacation and who will then easily be able to rent their equipment 24/7. As for locals, there will also be a wide variety of boards to choose from, allowing riders to rent according to their level, the swell and even as a testing session prior to a purchase” Nicolas Farolfi explained. The first locker, which is 3,70m high, was designed by the Bayonne-based agency Outercraft. It is entirely made in France and was installed in Biarritz in the Ateliers de la Côte, last September 22.
Sealocker plans on installing another fifteen or so lockers by next year. Still supported by ESTIA Entreprendre, the start-up has also just been awarded a regional subsidy from the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region and BpiFrance. This is a welcome guarantee for mayors, surf shops and shapers. The company has already established over thirty partnerships, mainly in Nouvelle Aquitaine but also with a few in Britanny or even in Reunion Island. “We simplify the rental process for the renter, for whom it is a time-consuming activity. It’s also easier for the user: all the administrative details are pre-set and retrieving a board is done through a simple QR code with a wide range of options and a choice of over 140 currently available models” added the founder, who spent the two Surf Summit days explaining and demonstrating time and time again to visitors how the locker works, thanks to the full-size model that was exhibited right at the conference in the Surfing Lounge exhibit.
As for The Surfing Lounge, as always ot offered Surf Summit participants the opportunity to discover the latest trends and innovations in the industry. This year, the exhibit welcomed 21 companies, among which were well-established household names such as Rip Curl and Oxbow as well as upcoming start-ups or newcomers like the eco-designed Polyola boards (2021 Innovative winner), 3D printed boards by Wyve (2019 Innovative winner), Spotyride and Surfnow (digital/ online booking for surf camps), the second-hand market with All Troc and Beeswax wax with Sim Wax.
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