Despite the pandemic and global lockdown, has 2020 proven to be a successful year as far as sales are concerned?
Yes, 2020 has proven to be a very successful year as far as sales are concerned. We had a really good line of boards for 2020 that paired well with the varied surf conditions the world saw through the past eight months, and it seems we would have had a good year regardless of what did or didn’t happen with the pandemic and ensuing lockdown. But specific to the pandemic, it seems like many people responded to not being able to work by surfing more, learning to surf, or getting reacquainted with surfing after years away from the ocean.
What changes in sales and consumer demographics have you seen (age, gender, country…)?
The most obvious changes are a younger demographic (maybe 10 to14 years old) and an older demographic (late 30’s to early ’50s). The two demographics can be considered together in the sense that parents who found themselves not confined to an office also found their kids not confined to a classroom, and together they went to the beach after buying a new board or two or three. Of course, these respective consumer segments also operated independently from each other, but it’s intriguing to watch what happens when all of the sudden no one is allowed to congregate indoors, and how all consumer segments gravitate to similar places.
Which surfboard designs will be the most popular in 2021?
We very deliberately designed our line for 2021 to include only the surfboards and accessories that we felt would be enormously beneficial and functional for the widest segments of our audience. ‘21 will see boards by Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Harley Ingleby, and more, across the mid-length, hybrid, fish and high-performance categories, as well as longboards.
Is the “ride anything” mantra a sound phenomenon? (both for sales and the sport)
It’s more than a sound phenomenon, it’s as here to stay as sunrises, coffee, and paying your taxes. The innovative approach to riding anything is something that was genetically tuned into Firewire’s DNA from inception. Over the past several years we’ve released a fish groveler (the Seaside) and a fish mid-length (The Seaside and Beyond) along with a high-performance shortboard (The FRK) and a line of carbon laminated longboards (Thunderbolt BLACK by Harley Ingleby, CJ Nelson and others). Today, surfers know they have options and they’re taking advantage of them because there is no social pressure to conform… In fact, there is social pressure to not conform, I think. Surfing is more fun than it used to be in the ’90s when everyone rode the same board every day regardless of conditions, and everyone knows it.
EPS is driving the innovation, yet PU accounts for the bulk of sales: which of those is your favorite construction?
EPS without question. Firewire was founded on creating new surfing sensations from innovative materials and design processes, and today that means 100% of our surfboard production is built using EPS foams and Epoxy Bio Resins. We’ve found that these materials offer the most opportunity for refining ‘recipes’ for products that create the exact sensations on the water that we’re looking for. It’s just a better option.
Which are your top 3 selling boards?
They’re all doing very well, and at any given moment in time, our most successful models depend on how we’ve gone to market during the previous 3 to 6 months. Presently, the Glazer and the Seaside series by Rob Machado are leading, along with the still very popular Sci-Fi series by Daniel Thomson for Slater Designs.
Sustainability is in everyone’s mouth: which are your latest implementations in the field?
We implement new initiatives and adjust our efforts yearly. What excites us most currently is our Sea Trees initiative with Sustainable Surf. The program enables us to calculate the total carbon footprint of our business each year, and then wiping that footprint through planting mangrove trees in Indonesia, supporting kelp forest regeneration in California, and supporting the conservation of the largest contiguous rainforest in the world. All who are interested can learn more about the Sea Trees program by visiting sea-trees.org.
Online retailers and D2C are on the (slight) rise: how are you supporting bricks&mortar surf shops?
With the best team of retail consultants the surfboard industry has seen, throughout Europe, and more. Myself and the entire marketing team are more than impressed each year by Firewire’s representatives in regions across the planet, and while we’ve implemented special programs that vary by region in 2020, the most critical aspect of our success at brick and mortar are the people who represent us in each region.
How have surf schools performed over the summer?
Judging by the crowd around the surf school at the beach by my house, they have performed extremely well. It seems the interest in learning to surf is still there among the youth, and the additional time to take up new hobbies in previous months has been spent learning in the ocean.