Paul Naude & The History Of Vissla
Many people know about the brand Vissla—it has gone from being a boutique cottage brand to an industry staple over the past five years—but few people know the story of how it started. But The Surfer’s Journal recently ran an article about Paul Naude that gives a great history behind the brand. I suggest that anyone interested in Vissla or surf history in general take a look at the article—but if you don’t have time, here are Cliff Notes!*
Paul Naude grew up in Durban, South Africa, and was part of the Shaun Thomson generation. Rather than going to college as his parents had planned, he started working in a shaping bay taking orders and doing ding repair, and eventually graduated to laminating, sanding, and shaping boards. In the meantime, he was becoming a decent surfer himself, and soon followed Shaun Thomson and the other South Africans to the North Shore, where he crashed with Randy Rarick and enjoyed a successful pro career (including a win at Sunset and a third-place finish at the Pipe Masters).
In the meantime, Naude was becoming more involved in the surf industry. He ended up learning the basics of media and publishing, and went on to found ZigZag magazine, South Africa’s premier surf magazine. He also become the regional license holder for Gotcha in South Africa, and was eventually hired as president of Billabong.
After Billabong went public and suffered from the surf industry’s decline in the early 2000s, Naude decided he wanted to get back to his roots, and started a company called Stoke House, which had a number of branches, including Vissla—a brand that Naude says was always intended to be about surf—not street culture, not skate or snow culture, just surf. He wanted to bring together a group of creative wave riders and board builders, and that’s exactly what he has done. Vissla’s team now includes a wide variety of “Creators and Innovators,” like shaper Danny Hess, filmmaker/shaper/artist Thomas Campbell, PhD scientist/environmentalist/native Hawaiian Cliff Kapono, and up-and-coming surfers like Cam Richards and Town resident Noa Mizuno.
Nearly 50 years after he first picked up a surfboard, Naude has now come full circle, with his brand providing opportunities to young surfers, just as he once received. So next time you strap on a pair of Vissla boardshorts, take a moment to appreciate the history behind them—then get busy paddling out and making some waves. That’s what Naude would want you to do!
*Speaking of Cliff Notes, Vissla team rider Cliff Kapono has recently started a web series called Cliff’s Notes that profile various surfers with different passions, and follows Cliff as he learns new skills from these artisans while discovering more about what it means to be an environmentally conscious surfer.