https://vimeo.com/161112605The other day I was watching the Fiji Pro on WSL.com, and kept seeing an ad between heats where a young kid would ask his father, “Dad, what’s VISSLA?” After seeing this short video a few times, I realized that I, too, didn’t really know what VISSLA was, aside from a new surf brand that is popping up on t-shirts all over the place. So I figured I should check the brand out and see what all the hubbub was about. And as it turned out, it was nothing like I expected.Paul Naude has been a major player in the surf industry for years, acting as company director and US division president of Billabong for 15 years. When he announced the launch of his new brand, we should have expected something cutting-edge, but I don’t think anyone was prepared for how community- based and socially conscious the brand would be.Since its launch, VISSLA has made a point of being a surfer’s brand, rather than a brand that simply sells to surfers. The company doesn’t just support the typical pro surfer paradigm, but throws its lot in with shapers, artists, region riders and influencers, and the local community as a whole. They support numerous grassroots programs, and will be presenting the Point Panic bodysurfing contest this summer in conjunction with Hawaiian South Shore, which will host the launch for the event, with a barbecue, movie night, and limited-edition t-shirts — all are invited! The brand has also been quite proactive in using sustainable materials for fabrics and products, such as upcycling plastic bottles and coconut husk (which has antimicrobial properties that help wet clothing not to stink) into board shorts. When combined with support of smaller industry upstarts like DaFin, Hayden Cox, and Hoffman Fabrics, this community and environmental focus has established the brand as one that is grassroots-friendly.
Donald Brink SufboardsOne of the more exciting things that VISSLA has planned is a joint venture with Donald Brink. They will be helping him to release a line of special, unique boards in August, with a tentatively scheduled launch show and other events planned. This continued support of the everyman surfer is what differentiates the brand from others that pay lip service to community consciousness but don’t actually deliver. With cutting edge, soul, artistic, shaping, and other aspects, VISSLA appears to be a movement more than a brand, and when you look at the history of our sport, it has always been the grassroots movements that have effected the most change.So, in answer to the boy’s question to his dad—“What is VISSLA?”—it would appear that the answer is: everything that is good in surfing. It will be exciting to see where Naude takes us next.