Sterling Spencer. The Gulf Coast of Florida. Photo: Patrick Ruddy

Dear Surf Industry, California's just not that into you, so why not consider relocating to Florida? Sterling Spencer illustrates one of the many good reasons on Florida's Gulf Coast. Photo: Patrick Ruddy


The Inertia

Dear U.S. SURF Industry (SIMA Members, Grind Media, ASP NA, New Media, Shapers, Pros, Joes, Rebels and Start-ups):

Greetings from sunny Florida!

I hope this letter finds you well and that you have been enjoying some bountiful surf. We’re not complaining over here. Seems like there have been great waves all year. And hurricane season– well, you got a little taste of it in NY. (I hope you enjoyed your trip east and found your way around the city). We scored much more of the same down here (Bret, Irene, Katia, Lee, Maria, etc.,), only without wetsuits. The water temps have retreated into the mid-60s lately, though. I guess all good things have to come to an end sometime– which brings me to the reason I’m writing.

I know we don’t see each other a lot, but we’ve been friends for a long time. And I care about you. Everyone here in Florida does. But there’s something important that I need to tell you. It’s not easy and I hate to have to be the one to do it, but I just think you need to know.

You see, California– she doesn’t love you any more.

Surfing? Yes.

But you– the surf industry? Sorry man, afraid not.

Trust me, I’m on the websites and message boards. She’s been talking about you behind your back, dude. Nasty stuff. I’m hearing words like “incestuous”, “soulless”, “hose”, “monumental screw-up”, “sickly” “polluted”, “dangerous”, “evil” and “lame”… She’s over you.

But, here’s the deal: While you’re not a kid any longer, you’re still plenty young; not too old to bust a move and make a transition in your life. So what I’d like to suggest is for you to consider relocating to Florida. Yeah man, throw your gear in a bag and come on over! You don’t have to take all of Cali’s sh#%! Granted, she’s beautiful– but you have spoiled her rotten. And there’s plenty of eye-candy here. We can set you up big time. And you know, I think you’d really love it.

Most importantly, you’d have someone who loves you back.

Yeah, I know– global economic focus is shifting to Asia, and you’re a little closer where you’re at. But Florida is also a global hub for business with large modern and growing ports and airports. Consider: Once Europe finishes imploding and the US does the same, then who’s left holding the debt bag? That’s right- China! And once they are forced to restructure and we all hit the “reset” button, then where do you think the money will head? Yep, right back to the good ol’ USA– safest bet on the planet! China won’t be such a big deal, then.

Besides, even if things don’t go down exactly like that, consider: Do we (can I take the liberty of saying, “we”, because I’d really like for you to start thinking of us as your new “partners” here?) Do we really want to be in bed with China? I’m telling you– this is one of the problems that Cali says she has with you. You know… human rights issues. It’s serious stuff. And none of us want to ignore it.

Let me introduce you to Latin America

I know you’ve always loved Mexico… We do, too! And hey, the Brazos- they’re NUTS about you! Man, with surfers like Adriano, Alejo, Jadsen, Heitor, Miguel and what’s the other new guy’s name?… Oh yeah– Medina! With those guys coming on like a 9.0 California earthquake, do you think there might be a growing market for you there? Those guys are our “neighbors”! Oh, and don’t forget about Puerto Rico… and Cuba! Cuba’s coming– just a little more time… you’ll see.

Oh, and how about this idea? Instead of sourcing to countries that want to kick our ass and rob us blind, how about getting your apparel manufacturers together and we can all help establish a sustainable new economy in Haiti? Seriously. Your Gen Y customers want you to do better. We all do.

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  • Al Baydough

    GREAT IDEA! And oh how I truly hope A LOT of people take you up on this…

    • Tim Hamby

      Ha! I expected you’d appreciate it and glad you’re willing to help encourage the transition. Thanks Al! : )

      • Al Baydough

        Yeah, but I ain’t one among those moving to Hootersville. Sure, your women are much cooler and infinitely more willing to have a good time but the geography is a perfect metaphor for the surf – which would also explain the real estate values. And in the event of a serious seismic bummer that whole state is toast; I could jump higher than your state’s highest elevation. 

         But the real question is why wait for the industry to come to you? Make your own scene. Stand apart. Hell, if I could take the flatness (or stomach being an SUPer) I’d head out and help make it happen. I got skills. What are the odds of being able to factor bi-weekly trips to PR into the expense account?

        • Tim Hamby

          Hey now- our ladies are very classy over here! And to be sure– Hooters does some solid business. A lot of sports fans in these parts.

          Regarding  elevations, we do have mountains here- two of them. I’ve summited Sugarloaf Mountain in the middle of winter. At 312 feet, it is not Mt. Whitney, but I think it still offers some nice views: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugarloaf_Mountain_(Florida)As far as not waiting on the industry to relocate, I was just talking to a friend earlier today who has been mulling starting a “work-friendly” surf or active lifestyle apparel line for a while. I’ll give you a shout if we decide to pull the trigger. Bi-weekly trips to PR sounds about right. I’m guessing that might would help attract some top talent. Hey- who needs health insurance?

  • Al Baydough

    GREAT IDEA! And oh how I truly hope A LOT of people take you up on this…

  • Tim Hamby

    Like Clark Foam?

  • Al Baydough

    Republican and capitalistic, sure. But conservative? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!

     Not at all. Some of the most libertine scenes in the nation are raging in Florida. Seriously, does anyone even bother to look in dictionaries anymore? The only real conservatives in America are the Amish – but even that’s questionable after they began adopting electricity.

    • Tim Hamby

      Florida leans conservative, but is actually a pretty mixed bag of diverse demographic groups (age, income, political views, etc.) Northeast Florida is generally  pretty conservative- families, professionals, military, etc. But there are also retirees; immigrant heavy south and to some extent, Central Florida; and pockets of uber-affluence here and there (Palm Beach, Naples). One thing that is true across the board is that the state is business-friendly with a high quality-of-life and low cost of living.

      • Al Baydough

        If you had 35 million residents those statements would be turned on their heads. And the funny thing about California being liberal… in the nearly thirty years I’ve spent living all up and down this state my experiences have taught me that most of the people here are infinitely more “conservative” than liberal (or, more accurately, opportunistic). 
         As for the terms themselves I’m deferring to Ayn Rand ’cause she nailed it when she stated something to the effect of “the terms liberal and conservative have become more or less interchangeable and devoid of their original meanings” (or something like that). When it comes to defining terms Americans are pretty much falling all over themselves with epic failures.  The Tower of Babel revisited. This should get interesting…

        • Tim Hamby

          See my other comments. Also, I’ve not read Atlas Shrugged not The Fountainhead, though ironically, in the same conversation I was having with the guy who wants to start an apparel line, he suggested I read both of those books. A couple of guys there at the time said they were very good, profound books (and significant reads). I understand they are both coming out as (remade) movies in the not too distant future, so perhaps I will put them on my list.

          • Al Baydough

            Ayn Rand writes very well crafted heroic fictions and I enjoy them as such. She occasionally hits on very valid points when dissecting society and economics. BUT, you have to be careful not to get roped into her very seductive dogma and become just another Randroid. There are many flaws in her logic, not the least of which is the fact that she had no background in economic theory, never built a business, was only an author and playwright (her books being much better than her scripting), and that she would have done herself more favors by adopting better terms than “selfishness” (Gordon Gecko anyone?) to promote her ideas much the same way the guys who coined Chaos Theory decided to change it to Complexity Theory for very good reasons.

             There’s a very good reason none of her books ever make the lists of “best ever” novels by university literature departments: in the end they just aren’t human and she portrays people in too polarizing a fashion. She was a very intelligent woman but unable to free herself from the anger and spite she carried all through her life. I always found it odd that a person who so despised “collectives” promoted corporatism. Like I said, she’s a flawed logician. But definitely read her work; it’s gratuitous fun, like reading a Frank Miller graphic novel.

          • Tim Hamby

            I was given a very similar synopsis –and footnotes– by both of my buddies, so I am increasingly anxious to digest it for myself. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  • Tim Hamby

    Roller, thanks- You’re absolutely right and I started to mention that in my piece. Land is still abundant and as cheap as it ever has been here. Not to mention that, like California, we are a global tourist destination. So, if Kelly is to proceed with his project, it makes every bit of sense that Florida would get a long first look at minimum.

  • Al Baydough

    That isn’t an accurate definition of the term. You do know the difference between a dictionary and a philosophical treatise, yes? Or maybe you don’t.

    • the roller

      Na, i’ll just stick with the term and definition that the last several Presidents have run their admins in accordance with, including our current prez Barry O,…

      neocon. 

      • Al Baydough

        Ignorance is a choice… poorly made.

  • Al Baydough

    For as long as people need clothes…

  • Bert

    Why stop in Florida? Why not going directly to China, wihout even passing by Maghreb and India?
    Of course you have the surfers, the chicks and the poseurs, but in China, they have the cheap workforce! The tax evasion system! And all this in a communist surrounding! Better than Disneyland!
    The ASP is already there, though. China is a dreamland. 

    • Tim Hamby

      “cheap workforce”
      I suppose those are a couple of the key words– maybe THE key words. This was once found in America (Industrial Revolution), but the unchecked costs of over-unionization, corruption and unrestrained entitlement sapped our comparative advantages. On to India, Asia and Latin America. It will continue to move (even, eventually from China), to wherever the greatest opportunity exists. Things change. India used to be an outsourcing home run in my industry, but as small businesses have fractured creating an army of increasingly low paid US freelancers, and places like the Philippines and Malaysia throw their hats in the ring to compete, it shifts. I believe the key (for the US), as in all things in life, is simply (or not-so-simply) finding that healthy middle ground that allows us to compete reasonably, while not forsaking those who make our engines go. We’re clearly not there, as self-interest is the ruling ideology of our time. But that “place” exists. It resides on a continuum. And getting to that one perfect stable spot is going to require a lot of balance; a lot of ups and downs; and shifts; and falls; and getting back up and continuing to try. Kind of like riding an Indo board. We will figure it out, eventually.

      • Al Baydough

        An increasing number of states are adopting “right to work” legislation. There’s opportunity to be had there as well as the chance to show the self-interested companies that in such an environment you don’t have to lo-ball the labor to be productive. The states in the nation’s interior are loaded with out of work people who are simply isolated and merely without the means to offer their labor. I doubt it would take much to coordinate efforts and set up manufacturing in these largely depressed regions. With professionals in architectural and engineering fields also struggling to find steady work it seems to me that the talent and work force exists to develop manufacturing facilities and new/revitalized communities around them, now it’s just a matter of bringing them all together. 

         A new standard is ripe for the making as a leading example of how to do business and manufacturing in the US. Who’s game? Caveats: I do have mixed feelings about right-to-work states since I did live in one for a few years and I tended to notice that the regions in which there wasn’t a massive amount of commerce the labor force was bottom of the barrel in terms of skill sets and enthusiasm (and you can’t blame their lack of enthusiasm when they are getting paid the base wage which essentially shits all over their existence in an already miserable environment). Sure, several unions have indeed become bureaucratic convolutions in many ways (though they also set the base wage from which independents can bid, not a bad thing at all); but on the other end of the spectrum you have politicians like Bachman petitioning for the abolition of the minimum wage and that is just begging for trouble. Somewhere the middle needs to be achieved and a standard set.  The rise and success of American Apparel, in one of the most difficult states to run a business, does show that it is possible to manufacture in the US and grow. Ultimately, it all comes down to the balance of pursuit of personal gains, commitment to building a brand (and not just so that it can be sold off to the highest A&M bidder, thus reinforcing the current disastrous examples of predatory and parasitic corporate policy), willingness to make the sacrifices to incentivize and draw a loyal labor pool and talented staff, commitment to local community as an employer, and ultimately a belief in the product as something of value for everyone involved. Chomping at the bit to assuage the bean counters isn’t the way to roll. 

        • Tim Hamby

          Al, I really like your vision. I’d love to be a part of such an effort. Interestingly, regarding American Apparel, and I am sure you may know– despite their past success, they are on the verge of insolvency. I am not sure if that is due to issues on the manufacturing side of their operations or the retail side, only that they are low on cash. I do love what they have tried to do from a manufacturing standpoint. Ironically, I started a small web-based company selling contemporary Christian tees (sanctitees.com- You can check it out, but CAN NOT PURCHASE currently, as I have disconnected Pay Pal, until I decide what to do with it). It was a side project that I got really good response from as I sold out my initial inventory. I elected to use ONLY American Apparel for the blanks based solely upon what they were trying to achieve, not to mention that the guy doing my screen printing worked out his St. Augustine garage using an 8-rung hand press, and a local seamstress was hand-sewing in self-branded tags for top quality. We also were donating 10% to causes. I was selling the shirts for $22 each. But as I looked at expansion steps, which would involve either wholesaling (preferred) or e-marketing (probably more profitable, but requiring more marketing $$), I looked at some BIG competitors and they were selling tees at $16 shirt, max. What did I conclude? That with either route, I would ultimately have to get my manufacturing costs down to compete sucessfully- and that would, for all practical purposes, mean China. So, I just stuck it on ice.

          • Al Baydough

            Everybody is hurting so I take all the talk about losses and insolvency with a grain of salt. AA keeps opening stores and they seem as popular now as ever. If they file for bankruptcy protection I’ll change my tune (obviously); but it seems a lot of companies in similar situations are weathering the storm, tied to their masts, so to speak. At some point, though, AA will have to diversify their line at least a little; appealing only to heroin-thin teenagers runs its course sooner or later.

             Look at the clothiers that have endured for decades and you see a commitment to quality that is unassailable. Patagonia did the right thing by not going public and retaining control of the company; their commitment to innovation and industry leading eco-conscious options certainly helps when seeking public trust; shareholders would devour a company like that first chance they got – fortunately they aren’t getting that chance. I’m willing to bet if Quik and Billy had remained private and continued the slow growth model they’d be just fine right now. But I guess that Wall Street bling was just too seductive and alluring. Shame. 

             Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe Katin is still private as well, yes? Sure, small potatoes but well respected and the kind of small company that could easily explode when the stars align in the marketing cosmos.
             ”Sanctitees.” Clever branding. Not really my bag in terms of market demographics as I’m not religious in the least but looks fun all the same for that crew. As for the China issue (or outsourcing in general), I feel that ultimately you inform the public of their options as some companies do: have product made abroad AND in the US; inform the buyer of their options in-store and on-label and let them choose (they can do this with organic and conventional options as well). The only way we’ll be bringing jobs back the the US is when consumers make conscious efforts to buy American – provide the option and let the chips fall as they may.  I look at it this way: I don’t begrudge the poor who buy at WalMart and $0.99 stores since they don’t generate the income to buy elsewhere, BUT I do have a disdain for people who absolutely can afford to buy American yet refuse to because they are simply too damn cheap and selfish. It’s simply a matter of doing what you know you can.

  • Tim Hamby

    I hear you. There’s a lot of busses driving off cliffs these days… Survivors are going to have to brush off and start climbing back up. I know that spirit exists in this industry, this country and other places around the world.

    • Al Baydough

      If it’s a product people can believe in on every level and the commitment to the craft and lifestyle is evident it will succeed. The primary reason I see new brands come and go is that they make product that is all frills, offers too familiar a line that just over-saturates, has a terrible marketing strategy and/or ridiculous brand name (keep it simple!!!), shows no real depth/commitment (you might have it but if no one can perceive it what’s the point?), or just wanted to build a startup to sell off to a bigger dog (lame). You might want to pander to the rebellious teen scene to satisfy a market niche but in the end if the substance isn’t there then failure is imminent. And you sure don’t want to snort all that substance up your nose, either.

       Until the world decides to completely shed its physical insecurities (and global warming creates an environment in which the temps are more or less tropical everywhere) people will always want to wear clothes and accessories to go with them. And since “familiarity breeds contempt” there will always be a demand for something new. 
       Don’t just find your niche, MAKE your niche.

      • Tim Hamby

        I agree with you 100% on every one of those points.

  • Tim Hamby

    Thanks Pat- good points all. I spent 6 years working (and playing) at both schools (UF/UCF) before finally winning my golden ticket at UCF. And Forbes and Princeton Review have both ranked UNF right here in Jax (growing like wildfire under the leadership of former Mayor J. Delaney), as one of the Top Colleges (and Best Buys) in the south, and the nation. You also forgot to mention that North Florida (Ponte Vedra Beach) is also home to the ATP’s world headquarters–something that will surely get Bobby M. excited about relocating here. = ) Jax also operates the largest urban parks system in the US (337 locations/80,000 acres). While I am not a golfer myself, many in the surf industry are and our state (especially NE Florida) is a Mecca for it. It is a sun-soaked, surf- and sports-stoked place.

  • Businesssurfer

    Love the Haiti idea, but  responsible and beneficially placed outsourcing is a mindset that needs to be insisted on by consumers. It’s been proven to work – Verizon $2 charge to pay online and Komen for The Cure’s backtracking on working with Planned Parenthood.

    However, when it comes to FL’s surf:  I have lived near some of the world’s most charming surf locations – and had I read your article yesterday morning after being greeted by 6″ slop and overcast conditions at C Street in Ventura, I would have jumped on a plan to my office in Jacksonville, but when I got up this morning it was 6′ glass, with EVERYONE hooting, excited and friendly. Locals welcoming unfamiliar faces, sharing coffee and stories.

    Wearing a 4×3 keeps the crowds out, as well as the cold..

    There is no where I would have rather been.

    • Tim Hamby

      Argghhh… 

      Yes, it’s a tough case to build from a pure surfing standpoint. There are numbers on the balance sheets and numbers on the swell charts. Both are difficult to ignore.

      I think we have something coming this weekend. I believe if I put on a 4/3, I would literally sink straight to the bottom of the ocean!

  • Tim Hamby

    We’re thirsty. 

    I also forgot to mention that we have plenty of good BMX, MX and Racing out this way (Daytona); World-class wakeboarding. There are at least 4 or 5 really nice skateparks within 25 miles or so of my own home, including Kona- the longest surviving private skatepark in the world…

    We’ve got the industrial land ready to go, incentives waiting… Ask Zach for my info. and I’ll direct you right to the people who can tell you when, and how much.

    We need some sneakers here, too. NIKE, are you listening? I believe there were once a few lovers quarrels with Beaverton, OR, if I am not mistaken. 

    Globe?, Vans? : )

  • ScottTX

    When they get to Texas, they’re going to forget about Florida.  We have transglobal flights.  We have logistics infrastructure.  We have the Port of Houston which is increasingly important to trade with South America/Brazil.  We have capital markets.  We are a right to work state.  We have an educated populace.  We have excellent art and design schools.  We have a very well-respected commercial real estate industry.  We have amazing Gulf Coast surf during hurricane swells.  We have Tex Mex food that beats that cabbage-and-mayo-laden foodie drivel so common in California.  Hell, I’ve had Shiner beer on tap at a bar in the promenade in Santa Monica.  There are 15 In N Outs here in Dallas now.  I have a classmate from Manhattan Beach who works in industrial real estate for ProLogis.  We are beneficiaries of capital and populace flight from California.  Put the politics aside and move operations, call centers, finance, accounting and some amount of product into Austin or outside San Antonio.  If this doesn’t happen, I’m opening a TDAmeritrade account because Sam Waterston told me to (he has an honorary JD from Law and Order) and I will short ZQK.

    • Tim Hamby

      Keep pumping your stick trying to wake surf behind those pollution-spewing oil tankers, Scott! Just because they’re splitting with Cali doesn’t mean they’ve lost all integrity. We’re a right-to-work state too, and you can’t turn around here without walking into another micro-brewery. Most people just make their own batches at home. I hope Bob McKnight is reading this. We’d never short Quik. I’m pretty certain our state’s pension fund is already heavily invested. Just FYI, I also heard the music scene in Austin is near dead other than SXSW because the rents are too high for the musicians to continue to live there. Sorry pal, they’re not interested.

      • ScottTX

        By the way, very good article – it was an enjoyable read, and thought-provoking.

        It’s too close to call.  Fair points on either side.  A key differentiator is that while TX has some great coast, we’re not a “coastal” state like FL or CA; our coastal population density is comparatively very low.  This is partly due to the fact that we have barrier islands along a significant portion of the coast which naturally cannot support high density on account of limited geographical space.  But I digress.  From the generalized standpoint that surf lifestyle execs are coastal people with particular idiosyncracies, Florida’s offering of density along the coast could very well sway the balance toward FL relocation.

        • Tim Hamby

          Thanks Scott, I appreciate it. That’s exactly what the article was intended to be. Your post was really funny. I thought, “Ha! Typical Texan- marching through the swingin’ doors, looking around and just taking whatever they want!” ; ) Actually, in nearly all of my past dealings with Texans, I have found them to possess a similarly laid back and optimistic temperament, not unlike most Floridians, but with a little bit more state pride. Regarding your barrier isles, I know they took a pummeling from the storms a while back, but heard they have recovered at a brisk clip! I believe both states offer so many great choices. Tony Boselli, who lives here in Ponte Vedra Beach and has deep roots in both states told me that he thought Jacksonville, while not being a college town, was from an emerging cultural standpoint, a lot like Austin a decade ago; that is, in a growth stage attracting a lot of talented young people due to the cost of living, weather  and other lifestyle opportunities (such as the beach in our case). While my article is playful, it is no joke that our current Governor and Mayor are both hot to bring new jobs here and are willing to pay for them. The powers that be in our city want to kickstart Downtown so bad they just gave EverBank $4.85 million just to MOVE 1,000 employees from the south side, and hire 200 more ($2.75 million just for relocating WITHIN town! – http://bit.ly/xLRcZM). So, businesses everywhere should know that the opportunities here are very real and close at hand.

  • Exit 98

    I think Florida / East Coast surfers and surfing is a little too grounded, friendly, un-cool and unfashionable for many of the orange / san diego county play-ah’s too be able to adapt to. There are more than a few key industry folks who have taken the time to actually come over here and see what we’re all about and respect out surfing community ( the smart ones do anyway )  but the majority don’t, as welcome as they would be if they didn’t go all Cali a-hole. Oh, and we all suck at surfing and our waves are dogshit anyway as far as their concerned. Go ahead, just ask them …