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The last time Slater would have a Quik logo on his deck. Photo: Kirstin/ASP

The last time Slater would have a Quik logo on his deck. Photo: Kirstin/ASP


The Inertia

I can remember at a younger age being surprised that Kelly Slater wasn’t a married man. Maybe he’s just not into marriage. But one reason it surely cannot be is a fear of commitment.

Slater has, for twenty years, been in a committed relationship with mega company Quiksilver. They have taken on the surfing world together and dominated it. No one can question that the relationship must have worked. But then, as things sometimes occur in life, it changed and it ended.

To make the choice to end any relationship of this length has got to be tough. Like any separation there would have to be some solid reasons for walking away.

So why did Slater make that walk? Why did he cut a tie that had provided so much success for not just himself but also Quiksilver? It’s an interesting thing to ponder…

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Here are just a few of the ideas floating around in cyber world:

1. It was an ethical decision.

Kelly Slater is the world’s most well-known surfer. He’s also an ethically conscious kinda guy. It’s clear from doing some minimal research that he cares. He thinks about what he eats, how it was processed and thinks about the damages to both the environment and humanity.

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One line of thought is that he started to question the ethics of Quiksilver. In particular its connection with Monsanto and GE created cotton. If you really cared about these things, as Slater obviously does (seen in his online debate with Monsanto on Instagram and in this video), it would be very hard to continue to take large amounts of cash from a company you consider to be doing harm.

What supports this line of thinking is where Slater has turned to. He has signed a contract of sorts with Kering, a company that is well on the way to changing its whole approach to business with a focus on ethics and sustainability. Slater himself seems very eager to point out this.

“They share my values and have the ability to support me in all of my endeavors,” said Slater on Facebook.

2.  He desperately wants to start his own company.

Starting a company is something he was trying to undertake at Quiksilver when he created a brand horribly named VSTR. Then Quiksilver underwent a huge round of cost cutting, and VSTR was one of the victims.

This has got to hurt. If Slater had always had the aspiration to create this business and it suddenly got killed off, it’s very easy to see how he would end up nonplussed.

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What’s more, it is easy to see how after giving Quiksilver so much he may have felt they owed it to him to complete what they started. That might well have been true with the old Chief Executive but newly appointed Andrew Mooney was the man behind the cuts. Another possible reason for the sudden spilt.

3.  There was a huge falling out.

Andrew Mooney was given the CEO position at Quiksilver in 2013. He’s had an interesting past in that he spent 20 odd years at Nike climbing the ladder before eventually ending up as Chairman for Disney Consumer Products.

The previous CEO of Quiksilver was Bob McKnight. In 1976 he co-founded the company. He had been at Quiksilver a long time. It would seem that both McKnight and Slater must have had a great working relationship. Perhaps Mooney and Slater did not?

The timing seems to suggest Mooney’s arrival certainly did have an impact in Slater’s decision. Reading through some of the press releases, you can’t help but get the impression that Mooney isn’t all that concerned about the loss of Slater. When asked soon after the announcement how Slater’s absence will affect marketing Mooney said the following:

“Kelly informed us of his ultimate decision this week. It will have minimal disruption to our product and marketing plans, in that we’ll simply drop the last minute products and ads we added that were specific to Kelly but the core AG47 and Modern Originals product lines and marketing campaigns will proceed as originally planned.”

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In the rest of the release there was a feeling that Mooney just expects another Slater will pop up. No great loss. But surely losing Slater will cause more than “minimal disruption?”

4. Friends in other places.

The last thing of note is that Volcom is owned by Kering. Volcom’s CEO is Richard Woolcott. Woolcott originally worked at Quiksilver and helped sign Slater up to the team. He was also the producer for the absolutely iconic Kelly Slater in Black and White. This tie seems like just another reason to make the jump. Woolcott also left Quiksilver citing similar reasons to Slater.

So what was the real reason? My feeling is that it is a mixture of all of these points. It all fits in nicely together leaving the impression that Quiksilver just wasn’t the same anymore, wasn’t providing Slater with what he wanted, and he had friends in other places prepared to make it work.

I think Mooney certainly has a different plan for Quiksilver. VSTR wasn’t the only casuality. The cuts were vast and seems like the sort of guy unafraid of making big changes and trying different approaches.
It’s silly to push out the brand’s greatest icon, but who knows? What we do know is that Mooney has been highly successful at both Nike and Disney Products so he’s not clueless.

Originally posted on gosurf.co.nz

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