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Surf apparel brand Rip Curl rides back into San Clemente

When Rip Curl’s founders looked to expand operations into the United States four decades ago, they set up an office on the southern end of San Clemente, just a short paddle away from one of the best surf spots on the mainland.

“Key surf towns are what they targeted for their global growth,” said Dylan Slater, the company’s North America president, noting that the location Trestles was added to the surf apparel brand’s iconic logo, joining surf towns Torquay in Australia, where the brand was founded in 1969, and Hossegor in France, Europe’s surf epicenter.



Now, after 40 years, the mega surf brand is returning to its roots, relocating its North American headquarters to San Clemente. It’s taking over a building owned by adjacent sock company Stance, bringing its operations closer to the iconic Lower Trestles surf spot and the nearby Rip Curl flagship store.

After getting a start in San Clemente decades ago, the company’s North America operations migrated south to San Diego and most recently, for the past 15 years, has been located in Costa Mesa near the John Wayne Airport.

The transition into the new office has been a slow one, with most employees working from home given the ongoing restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, but slowly surfboard memorabilia, brand signage and other office necessities have been moved into the workspace to prepare for when workers can use their new digs.

Slater, in an e-mail interview, talked about the transition, what the move means for the brand, adapting during the pandemic and what’s ahead for the company:

Question: What prompted the move down south?

Answer: We outgrew our logistics and distribution center in Costa Mesa, and we decided to move that operation to NRI (Distribution), based in Fontana. That left us looking exclusively for office space, which opened up several potential locations – San Clemente being high on the list considering the deep roots Rip Curl has in the community. When our founders, Brian Singer and Doug Warbrick, set up their USA operation in 1981, they strategically selected San Clemente due to the strong spirit of surf that existed then and still exists in this special community.

Q. Will there be any operational changes?

A: Our new facility is smaller in size, because we no longer have the distribution and logistics center. However, all of our office staff will be based from here, as well as our service centers for wetsuits and watches.

Q. What are you and your staff looking forward to with the new changes?

A: I’m excited about this new chapter for Rip Curl and our crew, located in a sacred town for the brand. Our vision is to be regarded as the ultimate surfing company, and San Clemente provides an environment to realize that vision. Having stronger access and connection to our core customer and the surf that inspires future product direction and creativity is an exciting prospect for the future.

Q. Are you and the staff excited to be closer to Lowers and can a lot more Rip Curl pros be expected around town?

Australian Mick Fanning celebrates as he rides into shore after winning a heat at the Hurley Pro at Trestles in 2015. There could be more sightings of Rip Curl team riders at the famed Lower Trestles with the brand relocating recently to San Clemente.  (FILE PHOTO/SCNG)

A: The opportunity for more product testing time at Trestles is really exciting. And I’m sure there will be more sightings of our world class roster of team riders around town.

Q. How has Rip Curl done in the past year during the pandemic?

A: The surge in surfing participation as well as general beachgoers has played well in our favor, particularly with wetsuits. Our distribution, which is generally concentrated along the coast in the specialty retail channel, as well as our own flagship stores, has benefited immensely from those trends as well.

Q. You came in as North America president two years ago. How’s the new role and what’s the hope for the future?

A: I couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds for the brand. This past year has been filled with seemingly endless challenges and obstacles, between navigating operating in a pandemic while relocating our North American headquarters.

I’m blown away with the resilience and commitment from our entire crew and the innovation our product teams continue to deliver. I feel the connection we have with our customer only continues to strengthen. Despite all the obstacles and challenges of this year, I feel like we are a much stronger company for it, and are positioned well for the future.

Source: Orange County Register

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