Surf brands have always been a major part of the surfing lifestyle. Beyond the clothing and accessories, the best surf brands have helped shape surfing into the sport, culture, and industry that it is. From sponsoring World Tour events and supporting up-and-coming surfers, the world of surfing wouldn’t be what it is today without these brands.
Surf brands can be found all around the world, offering trendy clothing, surf accessories, wetsuits, watches, boardshorts, and more. The best surf brands are much more than just clothing producers. They embody the spirit of surfing and present this through fashion.
Here is our guide to the best surf brands around the world right now. This includes brands that have been going for over 50 years, as well as new school surf brands shaping the world of surfing and fashion today.
The best surf brands come from all around the world, with some interesting backgrounds. Here are the stories behind ten of the best surf brands in the world today.
Bob Hurley created this surf brand back in 1979 when he set up the surfboard and design brand in Southern California. It took 20 years before the brand really gained popularity though.
This is because Hurley bought the US rights to Billabong, which he held until 1998. Instead of renewing the rights in 1999, Bob Hurley came back to his original company, Hurley Surfboards, which he grew into Hurley International. Since then, the company has changed ownership a few times.
Hurley soon became one of the most popular and best surf brands in the world. The brand produces award-winning boardshorts which it is well known for. Alongside its line of men’s and women’s clothing, Hurley also produces wetsuits.
Besides its quality products, one of the reasons Hurley has become such a well-loved surf brand is because it has sponsored some of the biggest surfers in the world. Names like John John Florence, Rob Machado, Carissa Moore, Felipe Toledo, and Kolohe Andino have all been part of the Hurley team.
Quicksilver, one of the biggest surfwear and boardsport-related brands, has been going since 1969. Quicksilver started out in Australia when a small shop in Torquay was opened. The brand soon took off and is now based in Huntington Beach, California.
The iconic Quicksilver logo was designed in 1973 by the brand’s founders Alan Green and John Law. The logo, depicting a wave and a mountain, was inspired by the famous Japanese woodcut “The great wave off Kanagawa”. The logo also represents how Quicksilver started as a surf brand and spread into other adventure sports - most notably through their ski and snowboarding apparel.
Quicksilver was a dominating force in the surfwear industry throughout the ’90s and early 2000s. However, the brand has seen some serious losses in more recent years, leading to Quicksilver filing for bankruptcy in 2015.
Quicksilver now falls under the Boardriders Inc. umbrella company, which owns brands like Roxy and DC Shoes.
You can’t list the best surf brands without mentioning Billabong. Billabong was started back in 1973 by Gordon Merchant in Burleigh Heads, Australia. The original vision of the brand was to produce high-quality board shorts and surf apparel for surfers on the Gold Coast. As the popularity of Billabong grew, it soon outgrew NSW and became a recognized brand internationally.
Just like Quicksilver, Billabong was a leader in the surfing world throughout the ’90s and early 2000s. The brand had team riders like Andy Irons and Shane Dorian and became famous for its men’s and women’s clothing, wetsuits, boardshorts, and range of surf and board sport accessories.
While Billabong expanded, the brand created various other boardsport accessories through subsidiaries like RVCA, Sector 9, Von Zipper, and Xcel.
In 2018, Billabong was acquired by Boardriders Inc. where it stands alongside long-time competitor Quicksilver. Billabong has continued to position itself as a global leader in the surf and boardsport world since its early days in Burleigh Heads.
Ripcurl was started in 1969 in Torquay Australia by founders Doug Warbrick and Brian Singer. The business originally focused on producing surfboards, but in the 1970s they started producing wetsuits. They focused on shifting the wetsuit away from just being a diving accessory into something that is more suitable and easily accessible for surfing.
The idea took off, and Ripcurl remains one of the biggest manufacturers of surfing accessories, wetsuits, and apparel around the world. Ripcurl has been recognized as one of the “Big Three” brands in the surf industry, alongside Quicksilver and Billabong. Since their early days, these brands have held a huge share of the market.
As Ripcurl gained in popularity, it entered the world of competitive surfing. The brand started sponsoring the Bells Beach World Tour event in 1980. Ripcurl’s “The Search” became iconic with search exploration and travel.
Ripcurl has one of the most impressive teams of sponsored surfers, including Mick Fanning, Gabriel Medina, Mason Ho, Owen Wright, Tyler Wright, Bethany Hamilton, and the legendary Tom Curren.
The brand continues to search the world for new waves and drive competitive surfing to new heights, all while producing high-quality wetsuits and surf apparel. Their original mission of producing high-quality surf accessories hasn’t changed.
RVCA was started in Costa Mesa, California in 1999 by founders Pat Tenore and Conan Hayes. They were the first surf brand to shift away from the traditional pure surf idea and ventured deeper into art, music, and skate scenes.
Although the brand is pronounced as “rew-ka”, the V and the A in the name symbolize balance and opposites (to match the brand’s tagline “the balance of opposites”). The idea is that opposites in the world live side by side, and RVCA wanted to combine it all into one brand that represented surf, art, music, fashion, and a modern lifestyle. Today you can find RVCA clothing in surf stores all around the world.
The RVCA team includes a variety of surfers, artists, skaters, and MMA fighters. This team has more street cred than the clean-cut corporate image of other major brands in the surf industry which gives RVCA a bit more of an edgy appeal.
O’Neill is one of the oldest surf brands in the world. Jack O’Neill opened the world’s first surf shop back in 1952 in San Francisco, and he is credited with inventing the neoprene wetsuit that we know today. According to O’Neill, Jack’s son Pat invented the surf leash. With their two inventions, O’Neill was able to bring surfing to far more widespread coastlines.
O’Neill’s original shop moved to Santa Cruz in the ’60s, and the brand has since been a major player in the American (and worldwide) surf scene.
O’Neill is one of the best surf brands for high-quality wetsuits, but they also offer a range of other surf accessories and apparel. While a lot has changed in the world of surfing since Jack O’Neill’s original store, the brand's vision of creating premium, practical, and innovative surf accessories has remained true.
Vissla may be newer than some of the classic names on this list, but it’s still one of the best surf brands out there. Vissla was started in 2013 by Paul Naude - the former head of Billabong’s US operations. Paul wanted to reimagine the typical surf brand, and so he created something that focused on creating a more holistic and sustainable approach to surfwear.
Vissla blends functionality with fashion and produces top-quality wetsuits, boardshorts, and menswear. Instead of trying to get his brand behind big-name competitive surfers, Naude chose to support a more interesting variety of people within the surf scene. This includes big wave surfer Grant “Twiggy” Baker, shaper and artist Thomas Campbell, photographer Jeremiah Kline, and more.
One of Vissla’s major commitments is to produce more sustainable products. They achieve this by using a more environmentally-friendly form of neoprene in their wetsuits and using upcycled coconut fabrics in their clothing.
The brand embraces creative freedom with its range of stylish streetwear and athletic apparel. Their tagline “Creators and Innovators” expresses their unique position within the surf industry.
Another new school surf brand, Outerknown was founded by Kelly Slater and John Moore in 2015. Kelly Slater is obviously one of the most famous and talked about surfers in the world, so when he left his long-time position with Quicksilver and decided to start his own brand, he gathered a lot of attention.
Outerknown is a collaboration between Kelly Slater, arguably the world's greatest surfer of all time, and the highly acclaimed designer John Moore. The brand focuses on sustainability, and environmental responsibility while producing a high-end line of surf fashion.
To stay true to their environmentalist mission, Outerknown sources its fabrics from things like recycled fishing nets and other eco-friendly materials.
While Outerknown does things slightly differently, it's still owned by Kelly Slater, so it’s very much a surf brand at the core. In 2019, Outerknown expanded into a women's line. The brand has also sponsored a couple of World Tour events.
Roxy has played a huge role in the popularity of women's surfing. The brand was started in 1991 as Quicksilver’s women’s line.
The Roxy brand focuses on a lot of the same core values as Quicksilver. The brand is all about seeking adventure and living an active lifestyle. Roxy’s line of clothing and accessories match this ethos, offering stylish and functional fashion to help inspire women all over the world.
And just like Quicksilver, Roxy is also a popular brand for snowboarders - although surfing is still at the core of what Roy does.
To help Roxy gain popularity and develop the female surf scene, the brand has supported a team of seriously impressive surfers. This includes Lisa Anderson, Steph Gilmore, Kelia Moniz, and Caroline Marks.
While our list of the best surf brands have all seen major successes, there are also some surf brands that haven’t been so lucky.
Gotcha was one surf brand that went bankrupt. Gotcha was founded in 1978 and became one of the most authentic and popular surfwear brands in the ’90s. Gotcha gained a lot of attention through its outspoken advertising campaigns and trendy surf apparel. Unfortunately, the brand fell into bankruptcy in the early 2000s and soon disappeared from the surf scene.
Fans of Gotcha have some good news though, with the brand recently being revived by Brain Dead. Quicksilver, the massive surf industry leader, also filed for bankruptcy in 2015 after losing 79% of its market value. This came down to the company taking on too much debt and leading a series of failed acquisitions. The brand took on new ownership after this and became part of Boardriders Inc.
Even surf industry giant Billabong has suffered some pretty major losses fairly recently. In 2013, the company reported an annual loss of nearly $300 million, this grew to a whopping $860 million loss in 2013. By 2017, the company suffered a full-year loss of $77.1 million. Luckily for Billabong, they managed to turn their losses around, and in 2020 the company saw its first profit in three years.
Surf brands skyrocketed in popularity between the mid-’80s to the early 2000s. As surfing became a mainstream sport that has been adopted all around the world, the focus and model of surf brands need to change. With many new school surf brands making waves in the industry, who knows what the future of surfwear will look like.
There are loads of surf brands all over the world. Some have dominated the industry and become publicly traded companies, while others have stuck to a more grassroots approach.
When looking for the best surf brands, it’s always a good idea to do some research and understand the story behind each brand. This will help you find out about things like their environmental and social responsibilities, what kind of role they play in the surfing world, and where the brand’s foundation lies.
Whether you’re a surfer or not, the best surf brands will help you embody the spirit and lifestyle of surfing - and nobody does this better than the best surf brands listed above.