When discussing my Costa Rica move with people last summer, I would explain my objectives as (1) write a book (2) do a blog (3) learn to surf. The book’s coming along slowly, I enjoy putting together the blog, but the surfing took a backseat until a couple of weeks ago. To “ease” my way in (quoth the George because it’s far from easy) I am getting standup paddling lessons from my friend Todd.
Before my first lesson, my wife urged me to get some proper boardshorts, so I wouldn’t look the fool with my old-man-Adidas swimsuit, nor look the cheesy with my Speedo tight (but not German-style) suit. I balked at the recommendation partly because I didn’t know what I was looking for, but also because I tend to be a cheap bastard. Why buy yet another swimsuit?
So she surprised me; took the initiative and bought me a pair of Volcom Amphibulator Boardshorts. Now I’m sorry I didn’t get anything like this sooner. Why do I love them?
1. GREAT NAME. Amphibulator. Amphib – from Amphibian. -lator – transformative suffix. These shorts turn you into an amphibian. You’re proficient with water or land. Like Defibrillator but way more fun.
2. COOL COMPANY. Many people outside the surfing community won’t have heard of Volcom, but it’s actually a Nasdaq listed company with a market cap of $481M. Why is it cool?
- They get the best boarders like Bruce Irons to endorse their products
- They get their endorsing and up-and-coming boarders to live in a house in Hawaii with their designers (this is the Co-op, or V.Cooperative) to figure out how to make products together. They call this the Proving Grounds. Even if it’s kind of true, like they get together for a week or two, it’s still a great piece of brand mythology that a wannabe like me wants to believe.
3. GREAT FIT – I don’t normally look this good at 39 years old. Somebody actually mistook me for a real surfer (when I wasn’t in the water) the other day. Blush.
4. NO BALLOONING – If you have loose swimwear that balloons, don’t swim in it. My Amphibulators have made me realize how unnecessary it is to look the clown.
5. ZIPPER – This is the clincher. If you’re seriously into surfing, you don’t want to be changing into and out of “regular” clothes all the time, but you don’t want to feel wet and look out-of-place in your swimsuit all day. In true Amphibulator spirit, I feel like I’m wearing swimwear in the water, but I’m dry 10 minutes later and look like I’m wearing a normal pair of zippered shorts. Have lunch, chill, then back in the water an hour later.
It seems from the Volcom website that most of their higher end boardshorts have now adopted “Amphibulator Technology” as a feature brand on many of their products to signify the no-ballooning, good ventilation, quick dry feature.
As someone who worked on branding an “everyproduct” like mobile phones, the thing that gets me with brands in smaller categories is just how much richness and beauty you can find when you get interested in less mainstream, niche activities. And similar to the Coke/Pepsi vs independent soft drink manufacturers posts, in this case it amazes me how boring (and substandard) big “everysport” brands like Adidas and Nike can be in comparison to the specialists.