With year-round sunny weather and a close proximity to the beach, it is no surprise that the surf industry has set its sights on Irvine.
Some of the biggest names in the industry now call the city of Irvine home. Billabong, O’Neill, L*Space Swimwear, Lost International LLC, Ocean Pacific Apparel Corporation (known simply as OP), Tillys, Von Zipper and XCEL are now all operating within city limits.
So what makes Irvine a desirable place for these giants of the surf industry? According to Sean Smith, the executive director of the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA), what drives these positive new additions to our community is the unique location.
“Irvine is an attractive place for surf companies because of its great location in Orange County,” shares Smith. “Nearly all of the brands that were born in this county were born close to the beach — Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, San Clemente, Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach, etc. And as the brands got bigger and the industry grew up a bit, these brands needed more office space and warehouse space that are very tough to find close to the beach — or just not affordable.”
That need to find affordable headquarters has caused industry leaders to look inland.
“Irvine offers great office opportunities with close proximity to the airport and freeways, as well as warehousing options,” says Smith. When coupled with its easy access to the beach and the famous surf breaks of Newport and Laguna, these perks create a great opportunity surf-related companies.
The rising popularity of surfing has the potential to create growth for these businesses, benefitting the Irvine economy.
Explains Smith: “The surf industry has had its share of challenges since the recession several years ago, but surfing has never been more popular and the number of people out in the water grows every year. Surfing is about to make its Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games, so the industry is expecting to see those numbers increase even more. And with wave parks expecting to provide another big boost, it’s an exciting time for the industry for sure!”
SIMA is a welcome addition to Irvine society. As the voice of the surf industry, this association brings together like-minded surf manufacturers, board builders, media, suppliers and professional service companies to collaborate and build a strong foundation for both the industry itself and the surfing community as a whole. Representing 72 vital members, SIMA is focused on sustainability and ocean environmentalism — key values that the city upholds as well.
According to Smith, “one of the core values for SIMA is not just protecting the environment, but also promoting strong business sustainability practices within the membership and industry. Irvine is a city that also promotes and encourages strong sustainability practices for businesses and residents alike. Another reason why Irvine is a great fit for surf brands.”
With a partnership built on shared values and goals, the future ahead for the city of Irvine and the surf companies that call it home is surely bright.
Photo courtesy of Huntington Beach Tourism Bureau.