Catch Surf: A Surfboard Company with an Apparel Problem?
Catch Surf brings the fun, carefree attitude of the 1980s surf culture into the modern day with state-of-the-art foam surf Beater Boards and a recent expansion into apparel.
Started in 2007 by Wall Street veteran George Arsenate, Catch Surf is the result of one too many New York winters and an unrelenting passion for surfing. Arsenate’s first product, the ‘Beater,’ was originally designed to provide Laguna Beach surfers an option for busy summer days when lifeguards deemed the waters too crowded for the sharp fins and pointed noses that characterize most surfboards. Lifeguards would raise a blackball to signify the temporary ban on all traditional surfboards. In response, Arsenate created a finless foam surfboard to ‘beat’ the blackball. The Beater was deemed safe for crowded waters, and provided a functional alternative for nearly any set of wave conditions. Catch boards can now be found in the collection – or ‘quiver’ – of surfers across the planet, beginner and professional alike.
In the Business of Beaters
Though “disregarded by many in the surf industry as just another surf toy that wouldn’t take off,” Catch Surf has continued to innovate, and since grown into a legitimate player in the global surfboard industry. In doing so, Arsenate has introduced technology and automation into the board shaping process. The company now uses state-of-the art-Computer Aided Design and 3-axis foam shapers to replicate and mass produce a variety of surfboard models, many of which are based on signature designs from pro surfers. In addition to contributing to board concepts, endorsed surfers also bring awareness to the brand with a strong social media presence, often featuring video clips of sponsored riders on Beaters in extreme surf conditions around the world. As the company expands into retail apparel, Arsenate and the Catch team rely on a strong alignment with their operating and business models to navigate uncharted waters.
Operating for Fun: The Move to Apparel
In a market dominated by surf giants such as Quicksilver, Billabong, and Rip Curl, George Arsenate has positioned the Catch clothing line for niche appeal. With the goal of “bleed[ing] fun into a category that everybody could be part in,” Arsenate calls on a retro-80’s styles and flair to “translate a spirit of radness” for the modern surf apparel market. Hats, t-shirts, and accessories are adorned with thirty year old patterns and styles, cementing that fact that Catch is not your average surf brand.
Behind the jagged lines and pale pinks, however, Arsenate and his team have carefully designed their operating model and distributions channels to deliver value to consumers who have already ‘bought into’ the brand’s contrasting vision of timeless surf culture versus modern appeal. This strategy first brought Arsenate to local Southern California surf shops, where Beater sales had shown steady growth year over year. He notes, “The goal is to grow our key accounts and develop deeper partnerships with the added category.” Focusing only on Catch’s 250 existing retailers will not be
sufficient to sustain the expansion, however. Arsenate views boutique surf shops and even high-end fashion retailers as a key growth opportunities for the Catch line of apparel. Furthermore, Catch enjoys a competitive advantage by producing all non-woven apparel products in Los Angeles, which stands to attract Millennials, and improves quality
control/speed to market for domestic sales.
While authenticity and fun form the backbone of Catch Surf, a growing retailer footprint combined with a continued investment in capital expenditures, domestic manufacturing, and innovation indicate strong performance for the company. Though promising, the long-term success or failure of the Catch line of apparel has yet to be determined. The company’s ability to align its expanded product offerings under its current operating model will depend largely on marketing, distribution, and acceptance within the niche surf culture.
Student comments on Catch Surf: A Surfboard Company with an Apparel Problem?
This is cool. I love fanny packs. They should model their apparel after JAMS.
Apparently Prof Iansiti does too. I’ll see if I can get the section sponsored.
I want a fanny pack too! 🙂 Interesting company. Would be awesome for a case!
Prof Iansiti – that can be arranged, fanny packs for all! And I agree – the Catch guys would be thrilled to do a case. Unfortunately, they weren’t willing to provide me with any financial statements, but I bet they would be amenable if asked in a formal capacity.
Really cool retro designs – I wonder if the apparel trends/styles will be as popular in other regions like the East Coast where “Socal” culture doesn’t exist, especially if the sale of beater boards don’t take off and thus doesn’t provide any “push” from consumers. I know what I want for xmas now. Thanks for the fun read.
Raj – I totally agree. Adoption outside of SoCal and other high concentration surf areas will be difficult. Without Beater sales priming isolated markets, few potential customers will be exposed to the brand. With that said, the company spreads some level of awareness through social media and surf websites. Several “channels” on Red Bull TV also feature sponsored Catch Surf athletes, such as Jamie O’Brien’s “Who is JOB?” mini series (definitely worth a watch).