Pat O’Connell is an American surfer, who just launched Florence Marine X, an apparel company co-founded by John John Florence and Bob Hurley. Pat grew up in California getting into surfing at an early age. He was part of the Momentum Generation, a small group of professional surfers, competed on the World Tour and took part in The Endless Summer movie. Oli Russell-Cowan speaks to Pat about how the surf industry evolved, the importance of going outside to explore, and how that became the mission of Florence Marine X.
Oli Russell-Cowan: Hey guys, it’s Oli from Rad Season. I’m joined today by the legendary surfer Pat O’Connell. Pat grew up in California, surfed on the World Tour, and took part in The Endless Summer movie.
Pat, you’ve taken on a new role as the president of Florence Marine X. Where did the vision for this new brand come from?
Pat O’Connell: John John Florence is in a unique position. He can choose really. He could have gone in search of any brand. Any brand would have paid him a lot of money. That’s the traditional path.
Anybody who knows John John, knows he’s wise beyond his years. He’s not necessarily interested in just following what other people have done. He looked at this as an opportunity and went, Hey, can I build a brand that actually solves things that I do every day? What do I wear every day? What do I need to make my life better? Can I make a brand out of that? For most of us, definitely me personally, I don’t live an interesting life but John John certainly does.
Russell-Cowan: He’s in the water every day, right? It’s not necessarily just surfing, he might be on a boat.
O’Connell: It’s a playground in front of his house. It’s like Disneyland, he goes paddling, sailing, or surfing every day.
John John wakes up and lets the conditions point him in the direction of how he’s going to have fun in the ocean that day.
The idea is, you get out every day. You wake up in the morning and surf before you go to work, or go for a swim or a walk on the beach. Getting out and exercising makes you feel a million times better. John John’s idea is, Hey, get out there and explore, go and see things. Especially in the Zoom world that we’ve lived in, the message is more clear than ever. There’s going to be a huge return to nature post pandemic, people having true experiences, they want to go out there and be in the water and go on hikes. So, that’s the brand.
Russell-Cowan: You’ve been involved in the industry your whole life. Where do you see it going?
O’Connell: The industry is going well, there are more people surfing than ever. I may get a bit more focused on experiences as I was saying.
What happens to the actual businesses, has to be seen. I would like to see more saltwater in some of those businesses. It’s great to have different perspectives but if people don’t have it in their DNA and push their ideas, it does stray away. I’ve seen it with most businesses. It’s important to have at least the consumer or fan at the heart of every decision.
There are more good surfers than there have ever been. The Olympics could be very interesting, I am really excited about that overall. The waves might be average but I think the experience and what the surfers are getting to participate in, is going to be fantastic. We’ve got surfing in for 2024 and it looks very likely for 2028 in Los Angeles too. That is a pretty good runway for surfing for the next 10 years.
Russell-Cowan: They’ll definitely put on a show. Taking the small waves we just had in Narrabeen and Newcastle. They make it look unreal.
O’Connell: It will be enough to get people excited. The broadcasters tell the athletes’ stories and they’ll use great imagery. They’ll explain the beauty around the people. It will make surfing look great.
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