I’m not going to write a long ass intro here, you know what’s going on. Jump into part two…
PS If you missed the first part, click here.
ON LEAVING STUSSY/STARTING S/DOUBLE
Empire: Now you’ve left Stussy and you’ve got S/DOUBLE. Did you have to consciously tweak it a bit for S/Double or you just kept running?
Shawn Stussy: Well, it’s been 15 years. Obviously I sold my business, so you sell that logo. I never had any intentions of doing anything again, but all through that time my gal always called me S Double – you know you have like little nicknames, that was what she would call me. It originated from a hip hop song by EPMD in like 1990, these two hip hop guys, Erick and Parrish Making Dollars was EPMD. Erick in his rhymes was the E Double R-I-C-K, like he spelt his name with two Es in the beginning. You know you’re with your new girlfriend and you’re listening to music, so it was like “S Double…”. So, when I was humoring making surfboards again and what would I call them, it ended up just being S/DOUBLE.
Empire: The best thing about your boards is it doesn’t seem like there’s any standard logo. There’s a couple of boards that have a tissue logo that runs all the way to the top and the script is written in S/Double. Then there’s other ones that just have other S/Double logos on them, it seems like it’s part of the fun…
Shawn Stussy: Well that’s on purpose. Right now I’m doing a bunch of different things to see what I like, to be honest with you. I don’t know where the chips will fall. I printed a bunch on a laminate sheet. It’s funny you say that and you’re right, that’s good observation. With the surfboard thing I am very much developing my own point of view right now. I don’t want to make reproductions. There’s things going on in surfing right now in my mind that are very cool. There’s performance, modern surfing, Kelly, Joel and the crew. Modern, let’s use that word. Unbelievable, all the best surfing is done on them. Huge amount of competition. It’s great and that’s the bulk of the business. I get it. Then there’s an alternative world that’s blossoming, lets call Rasta the beginning of that and Joel Tudor and now it’s these dudes like Ellis and Al – and I love that part of surfing too, the alternative group. Tyler Warren, everybody, all great guys, I love that whole scene. I’m consciously trying to make some performance/alternative versions of non modern equipment. I am trying to work on the look of the glassing also, not all double wrap tints with full polish. You know who does this very well is Daus, or something like that, i don’t know how to say it?
Shawn Stussy: Yeah, Deus. We have them over there in America too and that’s cool. So, how can I make that same genre but make it – you know, to the guy who rides a 5’9” Dane Fred Rubble. My goal is to see how can I interest a guy who still rides a 5’9” modern tri-fin. I want you to come and get your 5’4” rounder nose quad from me and I want you to jump to a 7’0” single fin pintail I make. They could have fin boxes, you could put them in a bag and go travel. Maybe if you were in Indo you were on some 6’11” pintail hull single fin with a big Greenough fin that flexes, and without going to a longboard. Does that make sense? That’s kind of my little inspiration right now.
ON THE INDUSTRY
Empire: This is one thing I actually was really interested on getting your opinion. You’ve shaped, you’ve surfed, you’ve started a brand. It doesn’t get much more core or authentic for a surf brand. These days there’s a lot of new fashion/surf brands that are popping up who aren’t really contributing much beyond fabric back into surfing, yet ride its coattails and try to call out the core brands. It’s like the whole generational thing of: ‘oh your dad wears that, they’re not cool’ or this and that. Most of these new brands don’t really put back into the market or the industry so to speak. What’s your take on these new brands that are popping up in surf these days, the Warriors of Radness styled brands, the Saturdays, and Hollister…
Shawn Stussy: Yeah Hollister is owned by Abercrombie & Fitch I think, so that’s just a corporate thing. Saturdays, big respect. I mean who in the last two to three years in our industry has come up with something new that’s successful? So you have to give them an A for that. Warriors of Radness is just like a Jimmy’Z regurgitated thing. So that I don’t buy into, that’s just damn silly. That’s just a joke and I mean that respectfully because I think it is Rick Klotz and he did Freshjive in my era. But that’s just ridiculous. I hated it then. I mean I didn’t wear ‘80s stuff then, let alone wear it now.
Now Saturdays on the other hand, I totally get it. I have respect for it, but it’s not me at all. It’s like J.Crew surfers, you know what I mean? So I gingerly say that because I don’t want to come off as disrespectful because hey, they’re kicking it. They’re in Japan. I give them credit.
Empire: Agree, we’re not trying to be disrespectful to any of the brands, they’ve all done really well to get to where they are. But I guess it’s more of an idea of, do you think that the authenticity and the core approach of a brand in surfing these days is as important as it was through the ‘80s and ‘90s? For example, look at Saturdays: They’ve done/doing great things and they’ve definitely helped, even changed, the direction of the industry in the way that it approaches making product, marketing and doing different things and broadening the appeal of the lifestyle. But back in the day it was always like: ‘you’re not a surf brand unless you’re sponsoring surfers and you’re doing surf events’.
Shawn Stussy: Well, something as cool as Mollusk, ten years old, comes from the Beautiful Losers generation, great era. All the artists that came from that, Barry McGee, Thomas Campbell, everybody, love it, best thing. Now Mollusk is doing a Saturdays kind of a thing. I would say that Mollusk was a pure kind of a hippie surf thing, you know. We all have to find our thing and go for it…
Empire: That was the thing I think that gave inroads to the likes of Saturdays –
Shawn Stussy: Exactly, very much, yeah.
Empire: …and those type of brands starting. I see you’ve even got Pilgrim opening up in Brooklyn now?
Shawn Stussy: Yeah that’s Chris who was the Mollusk guy in Brooklyn. So, they part ways and he opens Pilgrim. He’s also doing the same thing, so what there is now is a category and those three are in the category (Saturdays, Mollusk and Pilgrim).
Empire: It’s almost like café surfers.
Shawn Stussy: Well, I just call them J.Crew surfers. It’s cool, like I don’t mean that bad, but that’s just the way i see it…
Empire: It’s just another category that’s getting started up.
Shawn Stussy: Yeah, and they probably make similar product that I would make. They have my friend Tom Adler’s books, I get it and then there’s the coffee place and the cafe.
Shawn Stussy: Deus, that’s insane. They do a good job, but that’s more of an official surf thing to me. That seems to be from a distance what I see. It has a credibility. They do motorcycles and they really make boards and I really like the art they come up with. That seems like a kind of a good thing. But if anything they could be almost as the godfather of that group of people. Is that fair to say?
Empire: Yeah, thereabouts. Deus do some good things, especially their set up in Bali – that’s pretty rad. It’s been interesting to watch these new brands come up, like Saturdays have done collaborations with Colette, J.Crew, Gap, which is cool. I think it’s great as it broadens surf to an extent, to a larger market, I don’t think that sponsoring an athlete is the be all and end all anymore, but there’s a lot of different initiatives that brands could do that is helping grow surf and would help grow the industry/sport/lifestyle… I dunno, this could open a can of worms.
Shawn Stussy: And maybe they will, because they’re still infant stages. I’m of two minds. You got to give them credit for being in our industry and doing something good that’s successful in the last few years.
Empire: And different. It would have been hard.
Shawn Stussy: You know what, our industry is at fault itself because what used to be the surf companies that sponsored people and sponsored contests have become so big that they’re their own worst enemy now. Quiksilver gets in trouble, Billabong is in trouble. And RVCA, who is the best one I think now sells to Billabong? What does that mean to RVCA? Volcom gets sold to Gucci Group. So, all the players in our world right now are big corporations that took it too far, didn’t know when to stop, they had to buy the planes and all of that shit and get a big hard-on because they’re doing so good. They get in trouble. Okay, then you have coming in on the coattails in the last two to five years, Nike, Red Bull and Monster drink. Now they’re in competition with Billabong and Quiksilver and Volcom for riders. They skew the payment schedule. They sign these guys on for the x million or whatever, I’m just being general here. And then you have the Quiksilvers and the Billabongs going: “Fuck, we can’t spend that much money”, but they have to because they’ve been promoting this group of people for twenty years. Their proud and they don’t want to lose, so they have to up the ante. It happens at a time, when they’re falling into trouble. True? So what happens last – Nike out, Red Bull. What happens is they think this X Gamesy world is really bitchin’, they’ve got surfers, they’ve got skaters, they have backflip motorcycle dudes, they have all the X Games guys, fighting for the glory. They let a couple of years go by, these are corporate guys, they look at their bottom line, okay. What ain’t paying off? As much as we think surf’s hip, it’s on the edges of the countries. All that other shit resonates across the country. They’re looking at numbers. The big corporations say “you know what, the noose is tightening, we’re still a successful company, but shit’s got to get gone. Let’s get rid of those surfers.” True?
Shawn Stussy: So it’s a perfect storm of being fucked up, you know? You guys are in the industry enough to know what I’m saying.
Empire: Totally agree.
Shawn Stussy: So now you get all of the guys dumped on Hurley, so Hurley is stoked. It now has a great team, okay. Now Quiksilver got rid of everything. I heard they closed down VSTR and Danes gig, all that stuff gone. So it’s a screwed up situation.
Empire: It’s business.
Shawn Stussy: So now you’ve got all those Red Bull, Monster drink guys thinking of the future. So it’s just this really tweaked thing. The industry is in a weird thing right now.
Empire: It’s definitely in a weird and nasty spot. It could be good. It could go back to sport.
Shawn Stussy: Yes, it’s a sorting it all out. Then you get those new companies that aren’t sponsoring anybody, but see I’m guilty for that too. When I was Stussy in its heyday, I didn’t do any of that stuff either. My thing was for the bros, not the pros. I didn’t want to be that guy who sponsored and then that kid went and got another box of clothes. I’ve been in it too long where a lot of times I didn’t sponsor anybody either. So I’m guilty of that.
Empire: I don’t think that that’s a bad thing. You don’t have to sponsor an athlete to be giving back or just reinvesting in it. You’re doing other things, like maybe an art show or maybe having a party at our house for all the surfers in the community. It’s like just fostering that community ideal that surfing has always been built on. So you don’t have to sponsor the World’s Number One if you’re giving a bunch of clothes to your mates and they can feel psyched on it
Shawn Stussy: And I think that like in some weird way I was giving back because I did weird things that became successful that made those other companies have to do the same thing. Does that make sense?
Empire: Yeah, so cool.
Shawn Stussy: I got no inspiration from the surf world. Like I was a surfboard shaper, but zero of my stuff, zero of my inspiration came from the surfing community. If anything I’d just got out of the surfing community and went to New York and Tokyo. There was a club culture then, I just fell into hip hop and the club culture in New York. Met DJs, became good friends with like Mick Jones from The Clash, Keith Haring, they wear a jacket. Hiroshi in Tokyo is on the stuff, his crew come along with the deal, shit just happened organically. I make up some letterman’s jackets for the boys.
Empire: Was that the tribe bomber jacket?
Shawn Stussy: Yeah, yeah. In a weird way I felt in my mind I was giving back in a way by just creating more things to look at.
Empire: Yeah, right. There’s definitely an interesting line to try and draw on giving back to an industry because you do hear it from a lot of people that are like “Oh, you know, that brand’s not doing surf events or they’re not sponsoring athletes” but if you look at what Nike were doing for – when they were involved in surfing – they were helping their surfers better their technique, they were helping their surfers really address their surfing, fitness and professional approach to the sport. Even Red Bull on some of the activations they’ve done, from the boat trips where they measured the surfers fitness, etc to grom camps with Mick.
Shawn Stussy: The training part of it and stuff, yeah.
Empire: And so for me personally I got quite a lot out of it. Red Bull did the same. Yeah, it was like “they don’t do anything”, but –
Shawn Stussy: No, they would do those Indo trips. I remember the Coffin boys and all those guys would go on it. That is for sure giving back in a way.
Empire: For me that’s like another aspect of giving back to helping progress the sport.
Shawn Stussy: And they all train now, every one of them. You got John John running the beach, holding rocks in the morning every morning even when there’s no waves. Sure, they’re going out drinking in the afternoon and stuff, but you know what I mean. There’s a culture of fitness and I think a lot of that came from that Nike, Red Bull blast.
Shawn Stussy: And it’s only been in the last two to five years. Nobody cared about that before. Now you got to be fit to be on that tour now. Those Brazilians are going to kick it. You know we’re going to have a Brazilian world champion really soon I reckon.
ON SURFING AROUND SANTA BARBARA
Empire: Are you still surfing a lot, Shawn?
Shawn Stussy: Yeah, I mean for an old dude in Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is tough where I live, when it gets good, it’s really good. But it’s been a horrible year. Rincon has broken only a few times. And if you’re working and you’re in one place all the time, Santa Barbara is tough. You can have an epic winter and it’s unbelievably good and this hasn’t been one. I got new boards, I’m set up, and it’s been a bummer year because I’m perched. It’s just been a shit year.
Empire: Do you ride your own boards?
Shawn Stussy: Yeah.
Empire: What do you do? Do you get a whole bunch of stuff?
Shawn Stussy: I ride everything. I’m kind of that 6’9” to 7’2” single fin guy riding out pintails, because I’m a kook. I’m goofy foot in a land of rights and I’m really bad, you know, and I’m old. So I don’t ride longboards – I mean I try not to ride longboards because I don’t know how, I’m not a noserider and stuff. Now I ride bigger, flatter tri-fins and quads. Like you would be on a 5’10”, I’m on a 6’4” and where it would be 20” I’m 20.75”, 21”. I’m the old man, trying to be contemporary so I have old man little boards, you know and try to make them in proportion.
Empire: The fact that you’re still surfing quite a lot is fucking impressive I reckon.
Shawn Stussy: Yeah, I mean as much as I can.
Empire: Where do you find lefts up there?
Shawn Stussy: You don’t. I’m my own worst enemy as a result, I’ve generated these pintail hulls because Rincon gets good. About a month ago I was driving home from L.A. and it wasn’t supposed to be surf and it was about 3:30 and you see Rincon from a ways when you’re going north. I couldn’t even see the guy on the wave but I just see this guy doing six or eight of these things, so fast and so much spray from a distance, I went oh okay, that’s somebody’s good out there. I pull out and I run down to see Kelly, Dane and Bobby Martinez in the water. It was an afternoon where you could walk on the people, so I didn’t even go out. I just sat there for two hours and the tide was dropping and it wasn’t big. It was the most amazing thing. The by-product of that day, the guy who won the heat, was Bobby Martinez.
Empire: He’s insane, so amazing.
Shawn Stussy: Freaked me out. I just sat on the beach and it was the coolest, the most heartwarming thing. Kelly was shredding and Dane’s was to, but to me he is not an alpha male. Dane was surfing really good but it was almost like he wasn’t even out there, that’s why i dig his scene. He would rather paddle down the beach, that’s why you see all that footage of him in blown out surf by the pier at Ventura and stuff. It’s weird because he was shredding, don’t get me wrong, he was Dane and when he did good he did really good, but it was like he didn’t have a presence there. His kind of receded back anti-crowd vibe caught me off-guard because I usually just see videos of him in those weird blown out days doing his Dane stuff and it’s amazing and it hit me right then, I went wow, I get Dane Reynolds, you know? I get Dane. He’s this kind of arty, on the fringe guy who just happens to be the best Jazz musician in the group, you know?
And Kelly is Kelly, but this Bobby Martinez, he’s backside and I’m backside and I know how hard it is, okay, on those draining cove days. Conner and Parker Coffin are out, Lakey Peterson was out, just a weird big group… And Bobby Martinez, he gets these waves – it’s a hot afternoon, 80 degrees when it’s been cold, it was just this weird afternoon, beautiful, and all the photographers are there. Bobby Martinez gets these waves and everybody is grumbling, like “Woah, did you see that one,” and he gets this one wave and I’ve never seen this in surfing, the whole point gave him a standing ovation. it just kind of turned into a respectful slow building ovation kind of thing. Very heartwarming.
got this image from Surfline
Empire: He is alpha male though. Like he is the opposite of Dane…
Shawn Stussy: Yeah, exactly, it is his home town, total alpha male. So he gets these two waves and it was – and when I say heartwarming, this doesn’t happen in surfing. Hard crowd, Rincon’s a tough crowd, walk on the people. He got this wave, the whole point clapped…
Empire: No way.
Shawn Stussy: And it was just this thing that he just deserved it, and I’ve never seen that in all my years surfing. And I mean I participated, I was just like “fuck, yeah.”
Empire: Is it just because he shredded it so hard?
Shawn Stussy: No, dude, he shredded beyond everybody else. I mean Kelly was on fire but Bobby was just on another level go out. And it was just this reaction from a weathered crowd.
Empire: That’s crazy.
Shawn Stussy: It happened twice, it was just like dude, then the next one he just went off more. It was just a perfect storm for him. It was great.
From there we just ended up talking more crap and went to lunch…
Oh, we did get a pocket dump of sorts from Shawn. He laid out what he had in his pockets, we took a shot. He keeps pretty simple.
Hope you enjoyed the read. You can keep up to date with what Shawn’s doing over at his blog.
Or if you haven’t already, take a minute to check out what Shawn’s doing at S/Double
Photo credits: We grabbed a bunch from Shawn’s site. The B&W ones you see were shot by Eden Hannon