Billabong: a river that flows unstoppable towards the Surf
In 1973, surfer and shaper Gordon Merchant and his wife Rena founded the Billabong company in Gold Coast, Queensland (Australia) to make swimsuits for bathers and surfers. Thanks to the success obtained and the tremendous local reputation achieved, in 1977 he began to manufacture also surf-influenced clothing such as t-shirts or pants. In 1983 it broke into the United States market; in 1985 in New Zealand, Japan, and South Africa; in 1987 in Europe and 2001 in Ibero-America.
Currently, Billabong is present in more than 100 countries in Australia, Europe, North America, the Caribbean, Ibero America, Japan, the Middle East, Asia and Africa; and its factories located in countries as diverse as China, Vietnam, Australia, South Korea, Fiji, Mexico or Chile, in the city of Antofagasta.
In the decade of the 90's, Billabong expanded its catalog to other sliding sports like Skate and Snowboard, obtaining worldwide the same success as with Surf. After a broad restructuring of the company at the end of the 20th century, the foundations for an initial IPO in Australia established in 2000 through a public offering of shares. This gave him more momentum and the financial capacity to grow the business.
In March 2001, the Billabong International Ltd. group acquired Von Zipper, a sunglasses company founded by young entrepreneurs in 2000 in a modest warehouse in San Clemente, Southern California. And four months later Element Skateboards, a skate company based in 1992 by Andy Howell and Johnny Schillereff, in Atlanta, Georgia (United States).
Later the Billabong family continued to grow with the acquisition of 3 new companies in 2004: Honolua Surf, a brand of surf apparel and accessories founded in 1996 in Hawaii; the emerging sports shoe brand Kustom and Mrs. Palmers Surf Wax, a favorite paraffin brand for surfboards. In 2005, he took over a small surf culture business, and in 2006 he controlled Nixon, the luxury watch, and accessories brand.
In 2007, Billabong continued with business acquisitions and bought Xcel Wetsuits, a neoprene wetsuit company founded in 1982 by Ed D'Ascoli in Sunset Beach, Hawaii; and Tigerlily, an Australian brand that specializes in swimsuits and clothes for girls and young women. In 2008 he bought DaKine, the high-quality tableware accessories firm founded in 1979 in Haiku, Hawaii. At the end of 2009, the already extensive group entered the online sales channel through the acquisition of Swell based in the United States and the purchase of a share of the Australian Surfstitch.
In 2010, Billabong improved its rollerblading offer with an agreement to license the Plan B skateboard brand based in California. And that same year he acquired the RVCA brand, a surf and skate clothing company founded by Pat Tenore and Conan Hayes in Costa Mesa, California; is made with the Canadian retail chain West 49; and completes the purchase of the Australian companies Jetty Surf, a jetty store established in 1969; Surf Dive 'n' Ski (SDS), founded in 1964 and with more than 85 items stores of the best surf, skate and snow brands in the world; and Rush Banner, a small banner and banner printing company founded in 1998.
In 2014, it completed the sale of its West 49 retail chain; its 51% stake in SurfStitch and its 100% Swell, allowing the Billabong International Ltd. group to reduce its strategic focus, invest in the construction of its mono-brand e-commerce companies and several business channels and the diversification of its strategic vision.
In January 2016, Ed Leasure, president of Billabong International Ltd. for America, informed shareholders that he was going to the beach and that he would leave his post at the end of the month to "surf more." Leasure, who will continue to be an advisor and ambassador for the company, is a lifelong surfer who started his business in 1972 by making surfboards in his Florida garage, before establishing the Quiet Flight chain of stores in the United States.
Billabong sponsors 4 WSL Surfing World Championship events:
- Billabong Pro Teahupoo in Tahiti, with waves, considered the most dangerous on the planet.
- Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay in South Africa, with waters plagued by sharks.
- Billabong Pro Mundaka in Spain, with the most famous left wave in Europe.
- Billabong Pipeline Masters on Oahu, Hawaii, with the best-known wave on the planet.
Also, it also sponsors other events such as the Billabong XXL, in search of the most significant wave in the world; the World Junior Championships, for the smallest surfers; and the Billabong Jack McCoy Surf Film Festival, the most important Australian surf film festival.
The term 'billabong' comes from the Australian aborigines and is formed by 'Billa,' 'arroyo' in Castilian, and 'bong,' 'dead' in Spanish, which would come to mean 'abandoned meander': a backwater in a watercourse that only flows temporarily. However, Billabong flows tirelessly from its modest principles to the present, being today the most important group of articles and products of sliding sports.