In 2008, he's planning to meet with key retailers and ask for their business.
"I didn't want to use my relationships until the product was right," he said. "I wanted to be sure we could stand behind it."
Rip Curl, based in Australia and one of the largest surf brands in the world, has always struggled in the U.S., mainly because Americans who understood this market were not running the U.S. show.
Kelly has many deep retail relationships from his time at O'Neill, where he helped build the brand into a powerhouse.
Under Kelly's direction, Rip Curl has more than doubled its SKUs. For fall, Rip Curl is going big with denim, a category it really didn't have before, he said. The line has expanded from 3 pieces to 17 styles and washes. For the year, Rip Curl will have about 84 boardshort styles compared to 50 or so last year.
In December, Kelly made a key hire of Mary Miller as the VP of design for juniors, he said, and her influence will debut in the spring '09 line.
"The turnaround is in effect," he said.
On the economic front, Kelly said while it was a tough December at retail, the negative sentiment did not come up as much as he thought it would in meetings with customers.
"They are optimistic from Easter going forward," he said. "They weren't as panicked as I expected."