Kelly Slater's Firewire deal, what it means for Channel Islands and what's next for Kelly Slater
Kelly Slater’s investment company EcoPivot, recently became a majority shareholder of Firewire Surfboards.
The news had been circulating around the Internet for the last few weeks with Slater showing up to the Snapper event with a Tomo shaped surfboard.
We talked to Scott Anderson, GM of Channel Islands about what the Firewire deal means for Kelly’s relationship with the company. We also talked with Kelly Slater’s Manager, Terry Hardy, about the deal and what’s next for Kelly.
Channel Islands GM Scott Anderson said, “Kelly has been with us for 27 years as an athlete, so while he is no longer a sponsored team rider, he is still part of the family. He was here before Snapper and got a bunch of boards. He is still ordering boards, and we will still support him.
“The family relationship really supersedes any official athlete sponsorship. Kelly will always be a part of the CI family, and that will never change. He rode a CI board in the contest this week, but he’s going to ride what he wants to ride when he wants to ride it, and will do collaborations with whomever he likes. We are all kind of the same age as Kelly, and like family, so we are stoked for him. Obviously in the long run, it’s what he needs to do. Kelly has transcended just being an athlete for a company. He is his own entity now and we are stoked for him.”
Scott said Kelly Slater had approached CI directly earlier this year, but that the conversation was fairly short-lived as Jake Burton, the owner of Channel Islands, wasn’t interested in selling the company.
Kelly Slater shared the news about being an official stakeholder in Firewire Surfboards on WSL.com earlier this week on April 5th. In the interview with WSL host Ross Williams, Kelly also talked about his deep relationship with Channel Islands.
“I have been with Channel Islands for 27 years, and I think I am sort of in denial about it (he laughed). That’s been my family. Al Merrick has been like a father to me, and it’s been a great relationship for me. And I talked to Al about it and he said it’s been a great relationship for them and for himself, and I don’t really foresee a time when I won’t be riding boards for Channel Islands in some capacity. I’d still love to make a board model with Al and maybe use this an impetus to get back into the factory with Al and work on something in particular.”
Kelly went on to say that he really wants to have an impact on the environmental side of making surfboards, and is trying to put his money where his mouth is.
In the beginning of the interview Kelly said his level of interest in surfboards is beyond just riding them. “You know, I have a vested interest in Firewire. They have a really streamlined production and I think the options for sustainability there are far greater than the average boardmaker.”
As soon as the deal hit the Internet, my local surf shop in San Diego received a lot more requests for Tomo shaped or Firewire boards.
I reached out to Mark Price, CEO of Firewire Surfboards, who said they are still ironing out the nuts and bolts of the deal, but will talk to us more about it soon.
Kelly Slater’s manager, Terry Hardy said it’s an exciting deal for Kelly.
“This is a platform for Kelly to do what he has always wanted to do and be open about it. Kelly’s a passionate surfer, especially when it comes to his own equipment. This new deal really gives him the ability to progress and evolve the way surfboard manufacturing and design is done today.”
As for Kelly Slater and what’s next after the Firewire deal, Terry said Kelly will continue to invest in companies that fit his beliefs.
“The bottom line is Kelly will continue to invest with companies or create companies that are in line with his ethos – which is doing things in a more sustainable manner and in the best way possible,” said Terry.
Besides the joint venture Kelly Slater has with the Kering Group on his apparel company, Outerknown, Kelly also has several other business deals. He has an endorsement relationship with The Chia Food Co. out of Australia. He has an endorsement deal and is a minority shareholder of the drink company, Purps. He is an owner of Kelly Slater Wave Co. And he recently signed a licensing and endorsement deal with Pottery Barn Teen, releasing an eco-friendly furniture line that just hit retail.
He sold Kommunity Project by Kelly Slater, a company he started with Quiksilver that makes traction, leashes and other surf accessories, last year.
I asked Terry if all these business endeavors might mean that Kelly might retire from the tour sooner rather than later.
“Ha, your guess is as good as anyone’s,” he laughed.