Hurley Burly: Bob Hurley looks backward and forward.

Bob Hurley is giving Dick Clark a run for the “world’s oldest teenager” title. At 40-something years old, Hurley retains the enthusiasm of a teenager, but a hard-working teenager who has turned a $70,000-a-year hobby into a $70,000,000 a year business.

That is what Bob Hurley did with the Billabong USA license over 15 years, and so the surfing world was shocked when, in June of 1998, he announced to the world that he wouldn’t be renewing his five-year licensing agreement with Billabong International and would be starting his own company, called Hurley.

It isn’t every day that a surf industry mogul turns his back on a property worth $70,000,000 and Hurley’s decision got the surfing world buzzing. Now, less than a year later, we talked to Hurley about the transition.

TransWorld SURF Business: Wow, this is really strange.

Bob Hurley: What’s that?

TransWorld SURF Business: I’m taping this conversation with a cheapo, 50-dollar cassette recorder from Radio Shack and for some reason, there’s a Gospel radio station coming through the speaker.

Bob Hurley: Get out of here.

TransWorld SURF Business: Serious. This thing isn’t a radio, it’s a tape recorder that thinks it’s a radio and it only gets a Gospel station. Is this some weird Hurley 999 Christian trick?

Bob Hurley: I have nothing to do with it. Your tape recorder is possessed.

TransWorld SURF Business: It’s possessed by a Christian radio station.

Bob Hurley: Speaking of posessed Christians, did you see that story on Rodney King in the L.A. Times yesterday?

TransWorld SURF Business: Yeah, he was standing in the rocks at San Onofre with a longboard.

Bob Hurley: Is he really a surfer?

TransWorld SURF Business: I think so. I’ve been reading about him for awhile, saying that surfing is his new religion and that he feels like a new person when he’s in the water. I tried to get him for the Surfer Magazine Surf Video Awards two years ago. We wanted him to hand out the Worst Beating award, but he wasn’t into it.

Bob Hurley: I wonder why he wouldn’t want to do that. He was wearing Billabong shorts in the photo. Yeah!

TransWorld SURF Business: Why wasn’t he wearing Hurley?

Bob Hurley: I don’t know. We don’t sponsor him. He’s an older demographic. But we do love jailbirds, just FYI. Some of my best friends are in jail

TransWorld SURF Business: I have a friend who’s in jail.

Bob Hurley: Everybody messes up every once in a while, don’t they?

TransWorld SURF Business: Not me.

Bob Hurley: Not me either, just every day. So we missed out on the free publicity with Rodney King, but we got it somewhere else. I’m reading this new Details Magazine and there’s a Letter to the Editor about Elizabeth Hurley and it’s titled Hurley Girlie. That’s what we call our girls stuff. Thank goodness for free, cheap publicity, huh?

TransWorld SURF Business: You should flow some stuff to Elizabeth Hurley, get her to model for you. She’s the bomb.

Bob Hurley: I wonder if she’d like this necklace I’m wearing?

TransWorld SURF Business: You’re wearing a necklace?

Bob Hurley: It’s just a rhinestone necklace.

TransWorld SURF Business: Is that part of the Hurley Girlie line?

Bob Hurley: Yeah. It gives me power.

TransWorld SURF Business: Are you power hungry?

Bob Hurley: I’m hungry, actually. It’s almost dinner time. But I’m not power hungry. But I do have this little girl’s necklace on because we’re organizing a photo shoot tomorrow and it’s kind of weird. I just like wearing it.

TransWorld SURF Business: I went through the town of Hurley when I was in England.

Bob Hurley: Cool!

TransWorld SURF Business: It’s on the Thames, ar Henley. I was going to stop and buy you a keychain or a coffee cup or something, but it was 11:00 PM and we were looking for a Bed and Breakfast.

Bob Hurley: Was Elizabeth there?

TransWorld SURF Business: No, the town of Hurley is all one-eyed hunchbacks, people who are emotionally, mentally and physically disabled, which Elizabeth Hurley definitely is not.

Bob Hurley: You’re having me on, aren’t you?

TransWorld SURF Business: I am, but now it’s down to the serious stuff. Business.

Bob Hurley: shouts Surf business!

TransWorld SURF Business: Boring?

Bob Hurley: No, it’s never boring.

TransWorld SURF Business: Are all those pesky B’s gone from your building?

Bob Hurley: The Billabong B’s? Yes, the beekeeper let them all out of the hive, but there’s a few stragglers.

TransWorld SURF Business: What are the stragglers?

Bob Hurley: Well, we’re just finishing up. We still have another month of stuff to ship but it’s just the right amount. Just the tinsiest, tinsiest little bit, the end of the spring line. We took orders for all of this stuff in October and so we’re just fulfilling our obligations to our customers and to Billabong and we’re very happy about it.

TransWorld SURF Business: How long have you been shipping Hurley goods?

Bob Hurley: Since November.

TransWorld SURF Business: Shipping to retailers across the United States?

Bob Hurley: To the United States and one hundred and eighty three countries and some parts of the universe.

TransWorld SURF Business: Go on. There aren’t 183 countries anymore. Kosovo just got blown up.

Bob Hurley: Oh that’s right. One hundred and eighty two, like Blink 182. They have that name because somebody else already had Blink and 182 is the number of times the f-word was used in Scarface.

TransWorld SURF Business: You’re full of interesting information. It’s time for a past life regression. We’re going back to June of 1998, when you were still the Billabong dude and made a fateful decision.

Bob Hurley: I did.

TransWorld SURF Business: In June you flew to Australia and told Billabong International president Gordon Merchant that you wouldn’t be renewing your five-year license for Billy USA — is that what it was called?

Bob Hurley: Well my license was actually for Billabong and our company was called Billy International.

TransWorld SURF Business: Okay, gotcha.

Bob Hurley: No, not Gotcha. That’s the other company.

TransWorld SURF Business: Oops. I didn’t even meant to say that but it will be a very funny part of this interview. But that announcement started a number of things. You made poor Gordon Merchant fly to Huntington Beach and spend two long months in the Huntington Beach Hilton interviewing people. Don’t you feel rotten?

Bob Hurley: No, because nothing really bad happened to Billabong. We just decided that in the future we would cease to operate on his behalf so we gave him a year’s notice to come up with someone else that would. He didn’t really have a financial investment in our company or anything so nothing sour financially happened to him. All that happened was we weren’t going to continue sending him money. His choice at that time was should he start up another Billabong in the United States or should he get someone else to send him money or what. He decided to start up another Billabong so he had to spend some time in Huntington Beach.

TransWorld SURF Business: Well he wanted to find a licensee but he couldn’t.

Bob Hurley: Yeah so, no I don’t feel bad.

TransWorld SURF Business: Do you think they’ve landed on their feet over there at the new Billabong?

Bob Hurley: I have no idea.

TransWorld SURF Business: You’re not aware of what they’re doing?

Bob Hurley: Well I know they hired a lot of people and I think they have a lot of stuff going on. But our business is so performance oriented that it doesn’t matter who works in my company or in their company or who does anything. The only thing that matters in the end is whether the consumer buys the product and is happy with it. There’s a lot of things that have to happen in between. They’ve probably come half that way so far but the major thing is they’re about to deliver product. But that’s a very complicated thing to have happen. Hopefully they’ll do really well with that and everything will be successful.

TransWorld SURF Business: You’re being diplomatic.

Bob Hurley: I just got my Blue Shield medical cards just now.

TransWorld SURF Business: The new Hurley business medical plan.

Bob Hurley: Yeah I’m pretty happy about it.

TransWorld SURF Business: This is one of a million details you had to worry about in the transition?

Bob Hurley: Well not really. I don’t really worry about that stuff. There’s a guy here who worries about all that stuff.

TransWorld SURF Business: The transition wasn’t as tricky for you as it was for Gordon Merchant, or was it?

Bob Hurley: No, not that tricky. No magic potions. No nothing. What we did everyday, we’re still doing it but under a different banner.

TransWorld SURF Business: What was the hardest, most brain-racking part of the transition for you?

Bob Hurley: What was the most brain-racking thing? I know exactly what it is, but how do I put it? Financially it wasn’t a problem, operationally not a problem, business-wise not a problem. All the emotional upset that people had to experience because I made what I thought was the best choice for our company. That was the hardest thing.

TransWorld SURF Business: It was a dramatic change.

Bob Hurley: I’d say on the whole people are adverse to change. I personally am not adverse to change and some of the people I work closest with are not adverse to change. They embrace it and welcome it, but there are a lot of people who are nervous about change. The hardest part for me was to calm people and explain that change is a good thing and not a bad thing.

TransWorld SURF Business: Which people. People who work for you or?

Bob Hurley: All kinds of people. People who work with me. Friends and family. Customers. General public. Surf publications. Newspapers. I was happy with with how my relationship had been with Billabong for fifteen years but most people translated my decision into the whole Billabong thing was rotten and I had to get out of it. I didn’t feel that way so explaining the reasons for the change was the difficult thing for me.

TransWorld SURF Business: You had to do that a lot.

Bob Hurley: A lot. People deserved an explanation — some people took it very seriously, like “How could you, Bob Hurley, do this to us.”

TransWorld SURF Business: Did anyone get really angry?

Bob Hurley: Some people. Like some of the sales reps that left. They still don’t and can’t know the full extent of my reasons. The reasons don’t matter that much. I was pretty happy with where I was and now I’m happier with where I’m at and it’s just sad that I had to do so much explaining and it wasn’t always understood. But that was the hardest part for me.

TransWorld SURF Business: The majority of the people who were with you before are still with you, right?

Bob Hurley: Most of them. There were eight sales reps who left and there were four in-house employees: Mark Machado, Dave Uecker, Kevin Harrell and Richard Saunders.

TransWorld SURF Business: You can’t blame the sales reps. They were probably making six figures with Billabongusiness: You’re not aware of what they’re doing?

Bob Hurley: Well I know they hired a lot of people and I think they have a lot of stuff going on. But our business is so performance oriented that it doesn’t matter who works in my company or in their company or who does anything. The only thing that matters in the end is whether the consumer buys the product and is happy with it. There’s a lot of things that have to happen in between. They’ve probably come half that way so far but the major thing is they’re about to deliver product. But that’s a very complicated thing to have happen. Hopefully they’ll do really well with that and everything will be successful.

TransWorld SURF Business: You’re being diplomatic.

Bob Hurley: I just got my Blue Shield medical cards just now.

TransWorld SURF Business: The new Hurley business medical plan.

Bob Hurley: Yeah I’m pretty happy about it.

TransWorld SURF Business: This is one of a million details you had to worry about in the transition?

Bob Hurley: Well not really. I don’t really worry about that stuff. There’s a guy here who worries about all that stuff.

TransWorld SURF Business: The transition wasn’t as tricky for you as it was for Gordon Merchant, or was it?

Bob Hurley: No, not that tricky. No magic potions. No nothing. What we did everyday, we’re still doing it but under a different banner.

TransWorld SURF Business: What was the hardest, most brain-racking part of the transition for you?

Bob Hurley: What was the most brain-racking thing? I know exactly what it is, but how do I put it? Financially it wasn’t a problem, operationally not a problem, business-wise not a problem. All the emotional upset that people had to experience because I made what I thought was the best choice for our company. That was the hardest thing.

TransWorld SURF Business: It was a dramatic change.

Bob Hurley: I’d say on the whole people are adverse to change. I personally am not adverse to change and some of the people I work closest with are not adverse to change. They embrace it and welcome it, but there are a lot of people who are nervous about change. The hardest part for me was to calm people and explain that change is a good thing and not a bad thing.

TransWorld SURF Business: Which people. People who work for you or?

Bob Hurley: All kinds of people. People who work with me. Friends and family. Customers. General public. Surf publications. Newspapers. I was happy with with how my relationship had been with Billabong for fifteen years but most people translated my decision into the whole Billabong thing was rotten and I had to get out of it. I didn’t feel that way so explaining the reasons for the change was the difficult thing for me.

TransWorld SURF Business: You had to do that a lot.

Bob Hurley: A lot. People deserved an explanation — some people took it very seriously, like “How could you, Bob Hurley, do this to us.”

TransWorld SURF Business: Did anyone get really angry?

Bob Hurley: Some people. Like some of the sales reps that left. They still don’t and can’t know the full extent of my reasons. The reasons don’t matter that much. I was pretty happy with where I was and now I’m happier with where I’m at and it’s just sad that I had to do so much explaining and it wasn’t always understood. But that was the hardest part for me.

TransWorld SURF Business: The majority of the people who were with you before are still with you, right?

Bob Hurley: Most of them. There were eight sales reps who left and there were four in-house employees: Mark Machado, Dave Uecker, Kevin Harrell and Richard Saunders.

TransWorld SURF Business: You can’t blame the sales reps. They were probably making six figures with Billabong.

Bob Hurley: Some of them were, yeah.

TransWorld SURF Business: They had a nice solid groove going and then they were faced with going off on your risky venture or staying with the established name. People have mortgages and things like that.

Bob Hurley: I guess some of them saw it that way which I don’t understand and I may never understand until the day I die. Because where I sit at my desk all business is a risk. I don’t think there’s any indication that they’ll necessarily make any more by staying with the new Billabong. I think the announcement in and of itself was bound to effect their income. I think anyone that chose to go there to maintain their income I think that’s an illusion because it may be less or it may be more. You don’t really know. It’s a big unknown. Same with staying here but unfortunately for them the announcment in and of itself the transition meant probably less of a paycheck but their method of solving the problem of going there I think only time will tell if that was a good idea or not.

TransWorld SURF Business: Which sales reps departed?

Bob Hurley: Wes Laine, Tim Finlay, Jon Kleintop, Gary Clisby, Jimbo Gaskin, Rob Willis. How many is that?

TransWorld SURF Business: Six.

Bob Hurley: And Keoni Watson, yeah.

TransWorld SURF Business: These are all long-time friends.

Bob Hurley: Yes.

TransWorld SURF Business: Do you miss them?

Bob Hurley: Uh. Miss them? Uh.

TransWorld SURF Business: Are you still friends with some of them?

Bob Hurley: I’m still friends with Rob Willis.

TransWorld SURF Business: Wow. So it got a little ugly?

Bob Hurley: Well, not really. I just think different people handle different situations in different ways. Unfortunately for those guys most of them are younger than me and they probably haven’t been through as much as I have. They didn’t handle their situation in a professional or even a friendly way. And it really hurt my feelings to a large degree. I wouldn’t say that I’m not friends with them, it’s just that I haven’t talked to them. None of them have bothered to call.

TransWorld SURF Business: Was there some sort of official avenue for saying which way they were going to go?

Bob Hurley: Yeah, they all sent Federal Express letters.

TransWorld SURF Business: All of them?

Bob Hurley: Yep. On the same day.

TransWorld SURF Business: So it was kind of a conspiracy.

Bob Hurley: I wouldn’t say that.

TransWorld SURF Business: Were you surprised?

Bob Hurley: I was devastated on a personal level. On a business level I was glad. But on a personal level I was devastated.

TransWorld SURF Business: Who have you found to replace Wes Laine?

Bob Hurley: Brad Harrell now does Wes Laine’s territory and is really doing a good job. Denny Reardon replaces Jon Kleintop in Florida and Seth McKinney replaces Keoni Watson in Hawaii and Mark Weber replaces Gary Clisby in San Diego and Dean Quinn replaces Jimbo Gaskin in Orange County and Mark Simpson replaces Tim Finlay in Northern California. Oh and there was another one who left, Mike Green in Seattle. Tim and Jennifer Schwab replaced him.

TransWorld SURF Business: But other than that your team is the same team?

Bob Hurley: I think so.

TransWorld SURF Business: Key players are Paul Gomez, Marketing Director.

Bob Hurley: Yes sir.

TransWorld SURF Business: Joe McElroy.

Bob Hurley: Creative Director.

TransWorld SURF Business: Mike Lesher.

Bob Hurley: Director of Sales. Mike Ochsner is Director of Finance. Leeanne Murray is Director of Merchandising and Design. Joe K is Director of Production. Everyone who works here on ever

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