Body Glove: The past through tomorrow.

The past is hard to ignore at the Body Glove offices. The lobby is dominated by a Bob Simmons original step deck — which would fetch a small fortune on eBay — and black-and-white photos from the 50s and 60s line the hallways.

And more often than not, the photos show the Meistrell brothers, the founders of Body Glove, doing what they love: surfing, diving, fishing, running the Dive ‘n Surf store, and hanging out with a roster of surfing legends a yard long.

Since they got started in the business back in 1953, Bob and Bill Meistrell have built a multimillion dollar business around what they enjoy and around a sense of family.

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Things haven’t always been easy — the brand lost its way in the late 80s with a plague of product lines that some surfers found hard to relate to. And although it’s on track to top the 100-million mark in sales this year, one of Body Glove’s primary goals is to reconnect and re-entrench in the surf marketplace. TransWorld SURF Business caught up with Vice President of Marketing Scott Daley for his view of Body Glove’s past, present, and future.

TransWorld SURF Business: Body Glove makes a lot products besides wetsuits, so do you still view yourself as a wetsuit company.

Scott Daley: The wetsuit is the root of our business. When it comes to our marketing and product development — let’s not lose track of the ball — Body Glove is about wetsuits. We’re trying to create the best product on the planet to keep you warm, comfortable, and flexible in the water. Body Glove has extended far beyond surf into all aspects of water activity and we want to make sure that whether you’re a surfer, scuba diver, skin diver, or wakeboarder that you have the opportunity to stay warm.

TransWorld SURF Business: Since Body Glove is involved with so many sports, how important is surfing to the business?

Scott Daley: Surfing is the most important from the standpoint of imaging and conveying the lifestyle associated with the brand. Surfing still carries a mystique that maybe Middle America doesn’t understand but finds fascinating.

TransWorld SURF Business: Your surf-team roster includes Bruce Irons, Gavin Beschen, Conan Hayes, Jeff Deffenbaugh, Matt Coleman, Greg Browning, and some other familiar names. Is this your strongest team ever?

Scott Daley: We’ve gone through cycles. Back in the early 90s and late 80s, before Rob Machado, Shane Dorian, Matty Liu, and Vince De La Peña and all those guys blossomed into their careers, they were on Body Glove.

If you go back to the 70s, it was Gerry Lopez, Jeff Hackman, Rell Sun, and David Nuuhiwa. Our current team is the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of different people to acquire some of the highest-profile surfers in the world. For example, Gavin Beschen might not be on the WCT, but he conveys the mystique of surfing stronger than most pros. Bruce Irons, Conan Hayes, and Greg Browning are other examples.

But we also work on the competitive side with surfers such as Jeff Deffenbaugh, Omar Etcheverry, Carlos Cabrero, Serena Brooke and Australian Luke Stedman. We pull from different areas to make the whole.

TransWorld SURF Business: What do you hope having these guys on your team tells surfers about Body Glove?

Scott Daley: Younger surfers today want a chance to be free of school and parents and anything other than expressing themselves in the ocean. Bruce and Gavin embody the idea of freedom; they’re generals in that revolution. It’s all about freedom — whether you’re talking about cutting edge wetsuit design — such as EST Expanded Seam Technology — or the Gavin Beschen signature suit with artwork on the side panels. The idea of freedom is how we’re directing our business to be a little bit different than what we’ve been in the past.

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TransWorld SURF Business: What’s Body Glove’s distribution strategy?

Scott Daley: From the beginning we’verown our wetsuit business into a lot of different categories. If people want to enjoy the water, we want them to find a Body Glove suit that fits their needs. But our distribution is pretty specific in that we make very specialized suits for surfers and we only sell those suits in surf shops. We make very specialized wetsuits for skin and scuba divers and wakeboarders which we only sell in those channels. We offer sporting-goods stores general-purpose wetsuits for people who don’t really know what they want to do, but they want to be in the water.

TransWorld SURF Business: Where does Body Glove fit in with other surf-wetsuit companies?

Scott Daley: We probably don’t fit in with Rip Curl or O’Neill. They’re fighting it out for first place in the surf market. We’re probably third in the surf market. The overall company on a worldwide basis did 80-million dollars in sales last year and we’ll take it to a 100 million this year. Of course, there’s a lot of other divisions that help us reach that 80-million mark.

TransWorld SURF Business: Who sets the vision for the company?

Scott Daley: There’s a group of us — including Executvie VP Randy Meistrell, Promotions Manager James Crush, and VP of Sales and Marketing Kurt Rios — charged with the task of not losing track of the ball. We constantly refer to what the Meistrells wanted to achieve when they founded the company back in 1953. We’re an authentic brand, and there’s very few authentic brands left that are built on a fundamental passion for the ocean. Bob and Bill still go scuba diving, they still grab a surfboard and float around on it. They’ve made my job easy. As long as we follow that course, we’re going to be really successful. That’s why in the last four years we’ve refocused and re-entrenched the brand into the course they set almost 50 years ago.

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TransWorld SURF Business: Since you use more than eighteen different licensees, how do you make sure all those different companies share your vision?

Scott Daley: That’s the hard part, and yet as long as we work together we usually come to terms on what the right direction is. We develop products that make people feel protected on a water planet. So that goal is the same whether you’re talking about neoprene electronic accessories or wetsuits.

TransWorld SURF Business: What about orthopedics?

Scott Daley: Yeah, we do orthopedics, full ice-pack wraps, knee braces — the whole thing. The goal is to keep people in the game longer. We offer personal protection for a water planet and that’s the mission statement for all of our licensees. We want people to enjoy what we love, and what really drives our business is surfing.

That’s not too hard to explain to the licensees. We got pretty far out in the late 80s and we’ve refocused in the last four years on what we want our business to be and it’s really starting to show. For example, our shoe division doesn’t make skate shoes, it doesn’t go after this new cool casual shoe market. It makes shoes for river rafting, canoeing, walking in water, and for sailing. It’s all about function and it all ties back to the idea of people enjoying themselves around water.

TransWorld SURF Business: Is the Body Glove hand logo, which has been around forever, an asset or a liability?

Scott Daley: Along with Coca Cola and Nike and some of the other top logos, it’s one of the most recognized logos on the planet. However surfers want to be individuals, and if too many people have something, they don’t want it. So we’ve created an oval hand logo that goes on surfboards for our team riders to use. We’ve modified it for our advertising and put it in a little box.

Ultimately it’s an asset and our job is to be a brand-management company for that logo, but we don’t need to shove it down people’s throats. It doesn’t make sense to put a black-and-yellow logo on our most modern wetsuits.

It’s been a battle in-house but we’ve come to a good understanding of it. The logo protects the brand in the long run. It’s registered all over the world, and that’s an expensive process. We need to maintain the strength and integrity of that logo while at the same time using different fonts and designs to keep it fresh.

TransWorld SURF Business: Body Glove, because of its licensee structure, has had to deal with marketing issues other surf companies haven’t. Does that ever get frustrating?

Scott Daley: It’s true. Body Glove is a lot more than a surf company and Body Glove will continue to be a lot more than a surf company. But once again, this company is not going to lose track of the ball. Our genesis is surfing. In one way, it’s almost too bad that we went beyond the surf market but in another way, I know we’re going to be a profitable company in the future.

The ‘core surfers might complain that we’re making such and such product. At the same time Body Glove is successful because the business structure allows us to create products around the simple concept of outfitting people so they can enjoy the water. Bob and Bill wanted to be in the water, so it’s a matter of following that philosophy.

TransWorld SURF Business: What are Body Glove’s goals for the next few years?

Scott Daley: We’re making an effort to grow our market share in the surf business — especially in Southern California — and grow our market share in the wakeboarding market.

The PFD Personal Floatation Device part of our business is growing very rapidly right now in the wakeboarding and water-skiing markets. Mike Parsons wore one of our PFDs while surfing at Cortes Banks and our wetsuit division is developing a big-wave paddling vest.

TransWorld SURF Business: What’s your thoughts about the state of the wetsuit market?

Scott Daley: The market has stabilized and at this point it would be pretty ludicrous to launch a new line — the market just isn’t that big and it’s a tough, tough market to penetrate. You could be the hottest clothing company but launching a line of wetsuits still won’t be easy. It’s unbelievable how difficult it is to make the wetsuit business work.

TransWorld SURF Business: So given how competitive it is, are you guys feeling comfortable?

Scott Daley: Yes. We’ve hired the right athletes and we’ve made the right product at a fair price and our customer service is top notch. In fact, I feel like we can still significantly grow our market share.

TransWorld SURF Business: What message do you hope retailers remember about Body Glove?

Scott Daley: Whether we’ve made products that have sold in other markets or not, there are very few authentic companies who built their business based on what the owners loved to do. To have an authentic company today is quite unusual. More companies are dreamt up out of the blue: “Oh, let’s figure out a name and make a clothing company.”

Body Glove is based on a passion for surfing and diving and being around water. Over the past several years, we’ve re-deployed that vision by making the best wetsuits and backing it up with excellent customer service and great marketing.

The direction that it went in the late 80s, when our licenser was more or less, “Throw it against the wall and see what sticks.” That’s definitely changed. We’re more focused and know what we want to achieve with our business. So from that standpoint alone, it’s a fun place to work.tle in-house but we’ve come to a good understanding of it. The logo protects the brand in the long run. It’s registered all over the world, and that’s an expensive process. We need to maintain the strength and integrity of that logo while at the same time using different fonts and designs to keep it fresh.

TransWorld SURF Business: Body Glove, because of its licensee structure, has had to deal with marketing issues other surf companies haven’t. Does that ever get frustrating?

Scott Daley: It’s true. Body Glove is a lot more than a surf company and Body Glove will continue to be a lot more than a surf company. But once again, this company is not going to lose track of the ball. Our genesis is surfing. In one way, it’s almost too bad that we went beyond the surf market but in another way, I know we’re going to be a profitable company in the future.

The ‘core surfers might complain that we’re making such and such product. At the same time Body Glove is successful because the business structure allows us to create products around the simple concept of outfitting people so they can enjoy the water. Bob and Bill wanted to be in the water, so it’s a matter of following that philosophy.

TransWorld SURF Business: What are Body Glove’s goals for the next few years?

Scott Daley: We’re making an effort to grow our market share in the surf business — especially in Southern California — and grow our market share in the wakeboarding market.

The PFD Personal Floatation Device part of our business is growing very rapidly right now in the wakeboarding and water-skiing markets. Mike Parsons wore one of our PFDs while surfing at Cortes Banks and our wetsuit division is developing a big-wave paddling vest.

TransWorld SURF Business: What’s your thoughts about the state of the wetsuit market?

Scott Daley: The market has stabilized and at this point it would be pretty ludicrous to launch a new line — the market just isn’t that big and it’s a tough, tough market to penetrate. You could be the hottest clothing company but launching a line of wetsuits still won’t be easy. It’s unbelievable how difficult it is to make the wetsuit business work.

TransWorld SURF Business: So given how competitive it is, are you guys feeling comfortable?

Scott Daley: Yes. We’ve hired the right athletes and we’ve made the right product at a fair price and our customer service is top notch. In fact, I feel like we can still significantly grow our market share.

TransWorld SURF Business: What message do you hope retailers remember about Body Glove?

Scott Daley: Whether we’ve made products that have sold in other markets or not, there are very few authentic companies who built their business based on what the owners loved to do. To have an authentic company today is quite unusual. More companies are dreamt up out of the blue: “Oh, let’s figure out a name and make a clothing company.”

Body Glove is based on a passion for surfing and diving and being around water. Over the past several years, we’ve re-deployed that vision by making the best wetsuits and backing it up with excellent customer service and great marketing.

The direction that it went in the late 80s, when our licenser was more or less, “Throw it against the wall and see what sticks.” That’s definitely changed. We’re more focused and know what we want to achieve with our business. So from that standpoint alone, it’s a fun place to work.