I didn't realise at the time, but around 15 years ago I got the first hint that surf brands were paddling into strange territory.
Accompanied by an awkward crew of friends with salt-crusted hair, I popped into a surf shop at the local to pick up some wax after having thumbed the last chunk of my stash onto a bald patch on my rat-tooth yellow board.
"We don't have any," said the attendant at the counter in the middle of the pristinely presented store.
"Okay, well when will you be getting some more?" I asked.
"We won't. We don't stock it anymore."
When people talk about the commoditisation of the surf industry – as First Retail Group managing director Chris Wilkinson did this week when asked about Kathmandu's big Rip Curl deal – this is what they're referring to. It's the idea of companies that don't sell surf wax trading on the notion that they're surf brands because they sponsor a few pros on the international circuit.
As the surfing industry exploded in the early 2000s on the back of the growing popularity of the sport, niche brands were suddenly catapulted from the edges of society into the consumerist centre.
As the brands became more popular, the edgy, rule-breaking cool factor so long associated with the shaggy-haired surf culture was given a crew cut and everything that made it different was steadily diluted. It became about fast fashion, pitting the brands against clothing stores that had little to do with the surf industry.
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At a short-term commercial level, this all made sense. T-shirts have a far shorter lifespan than the surfboards or wetsuits that surfers use until they look like relics of a bygone era. If you think Apple has problems with people holding onto iPhones too long, you should ask a few surfers how long they've owned their current wetsuit.
The other mistake they made was spreading surf shops everywhere – even in places where there was no surf. Can you really lay any claim to surfing if you're in an air-conditioned mall six hours from the nearest beach?
This had the effect of passing the sacred robes of the surf tribe onto people who had not earned the right to wear them through long afternoons of wipeouts, closeouts and sunburn.
That might sound a little pretentious, but surfers are territorial creatures – as evidenced by the blight of localism in the most crowded spots around the world.
Someone who understood this intrinsically was Michael Tomson, a colourful legend from the surf industry who in the 1980s founded the brand that kicked off all the hype, Gotcha.
Gotcha's fluorescent colours assaulted the senses and its marketing offered no apologies. In one of its most famous campaigns it proudly showed its allegiances, growling at consumers with the phrase: "If you don't surf, don't start."
Asked in a 2016 interview about what made Gotcha blow up the way it did, Tomson told industry publication BeachGrit: "We would just f***ing say, 'Let's do that'. There wasn't anybody to say, 'Don't do that' because I owned it.
"The message was uniform and people were buying into the surf concept unilaterally and universally."
Tomson would later sell the brand to menswear brand Perry Ellis – and today... it barely exists.
Tomson said the problem with the industry is that it has been commoditised to the extent that there's simply no room left to take creative risks and make mistakes.
"Without the ability to try to fail and then come back, you live in the shadow of what your potential is. You live in fear of it," he says.
"Today the business is driven by commodity, it's driven by price and it's driven by volume. Those things are good, but there isn't enough free spirit in it."
Tomson obviously has a quirky way with words, but he touches on something that's integrally important to marketers in New Zealand at the moment. The surf industry isn't alone in chasing ever-increasing sales numbers at the expense of steadily building a brand that endures.
In his remarks for this year's Effie Awards (the premier marketing effectiveness awards), convenor of judges and chief strategist at FCB David Thomason considered the various definitions of effective marketing we've had over the years and made special note of the research of Les Binet and Peter Fields.
"Field and Binet's greatest contribution is their reminder of the power of long-term thinking and brand-building," Thomason said.
"They present this as the approach that most marketers should take, most of the time. Unlike many evangelists, their thinking is balanced, and non-revolutionary. It's one philosophy we must never tire of."
This is part of the reason why the Effies have started to reward longer-term campaigns that aren't only driven by impressive sales figures in a given year. It's important to look at how things change over time.
The final point Thomason made is that it's also imperative not to overlook the importance of marketers and business owners bold enough to crawl from underneath the long shadow of the spreadsheet and do something that really makes people feel something.