founded in 1973 by Gordon and Rena Merchant. Gordon was something of a surfing pioneer, inventing items that would help surfers to improve their technique or experience in the water. In Gordon’s capacity as a surf board shaper, he invented a surf board with a tucked-under egde- this development aided Joe Larkin’s team riders Michael Petersen and Rabbit Bartholomew in their rise to the top of world surfing at that time. In addition to the new shape of surf board, Gordon Merchant also designed the first ever leash, or leg rope, to keep the rider attached to the board even in the most powerful waves.
Gordon Merchant’s passion for surfing drove his work inventing better boards and new innovations. In 1973 he began producing handmade boardshorts using a special stitching technique to make the garments more durable in the water, even in the toughest conditions. Gordon was able to indulge in his love of surfing whilst he trialled the new boardshorts for comfort, flexibility and durability and he tweaked the design until he believed that he had made the perfect boardshorts. The new stitching method that Gordon pioneered to make boardshorts was also cost effective and less labour intensive that the existing stitching method- this meant that it was commercially viable to begin selling Gordon’s boardshorts: Billabong was born!
By the early 1980s it was recognised that Billabong produced the highest quality, best cut boardshorts on the market and it was time for the company to expand into other territories. The 1980s were a period of international expansion, with Billabong moving into California, Japan, New Zealand and Europe. This expansion, coupled with the fact that many world-class surfers (Joe Engle, Mark Occhilupo, Wayne Bartholomew, Sunny Garcia and the late Ronnie Burns) wore Billabong boardshorts gave the company international credibility and worldwide exposure. By the early ‘90s Billabong was the number one boardshorts brand in Australia and recognised as an international player.
Today, in 2007, Billabong is recognised as one of the top three surf brands (alongside Rip Curl and Quiksilver). The company sells its ranges in more then 100 countries and encompasses 8 brands, including Palmers Surf, Honoluua Surf, Von Zipper, Kustom (footwear), Nixon brands and Element skate clothing and hardwear. The Billabong range has also expanded to include more boardsport products: wetsuits, watches, surfboards, snowboard outerwear and skateboarding apparel, as well as the core surf wear.
Recently, Billabong has further strengthened its links to pro surfers, with the trilogy range of boardshorts launched in 2007, as a tribute to Andy Irons, Taj Burrow and Joel Parkinson- all members of the Billabong ‘A’ Team: AI Samurai boardshorts, Taj Lux boardshorts and Parko Resistance boardshorts.
Billabong is committed to sponsoring surfers and events from grom level to pros. The Billabong ‘A’ team includes:
Andy Irons (2007 Rip Curl Pro winner, Pipeline and Triple Crown winner), Taj Burrow, Joel Parkinson, Shaun Cansdell and Mark Occhilupo.
Billabong sponsors both amateur and pro surf events. The Billabong calendar for the ASP World Tour is below:WQS