Photo by OCW StaffHistory is minutiae, which you will learn when they tell you World War I was fought over a dispute about telephone poles—not some archduke's assassination. And that the causes of the Civil War included the rise of industrialization and economic factors, both domestic and . . . just say slavery.
But in the surfwear industry, minutiae not only makes history, but it also wins awards—with a few inches of Lycra, Neoprene or something called Psychostretch. But that's getting ahead of the story.
The story is that O'Neill Clothing in Irvine received the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association's Product Innovation of the Year Award late last month in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
The company's new Superfreak boardshort trounced a trick surfboard, two wetsuits and a competitor's boardshort to win the award, given for products that came out during the calendar year 2003—meaning they were created two years ago. That's how it works in the surfwear industry.
Right now, designers are inventing the boardshort you'll be buying for around $60—the Superfreak retails for $56—sometime in 2005. It's yesterday's clothing tomorrow, and it's better than what they were making the day before yesterday.
"What we've been trying to do for the past three years as a company is put out products for anybody in water-based sports, put out products that will make that experience better," Superfreak designer Joey Jorgensen said, making me wonder what exactly designers at O'Neill have been doing since founder Jack O'Neill invented the wetsuit in 1952—making crap?
"We wanted to eliminate anything that might give you a rash, from fabric that might chafe you when you're wet, fabric that might inhibit the way you move," Jorgensen said, noting that surfers chafe at being chafed when they're in the green room.
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What lets the Superfreak get its freak on is the Psychostretch, a revolutionary blend of polyester and spandex, a company-exclusive fabric that Jorgensen says "will stretch four ways. Most stretchy fabrics will only stretch one way."
It lets you do your thang, whether your thang is waveboarding, surfing or just hanging, riding a Huffy down Main Street in H.B. That, plus a two-inch-wide black strip of Neoprene—the stuff wetsuits are made of—set off here by white piping and the Superfreak's other trademark, the Lycra fly, equals one award-winning boardshort.
It won't keep you warm in January, won't shield you from friendly fire, won't necessarily make you more attractive to the opposite sex, but other than that, says the designer, "It does exactly what you say it will do."
Which is probably what you want in a boardshort.