SURF WYOMING: THE SHORT STORY…
This unconventional little brand was founded in the late 90’s by some intensely proud Wyoming-outdoor enthusiasts, who wanted to turn up the volume about our amazing state. With a tip of the hat to all things outdoors (and to celebrate the first river surfing recorded in America in the mid-1970’s on the Snake River near Jackson), Surf Wyoming® quickly found a dedicated following and embraced an opportunity to promote our fab state.
We don’t design über-technical gear that will help you camp naked in a snow igloo (quite yet) but we do take seriously our role to champion a fun, kick-ass, give-back-through purchases lifestyle. Around these parts, we like to use Surf Wyoming® as a outreached hand and a verb to boast about adrenaline highs and participation in whatever makes the heart rate jump, all while breathing fresh air and helping our friends and neighbors.
The catchphrase, “Surf Wyoming, What’s Yours?” is intended to serve as the catalyst and an outreached hand to Wyomingites and current and potential visitors inspired by Wyoming to “get here, dig in and share with the brand what pumps their adrenaline and makes them happy.”
…AND, BECAUSE WE ARE ALWAYS ASKED, OUR LONG ONE:
The Surf Wyoming® story began with a social cause in early 1998. A group of Wyoming friends attending MSU in Bozeman, MT joined a group of passionate river sport enthusiasts to form the “Mountain Surf” chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, covering the waters in and around the Northern Rockies. This would serve as catalyst for the Surfrider Foundation’s first inland chapter. As avid fly fishermen, paddlers, river surfers, and winter sport junkies, this group’s initial projects included gathering for weekend events to clean the banks of the Gallatin and Yellowstone Rivers, usually concluding with BBQs and beers.
In an effort to help raise money for this small and atypical Surfrider chapter, the group of Wyoming friends began printing a single t-shirt for sale and sold it to friends at bars in the winter while skiing and snowboarding in Jackson and Big Sky, and in the summer while fishing, paddling and surfing the Snake River near Jackson. That one shirt was a tip of the hat to Wyoming as it featured a bucking horse and rider holding a paddle. The brown and gold shirt included the message, “Paddlers for Clean Water”.
By late 1998, the efforts of the Mountain Surf chapter’s young contingent caught the attention of local businesses who began selling their gear to continue raising money for the cause. The chapter joined with other like-minded organizations including the Gallatin River Coalition, the Greater Yellowstone River Coalition, Ducks Unlimited and others to continue efforts to keep regional waters clean. In the summer of 1999, they banded for a fight against a foe that all of them loved – Big Sky Resort. Due to significant growth of their development, the Big Sky ownership group (the Boyne Corp) filed for a permit to begin dumping millions of gallons of treated sewage into the Gallatin River. Despite their activism efforts, the Mountain Surf chapter and their counterparts were unsuccessful as the DEQ approved the dumping permit. It was a major blow to the group’s efforts, but they still remained active, launching the “Snowrider Project” for the Surfrider Foundation to promote water quality and responsible activity at ski resorts. This would be one of the last major projects of the group. Within the next few years, the Mountain Surf chapter of the Surfrider Foundation folded and the small Wyoming contingent moved back into the state.
In 2000, Surf Wyoming® (and Surf Wyo) were both trademarked by a member of that group and the group continued to make t-shirts on occasion to raise funds and awareness for different outdoor events and activities. The two shirts in the limited line-up included the original “Paddlers for Clean Water” tee and the “White Bison” tee as inspired by the Wyoming state flag. According to the original owner, the business remained a two product company for many years and these two tees promoted outdoor activity and a percentage of proceeds were always allocated to special events when possible.
From its initial roots, the company has changed hands twice. As legend has it, the trademark and company’s assets were sold to a group of college students at the University of Wyoming back in 2007 on ‘a handshake, a few bucks, and a few beers’. In the four years they owned the company, they expanded the line from its original two shirts and grew the collection to help raise spending money for their own outdoor pursuits. After this group parted ways upon graduating, the t-shirt collection and the company became somewhat dormant. Then in a chance encounter at a Sheridan coffee shop and some brief negotiations – followed by a swift (and accidental kick in the balls), the company sold again to its current owners – a group of Wyoming natives who had originally supported the early efforts of Surf Wyoming®.
Our team brings global business expertise and backgrounds including finance, brand building, technology, business intelligence, operations, marketing, entrepreneurship and social enterprise business creation. What originally began as a passionately fun hobby for our team has recently shifted into a full-fledged business in Sheridan, Wyoming nestled just below the base of the Big Horn Mountains.
In its first three years the team has been repositioning the brand with a completely redesigned logo, upgraded and expanded products and design, a new e-commerce site and a comprehensive social media platform. The team has also revamped the brand’s wholesale business with a tactical distribution brick-and-mortar strategy and relationships with specialty outdoor and e-retailers, select shops and elite boutiques – building a better omnipresence for the brand.
Surf Wyoming’s sage background combined with its social enterprise business model were two of the many reasons the current team was attracted to and eventually acquired the company. They will continue to diligently to build upon that platform and ensure it stays meaningful and relevant. Annually, Surf Wyoming® will hand-pick nonprofit partnerships to share in our business, focusing on NGO’s who promote the sportsmanship, health and wellness of our amazing state.
And to build on the good effort the brand has put forth over the years with a focused collection of apparel and accessories, our new team will continue to build upon that core with strategic product and brand extensions to provide consumers a variety of new access points to this eclectic Surf Wyoming® lifestyle.
In addition, the company is partnering with a handful of key Wyoming-based artisans, and other creative collaborations, which will result in new Surf Wyoming® products that have not been offered to date. The team prides itself on ensuring that our products are premium in both design and craftsmanship. When possible we’ll do our very best to have products made in Wyoming and of course America, sourced fairly – and all with great stories to share.
SURF WYOMING® – What’s yours?