Remember the feeling the first time you walked into a surf shop?
The smell of wax and fresh neoprene. The glint off the boards that lined the racks. The otherworldly surfing beaming out of a screen overhead and the local luminary talking story in the corner.
Since time immemorial, the surf shop has been the terrestrial centerpiece of our local communities. A place to convene, trade tales, and glean insights on the best local banks and the chance of scoring them tomorrow. Somewhere to examine cutting-edge new gear close up, and get advice from the sage, but skeptical proprietor, who’s seen more wetsuit re-designs and leash innovations than you’ve had hot dinners.
Of course, the surf shop’s oeuvre has shifted a little in recent decades. Now, many specialist retailers have grown an online arm too. But, their role within the community remains much the same. In fact, as surfing booms and mushrooms into an ever more mainstream version of itself – where fast fashion juggernauts like Primark feel bold enough to throw their hats into the wetsuit-making ring – the existence of core surf shops, run by surfers and stocked with independent, surfer-owned brands is more vital than ever.
That’s just one of the reasons high-quality hardware specialists Manera have put them right at the heart of their business model. As an increasing number of watersports brands have sought to cut out shops entirely by selling to their customers direct, Manera have gone in the complete opposite direction – becoming the only big wetty brand to sell solely through selected specialist retailers. Why? It all comes down to their principles.
See, Manera is a family business – created initially as the accessories arm of the wildly popular wind-sport brand F-One, established by Raphaël and Sophie Salles back in 1994. In 2012, the couple’s son, Julien Salles, came on board as brand manager, leading Manera’s first forays into the world of surf-specific wetsuits. In the early days of the company, a small network of shops and salespeople were integral to its success, with the loyalty and trust developed in those years holding true ever since. “It’s why we’re here today,” says Julien, “so, we decided we should respect that and make sure a good shop never disappears.”
One of the examples that looms largest for him is Side Shore, a brick-and-mortar store located in northwest France. They’ve been selling F-One and Manera since the very beginning and for Julien, they represent all the ways in which a shop can be a pillar of the community. As well as sharing their unparalleled knowledge of the region, they organise events, run a repair service and nurture up-and-coming local talent through sponsorship.
While the brand’s approach is designed to look after industry partners like them, it also holds significant benefits for the customer. Beyond ensuring surf shops will still be there when you need them, it’s a great way to guarantee the quality of the product. Because, rather than hiding in the brand’s own warehouse waiting for an online sale, each of Manera’s products are handled and approved by dozens of watersports-loving shop owners around the world, who of course, are only going to stock the best for their customers. With each and every Manera wetsuit, as well as maximum flex, X10D fleece, and thermal protection, you’re buying into a commitment to keep core surf culture alive.
Photos: Courtesy of Manera