The history of Billabong is a story that spans over 30 years. The brand was started from scratch with nothing and has grown to one of the largest international companies out there. The journey of Billabong is truly a rags to riches story and shows that anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it.
Billabong is a company that was started by Australian Gordon Merchant. He was a die-hard surfer who lived a freeing lifestyle. He was known to be a wanderer and let the weather and the waves dictate where he went. He eventually found a place in Australia where he could surf over 300 days a year and he never left.
He started out as a board shaper. Merchant was the first to develop a surfboard with a tucked under edge. This was revolutionary for its time. Merchant is also responsible for the creation of the leg rope that is now standard on any surfboard.
In 1973, Gordon and his wife Rena began producing and selling homemade boardshorts from their home. These shorts were very well made and were able to hold up against all wear and tear that surfing has to offer. This was the beginning of Billabong as a company.
After their homemade board shorts began to take off, they moved to a factory in North Burleigh. Here they were able to create more of their shorts and expand their brand. The brand took off and was soon overtaking other popular brands. It was not long and this current factory was not large enough for production. The company was then moved to a larger factory in West Burleigh.
In the 1980s, Billabong became an international company. They began selling their products in California, Japan, New Zealand and all throughout Europe. To keep the brand growing, Merchant went out looking for the best people he could find. He wanted to be sure his brand kept growing. From the very beginning, Merchant has been a hands on CEO and has been involved with all aspects of his company and its growth.
In 1998, Billabong celebrated its 25th anniversary by moving to a state of the art factory. The front of the factory has a retail store that sells all products offered by Billabong. With the success of Billabong, Gordon Merchant became one of Australia's 40 richest people. He was able to turn his life's hobby into an incredibly successful business.