We had the good fortune of connecting with Brad Harris and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brad, what do you attribute your success to?
Good Wave is an outdoors California lifestyle company, and I didn’t grow up in California. Far from it.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t know the outdoors. I’m from the Midwest, so I grew up chasing snowfalls and taking on weeklong canoe trips through the Minnesota boundary waters. I remember watching my Dad paddling his mahogany and pine gunnel canoe without a ripple and taking outdoor poops in the backcountry before I could walk. I learned about authenticity in the wild, and it’s stuck with me.
As much as “authenticity” can be overused in marketing, I think it’s at the core of our story. As a very young company, I attribute a lot of our early community and growth to it. So if you’ve ever surfed winter San Diego dawn patrol, you know this feeling. Sun poured over the Pacific Beach boardwalk as I warmed walking to Woody’s for a morning coffee. Two young rollerbladers danced past me on vintage skates, The Beach Boys blasting out of Fannie packs, Slomo rolled by in the opposite direction with his contagious smile. Everything was perfect.
That was when I noticed a billboard featuring a surf model who couldn’t have been more than 16 years old selling a bikini (I think?) hanging over Mission Blvd. Now, I don’t have children, but this billboard made me cringe for all my father friends and all dads out there. It frustrated me thinking about a generation of little groms growing up in southern California consuming a materialistic culture and content from the world’s leading surf companies. These brands sell products to youth using sex appeal, unrealistic body types and an idealized, exclusive California culture. That billboard stuck with me.
It eventually dawned on me in one of my late-night beach walks that not only the surf industry, but the greater outdoors industry (SUP, kayak, boating, camping, etc.) needed an inclusive brand for families. An authentic brand that celebrates parenting in the wild.
Challenging these stereotypes is where I started. I did what I knew how to do reasonably well, which was marketing & tech, and launched an online retail store creating a safe space for beginners and parents trying to get their kids outside. Rather than showcasing pro surfers, I curated products for every day adventurous parents, soon expanding from surf to not only SUP, kayaking (some of our most popular product lines), and eventually aim to address the entire outdoor industry—camping, biking, snow sports—you name it.
When we stick with authenticity as our true north, it makes nearly every decision easier. Should we hire the model, or my buddy who has a dad bod and lives and breathes our values? Should we put the edgy 80’s design with skulls on the surfboard, or inspire kids to have healthy eating habits with a sweet watermelon or avocado soft top surfboard product line? I’m not saying we’ll never put a taco on a board (hint hint), but we will run it through literally hundreds of outdoorsy parents who are now friends of Good Wave either as customers or people who have helped us along the way, and be sure it ticks two important boxes:
1. Does it make you feel safe?
2. Would you buy it for your child?
We are so early in learning about the challenges families face accessing the outdoors, but I believe any of our early success comes from staying true to a brand that families really trust and value.
So where is Good Wave today? Currently, we run 4 online stores, in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe, eyeing brick-and-mortar in the future with 85% of the surf industry alone living offline in stores. Through our retail experience we’ve identified some opportunities to design and develop our own products, and I’m thrilled to share our kids foam surfboard line will launch by summer 2022.
What should our readers know about your business?
Good Wave is founded in San Diego and raised in Lake Tahoe, California. We are a watersports and outdoors product designer and retailer with a mission to get kids off screens and families outside.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Morning surf at 11th st. in Del Mar, take a long walk from Scripps to Torrey Pines glider port, meditation gardens in Encinitas, and end it with $1 fish tacos at Dos Pedros.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Shout out to my dad for planting the seed early hiking with me on his back all those years, and for pushing me to take smart risks. Shout out to my mom for being a grounding force of love.
As for books, shout out to Yvon Chouinard’s Let My People Go Surfing which inspired a blend of business and culture, and to Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog which resparked a feeling of elation in the highs and lows of this journey.