Hurley, Bob


Cheerful but razor-sharp surfwear magnate from Huntington Beach, California; Billabong USA president from 1983 to 1998; founder and CEO of Hurley International. Hurley was born (1955) in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, the son of an air force staff sergeant, and spent his early years growing up on or near military bases in Rhode Island, Texas, and Japan. He moved with his family in 1963 to Orange County, and began surfing at age 13.

At 21, Hurleye learned how to shape surfboards, and in 1978—after shaping for Infinity, Wave Tools, Lightning Bolt, and other labels—he opened Hurley Surfboards, a small factory-retail outlet in Huntington Beach. He was still making boards when, in 1983, he bought the US license for Australia-based Billabong surfwear, which at the time was unheard of in America; Hurley paid $40,000.

Hurley proved to have a first-rate business mind, with a particular talent for marketing, as he assembled a crackerjack surf team (including world tour pros Sunny Garcia and Richie Collins), sponsored a number of high-end pro surf contests (including the Billabong Pro in Hawaii, one of the premier world tour events of the '80s), and produced or coproduced a series of popular surf videos, including Surf into Summer (1987), Pump (1990), and Sik Joy (1995).

In mid-1998, when Hurley suddenly announced he was leaving Billabong to form his own company, Surfing magazine called it "the biggest surf industry news in two decades," while the Los Angeles Times business section, in a two-column article, noted that Hurley was largely responsible for Billabong being carried in Nordstrom and other mainstream stores. Hurley took many of Billabong USA's best designers, marketers, and team riders with him when he left the company, as well as some of the Billabong USA patents. The aggressively marketed Hurley International, like Billabong, produced surfwear and wetsuits, and immediately became one of the sport's hottest lines. Footwear giant Nike bought the company in early 2002 for an estimated $120 million. As of 2013, Hurley continues to head the company's operations.

Hurley was named by Surfer magazine in 2002 as one of the "25 Most Powerful People in Surfing." In 2006, Hurley was induced to the Surfer's Hall of Fame. Jeff Hurley, the oldest of Bob Hurley's three children, was the national collegiate surfing champion in 1997 and 1999, as well as the 1999 Pacific Surfing Tour of America champion.