Ecommerce Success Stories

11-Time World Surf Champion’s Surfboard Brand Adopts Headless Commerce Into Global Strategy

Justine Winkler / 4 min read
firewire surfboards hero

11-Time World Surf Champion’s Surfboard Brand Adopts Headless Commerce Into Global Strategy

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In the early 2000’s Bert Berger, was living in Western Australia, spending most of his days cruising along the coast looking for waves, and sleeping in his van between the breaks.

The quintessential backyard craftsman, he had a singular pursuit outside of riding waves: build better surfboards.

In 2006, he founded Firewire Surfboards with a talented group of former surf clothing industry executives who had united under a common purpose: put the future under surfers feet.

It’s a mission still represented in the brand’s popular hashtag #TheFutureUnderYourFeet.

The Disneyland of Surfing

Bert had experimented for many years building his own boards, using different construction methods and materials aside from the standard polyester or polyurethane.

By the time he launched Firewire with his partners, Bert had settled on building surfboards using sandwich construction, EPS foam, and epoxy resin.

To the average person, this may not mean much.

To a surfer, however, this combination was lethal from a technological point of view because of the way Firewire’s boards flexed better, went faster, and simply surfed better.

Additionally, the boards Firewire was making were more environmentally sound and sustainable than traditional materials.

After nine years of successive innovations in surfboard materials and construction methods, it was March of 2016 when legendary 11-time world surf champion Kelly Slater purchased a majority stake in Firewire Surfboards.

It was only several months prior in December of 2015 that Kelly unveiled Surf Ranch, the world’s most sought-after surf destination, an “engineering marvel” that delivers a “Disneyland for surfers” in Lemoore, California.

Today at Surf Ranch, surfers from around the planet put Firewire boards to the test, choosing boards from an on-site collection of shapes and sizes built in Firewire’s proprietary board building technology, used to make surfboard shapes designed and endorsed by Kelly, Rob Machado, Michel Bourez and other famous surfers.

With both Surf Ranch and Firewire already forming a solid foundation of innovation and forging new paths in surfing history, Firewire’s team sought a headless commerce solution for their digital branding that would enable a multi-tiered approach to Firewire’s worldwide business.

That’s where Chris Grow, the Global Marketing Manager at Firewire Surfboards, comes in.

Finding The Perfect Board

Grow and his team coordinate marketing efforts for Firewire and its family of brands (Tomo Surfboards and Slater Designs) across the U.S., Europe and Australia.

Chris Grow

“Wherever you find fun waves, you’ll also find Firewire Surfboards.” says Grow.

LIke most surfers in the surf industry, Grow’s pursuit of a career as a surfer that eventually led him to Firewire had many stops near the beach.

“Prior to Firewire, I owned the largest destination for surfboard reviews on the internet,” says Grow.

“The experience helped me understand the way that surf consumers seek out information about surfboards and what matters to them most when making purchasing decisions.”

It was this understanding that led Grow and his team at Firewire to launch a content and commerce digital experience on-site at Surf Ranch, within a branded kiosk alongside their many surfboards, that would complement the ‘real world’ experience of riding waves in Lemoore.

To do that, though, Grow and his team searched seriously for an ecommerce solution that stood up to Firewire’s own brand identity: innovative, advanced, and eco-friendly.

Headless commerce was the clear solution.

It was innovative and advanced but moreover, it allowed Grow and his team to plug and play an ecommerce experience into a WordPress environment where his experience and his understanding of the surfing buyer’s journey could capitalize on sales and brand loyalty.

Traditionally, true headless commerce implementations are costly, require extensive technical expertise or impossibly challenging to implement without compromises, leading brands to instead choose to subdomain their shopping site as a separate URL from the main site. Not only is this bad for SEO, but it also creates a suboptimal experience for shoppers.

Grow was looking for a solution that was cost-effective and required no compromise on the headless commerce strategy.

The Early Adopter Adrenaline Rush

That’s where BigCommerce and Firewire’s innovative streaks crossed paths.

The BigCommerce team had just launched the developer beta of the platform’s WordPress plugin –– the first intuitive decoupling of a presentation layer by a SaaS ecommerce platform. And Firewire wanted in.

With a launch deadline in Q4 2018, the teams went to work to build out a site experience unparalleled in the surfing industry.

To assist with the build, the BigCommerce team introduced partner and WordPress design and implementation agency Matter Design.

Grow and his team at Firewire had three major needs for their site design and launch.

Clean, Easy and Intuitive

First, he wanted a website that was clean, easy, and intuitive.

Chris Grow

“This is important because most of our customers already know what they want before shopping on our website – they either saw a friend riding one of our boards and want it for themselves, our they have seen the video and photo content on our social channels and know exactly what they want.” says Grow.

“What Matter Design did fantastically was take this insight from my team, and re-conceptualize what the product discovery process on our website could be. We needed something that empowered you to find the board you want quickly.

Second, when shopping for surfboards, the most important thing to consider is volume.

“Volume is the measure of amount of foam that comprises a surfboard’s shape.

This is important because volume is what makes you float so you can paddle in the ocean to catch and surf a wave, and every surfer knows their volume range the same way they know their shoe size, for example mine is 32 to 36 liters of volume.

I weight 215 lbs. If you weigh 145 lbs your volume range might be 26 liters to 28 liters.” says Grow.

During our initial conversations with Matter Design, they understood this need immediately and they presented us an idea for a sort feature on our category pages where a visitor can enter their ideal surfboard volume range and immediately see all the surfboard models available within their range.

It enables them to almost immediately see the board they want in the size they need.

This integration of our volume calculator into our shopping experience will prove to be very powerful among surfers.”

Expertise to Lead an Innovative Project

“The decision to hire Matter Design was so easy. They researched our business and industry in a way that other agencies we interviewed did not.” says Grow.

“They also illustrated how intuitively they could understand our customers and community.”

“Finally, Matter Design has over a decade of experience working with WordPress and also communicated the technicalities of our project scope extremely clearly, so we had complete confidence they knew what they were doing and would be a partner we could collaborate with.”

Adopting Headless at Cost and Scale Before The Rush

As of December 2018, all conversations and project needs have come to a close.

Firewire Surfboards’ new website is live using the BigCommerce for WordPress app as their headless commerce integration solution.

“We are providing our customers at Surf Ranch with an elevated ecommerce experience that represents our brand well, and enhances the real world experience at Surf Ranch. We’re so proud of it.

Brick and mortar surf shops are the foundation of our surfing culture. But to expand on that digitally with a headless ecommerce experience like this as the world’s premier surfing destination is something we’re thrilled by.” Said Grow.

After all, surfers spend their entire lives searching for perfect waves.

Spending their entire lives searching for the perfect surfboard? Not anymore.

Find the Perfect Surfboard

Visit Firewire Surfboards and see how BigCommerce and WordPress create the perfect blend of commerce and content.

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