In the 1960s, everybody knew who he was and which waves were his. His white-striped "jail house trunks" made him more identifiable than anybody as he pioneered big wave surfing. And through it all, he also became one of the most iconic surf story tellers on the planet. In my book, he still is iconic. So are his board shorts.
"Going back to when I was about 13 years old, everybody was wearing plain old trunks from JC Penney's or wherever you bought trunks from in those days," says Noll. "[In the films] Bud would show guys piling down the wave and everybody would be going 'There's me, there's me!' Half the time it was bullshit. So I thought 'Hey, I don't want to steal anybody's waves and I don't want anybody stealing mine.'"
Noll Surfboards teams with Billabong to revive the "Jail House" boardshorts.
The Da Bull-inspired board shorts aren't merely retro. Billabong has modernized much of the original look, making every pair out of their ultralight Zero Gravity fabric, which is a polyester-Spandex blend with Quad X Stretch (four-way stretch) that boosts flexibility. And some people say it helps prevent rashing.
But I like the way Noll spells out the benefits better. He calls it how he sees it, saying there is "no way you can blow the ass out of these shorts." If you do, then you get a free replacement pair when you come out of the water, he says.
The Jail House board shorts are also made out of recycled PET bottles, much like last year's Recycler board shorts that carried Marley magic and Rastafari colors. But the real draw is also in the design.
In addition to the classic oversized stripes in black, like Noll used to wear, Billabong added smaller stripes on the inseam, drawstring waist, side pocket, and custom logos sporting the Greg Noll name. It also comes in red. And, there is an additional board short with artistic flair, featuring illustrations lifted from the original flyer Noll's surf shop put out years ago.
"When you think about it, it's pretty damn cool that we're working with an industry classic like Billabong, originating from Australia," says Noll. "I first visited Melbourne and Torquay for the 1956 Olympic Games. We brought the first modern-day Malibu-style boards with us, and I saw the beginnings of the surf industry there."
Other board shorts to spot along the beaches this summer.
Even so, this year, with some Noll black and white stripes catching more surf time, it seems likely Roxy is ready with its own unrelated but matching board shorts. The big black and white stripes are tied together with a retro lace front, hidden slit pocket, and vintage patch. While these shorts aren't Billabong, they still capture the spirit.
Jail House Board Shorts By Greg Noll And Billabong Surf 7.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
To kick off the collaboration between Noll and Billabong, a limited run of signed and numbered board shorts were auctioned off on eBay. It didn't take long for all the shorts, in every size, to vanish. Bidding started at $200. Some of the folks who missed the auction still found signatures on April 5 as Noll and Greg Long signed limited edition Billabong X Noll Posters. About 600 people turned out.
If you missed the exclusives, you can still find plenty of Noll board shorts and T-shirts at BeckerSurf.com. Once on the site, search for Noll or Wave Womper for the shorts (about $60). Once you are on one of the products, look for a link to the left for the full line. For the Roxy stripes, search for Epic Boardshort ($44). You can also find the Rasta board shorts under Gals, Boardshorts.