The Duke of Surf Wear

January 3, 2014 | By Waikiki Magazine Team

Duke Boyd, the “Father of Surf Apparel,” is a renaissance man—not only did he create the boardshort, he’s also an artist, author, filmmaker and, of course, surfer!

What would Waikiki Beach be without boardshorts? Well if it wasn’t for Duke Boyd, who knows what the beachboys would be wearing? Duke Boyd, the creator of the Hang Ten brand boardshort (the first-ever designed and produced boardshort) and modern-day surfwear as we know it, took a simple and practical item—the swimming trunk—and created a clothing industry around the beach lifestyle that he lived. Today, as the surfwear industry continues to grow, Boyd is working on his own brand, Duke Boyd Hawaii featuring the Original Hawaiian Collection, Ocean Collection, Sport Collection and the East/West Collection.

How did Hang Ten begin?

While I was attending Long Beach State College in California [in 1962] I thought of a design for a surf jacket and went looking for a manufacturer who might be interested. I was directed by my personal surf trunk seamstress to seek out a lady, Mrs. Doris Moore, whom she thought would be interested. She was interested but not in my jacket. Doris saw the surf trunk, which was under the jacket, as the most likely product to succeed. Doris then directed me to have six samples made by my seamstress and she would price them out and I would sell them. The cost of the Hang Ten trunks were $3.75 each.

Doris and I came up with [the name] jointly while brainstorming for a brand name. She asked me what was the equivalent to a hole in one as in golf to surfing? Hang Ten I replied … that was that.

What was the key to success?

The key to Hang Ten’s success obviously was not just one thing. Doris maintained that the feet logo was the key reason for Hang Ten’s success. I partly agreed. My take was that through our advertising in Surfer Magazine’s inside cover that featured the most recognized and admired surfers of the day, we gained grass-roots success. Of course the fact that we had the golden feet embroidered on the front of the shirt and a creative licensing program fitting positively into Hang Ten’s growth worked to gain its international acceptance.

What does surfing mean to you and what does the surf culture mean to you?

Surfing has always been an individual experience. It is all about having a lot of good ol’ fun, I was a pleasure surfer from the start.

The surfing culture is like everything else in the world, adapting and evolving. Today’s surf culture is wired for the 21st century. The game has changed in the sense that pro surfing plays a major part in the surf culture. Everybody wants to get sponsored and the philosophy of capitalism starts early, just like pro baseball and football.

Did you imagine the growth of today’s surfing industry?

When I started Hang Ten I was a young man in college, discharged from the service, living off the GI Bill from the Korean War. I knew nothing, except surfing seemed to take up most of my free time. No, I had no idea that the surf industry would grow and grow, to a billion-dollar industry. I’m glad it has because more people get to “get wet” and have fun.

Duke Boyd’s memories of Waikiki…

I came by ship to Hawai’i in 1946. I was a Boy Scout and lived in CHA-3 (civilian housing area three), next to Pearl Harbor and Hickam. My mom would take me to Waikiki where I rode my first wave and was hooked immediately. Waikiki had blue skies, warm surf and sun that lit up the day. I’ll always remember Waikiki as a place that was carefree and beautiful by anyone’s standards…