Birth in Normandy
The first French surfwear brand was created in 1985 in Normandy. The word OXBOW, which means a "bow-shaped bend in a river" in early American English, was chosen by the brand's founders, Fabrice Valéri and Isabelle Cachot, from terms found on a map of the United States. They were immediately won over by its two syllables, phonetics and graphic potential. The young entrepreneurs got into the habit of finding inspiration and names for their collections from vintage maps that arouse the desire to travel.
The founders received a pair of checkered swim shorts a friend brought back for them from a surf trip in Sri Lanka. The squares were sewn and assembled one by one. The discovery of this original piece was the beginning of the OXBOW adventure. From its Normandy HQ, the brand was at the origin of a real revolution of developing an avant-garde style, enriched by refined and colorful aesthetics. In 1986, the logo affixed above the left shoulder became easily recognizable.
The OXBOW sweater was an institution and an expression of the brand's know-how. The POHONO model, named after an Native American tribe, appeared for the first time in the ’86 autumn-winter catalog. Initially adopted on snow-covered slopes by skiers and snowboarders, these winter sports enthusiasts also wore them proudly in the city. Made in France in the Tarn, these loose-fitting pieces made of thick Jacquard cotton fabrics with hand-drawn ethnic patterns in bright colors marked a revolution in the fashion world.
Founding the Bordeaux Headquarters
OXBOW moved closer to the Pyrenees mountains, but more importantly, to the ocean. Eager not to be like all its competitors and set up shop on the Basque coast, the brand chose Bordeaux. Capital of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, this dynamic port city close to the Lacanau-Ocean surf spots helped attract new talents to develop the brand. Bordeaux remains its home base today.
OXBOW made history in the world of surfing by sponsoring the Oxbow Lacanau Pro. That summer, the waves were perfect and the famous Tom Carroll made his mark in front of a French public and the media who began to be passionate about surfing and its art of living. The legendary catalogs became the object of all envy as the OXBOW style took hold in Europe.
Birth of a new logo
In 1988, the founders sought inspiration in traditional North American designs for the future collection. They discovered a flower sign with four sets of petals that symbolizes the Amish people. The first rule of this exclusive community, "You will not conform to the world around you", wonderfully sums up the brand's DNA and its desire to break the rules, without worrying about the competition. The graphic design team got to work on this new motif. First used as an all-over print for its 1989 Spring-Summer collection, the “FourFlowers” eventually became its logo. It worked wonderfully on products as well as marketing materials. The FourFlowers, at its peak in the 90s, grew into the rallying point of an entire and unique community that shared the same lifestyle and ideal of pure gliding!
Who didn't wear an OXBOW T-shirt in the 1990s? Loose fitting, pastel colors and original patterns, an OXBOW T-shirt was on the shoulders of all teenagers and board sports enthusiasts. Its thick fabrics and quality prints spanned eras and generations. 30 years later, they are still in perfect condition, carefully stored in our closets or proudly worn on the backs of our children… Surfing, skiing, snowboarding, favorite classics like the OXBOW T-shirt are passed down from generation to generation!
1991 & 1992
Longboard Tour Biarritz
In 1991, François-Xavier Maurin introduced longboarding and its culture to OXBOW managers. With the weight of the legendary Nat Young, recently arrived on the team, OXBOW convinced the ASP (the former professional surfing league, now known as the WSL) to create two original competition formats. The Basque coast in Biarritz, the birthplace of surfing in France, hosted the event. In 1991, the Masters brought together the legendary surfers of the 1960s by invitation. The legends influenced a new generation which faced each other in 1992 during the “Arnaud de Rosnay” Memorial event. A teenager, named Joel Tudor, attracted all eyes with the grace and fluidity of his style...
Laird Hamilton, one of the most accomplished “watermen”, was one of OXBOW's early athletes. To fulfill his desire to surf bigger and bigger waves, he perfected the technique of towed-in surfing. His first stop was hurtling down the massive swell of the North Shore before attacking Jaws, the "monster" of Maui. Always on the lookout and perched in his helicopter, photographer Sylvain Cazenave immortalized these historic moments. The images defied disbelief the world over. And Laird continued to write his legend ...
Motocross with J.M Bayle
After water and snow, dirt was in the spotlight. The universe was different, but the mindset, the same. Jean-Michel Bayle, whose art of trajectory and carving turns was similar to that of surfers, windsurfers or snowboarders, wrote the most beautiful pages of French motocross history. At the OXBOX MX event in Reygades (Corrèze, France), a large and eminently friendly European pro-amateur gathering shook up prejudices by proving that beyond the motorized aspect, one found the elements dear to the brand's other sports.
Oxbow World Masters
Tavarua – Fidji
The pioneers of professional surfing in the 70s delighted enthusiasts by meeting at one of the most beautiful lefts in the world for the OXBOW World Masters.
Millenium wave Laird Hamilton
Teahupoo - Tahiti
While on the road to the airport, after a successful and lengthy surfing trip in a sublime setting, surfers, photographers and videographers noticed a significant swell had arisen. The detour to Teahupoo was inevitable… Laird Hamilton was ready. The morning, already high in excitement, was in fact only a warm-up. A set emerged whose power was immediately understood by Laird, a seasoned “waterman”. He launched himself on a phenomenal wave that he cut into with the side of his board before being swallowed up… then emerging, more mind-blown than ever. Laird Hamilton had just ridden the Millennium Wave. An awesome moment that marked the history of surfing and the sport itself.
Oxbow Soul & Style
Puerto Escondido – Mexique
The brand made a “change” in continuity with the OXBOW Soul & Style. The concept of this not-to-be-missed longboard event remained, but had evolved. Thirteen riders selected from among the best in the world competed for style in tubular waves and were judged by "legends" of the discipline on essentially artistic criteria, for a freer, less codified expression. It was a resounding success. OXBOW laid the foundation for a new generation of events where style and spirit complement pure performance.
The “FourFlowers” brand, symbolizing the four cardinal corners, invested in the world of film for an ambitious project called The Escape Tour. OXBOW organized a World Tour of surf spots for the occasion. 12 months of adventure, 12 destinations and 12 DVDs were produced exclusively to document the event. Sublime, breathtaking images were filmed of the entire OXBOW team in action.
16 years after the creation of the first Longboard World Championship in 1992 in Biarritz, and the participation in 11 other events, OXBOW affirmed its interest in longboarding. The WLT in Anglet, France made an impression with the presence of the biggest names in longboarding, Nat Young, undisputed legend of surfing and longboarding, Bonga Perkins and Colin Mc Phillips, both world longboard champions, and Duane DeSoto, a true Hawaiian icon, and not forgetting Antoine Delpero, the event local and an OXBOW rider from the early years.
Thank you Laird
The history of OXBOW over the last twenty years had been written with Laird Hamilton, symbol of the perfect Waterman. An exceptional athlete, pioneer and inventor, his influence changed surfing in all its forms and, more than any other athlete, he made the sport visible and popular far beyond the surfing community. We are proud to have accompanied him on his unique journey and to share the same passion for the ocean.
Kaï Waterman Lenny
With Waterman as a middle name, it was obvious that the paths of OXBOW and this gliding wonder would cross one day. As a waterman par excellence, Kai alone summed up the OXBOW spirit. He shone in Stand Up, Big Wave, Kite and/or Windsurfing. Kai Waterman Lenny represented a new generation of watermen.
Cocorico Surf Tour
OXBOW launched a web series under the concept of French Surfing, conviviality and the Art of Surf Living. Aboard a vintage VW Minibus, our ambassadors crisscrossed the French coastlines to meet those who represented French surfing, past, present and future. Presented in a series of 8 events, the Cocorico Surf Tour perfectly illustrated the brand's values.
Launch of the 1985 line
OXBOW launched its premium line, baptized 1985. Designed for 48-hours, it brought together the essential pieces needed to pack a bag for a weekend ocean getaway. Intended for a masculine wardrobe, the 1985 line consisted of comfortable pieces made from high-end materials.
Lost In The Swell
Travel the world in search of waves unknown, as far from civilization, and as close to nature as possible. Aurel Jacob, Ronan Gladu and Ewen Le Goff, the three members of the “Lost in the Swell” collective, were part of a very closed circle of the last surf explorers of the modern era. Like the pioneers of the 1970s, the trio of Breton surfers set out in search of pristine, unridden waves. Waves on which no man had left his wake before. Unlike their 20th century predecessors, they documented their adventures through films they shared for free on YouTube. OXBOW sponsored the trio, supporting them in their wildest adventures such as a catamaran trip to the Solomon Islands, fat biking in Gabon, or riding on the backs of donkeys in Morocco… The brand was especially proud to support this band of non-professional surfers who were also true friends that were funny and conveyed eco-responsible values.
An insane treasure hunt
OXBOW marked an entire generation of surfers with a project never seen before: #LaissepasTraînerTonFish (#Don’tLeaveYourFishLyingAround). The brand hid three magnificent surfboards in three French cities and decided to give them away to the first three people who found them! The following year, the number grew to 13 surfboards, one in each region of the country that was hidden and given away! Named #JohnnyUtahMisLesBoards (#WhereDidJohnny UtahStashTheBoards), a nod to the 1991 film Point Break, the treasure hunt drove all French surfers into a frenzy. It became an event not-to-be-missed with tens of thousands of people walking the streets or scouring the wilderness to get their hands on these boards shaped by legends such as Josh Hall, Neal Purchase Junior and Dick Brewer.
OXBOW celebrated its 35th anniversary last year by changing owners and becoming an independent French brand once again. It is being led by 2 industry enthusiasts with undeniable experience, Emmanuel Debruères and Jean-Christophe Chetail.
Emmanuel Debruères : A word from the president
« We want to reconnect OXBOW with the world of outdoor and board sports, two areas essential to OWBOW’s DNA since its creation in 1985. Our ambassadors are above all passionate athletes themselves. »
Support Local Shapers
OXBOW returned to manufacturing surfboards and decided to do it right. The brand partnered with 3 shapers based in southwestern France and produced a series of handcrafted boards Made in France. Authentic objects of art and surf, these 8 models were overlaid with scraps of OXBOW fabrics recovered in its workshops.
Oxbow is back (again) in the production of documentary movies. L'Albatros, Le Cercle, Hono, many documentaries produced by Oxbow and available for free on YouTube. Each in their own way, these long-form documentaries translate the Waterman DNA of the brand and immerse us in this very special universe.