Pubes. Pubelip. Tom. Tommy. Out of all the nicknames Tom Purbrick has, its Pubes that has stuck the most, and while it’s not the most elegant nickname its what he responds to and who he is. Pubes. Pubes the kid who strolled down from Alstonville and made a home at the Wall. Pubes the kid who destroyed both knees, one trying to salvage an Oz Tag victory. Pubes the kid who took a job at the Bong designing bags only to end up at Quik as their Global Design Director for Surf.

As a close mate it’s been quite a fantastic ride watching him go from getting dropped in at South to running the surf division at Quiksilver, getting married and having two amazing kids. You’re not here for the Days of Lives storyline though, so I’ll cut to the chase and let you know below you’ll find a little bit about Tom and a lot around the design and development of trunks and wetsuits (mainly their Highline 1mm Pro). There’s some photos of Pubes from our last boat trip, they ain’t the best quality but it shows the kid can rip. Hence the Top Two tag, he was determined to be Top Two on the boat trip (Huddo had the first stop sewn up).

Hope you enjoy this little spotlight on Tom Purbrick, Global Design Director for Surf at Quiksilver.


Empire Ave – Where did you grow up where?
Tom Purbrick – Ballina, Australia

(note: he’s an Alstonville grom)

And you’re living where now?
Biarritz, France

What was you first surfboard?
An old & very brown chunky board, with a single fin box plus 2 stabilizer fins & a row of stickers down the bottom…

I can’t even remember who made the board, just 3 of the stickers on the bottom –
Brothers Neilson

Who surfs the Wall the best?
When I grew up it was Lincoln Eather 😉 and Joe Hudson…
now… probably still Joe haha

And are you really Top Two?
Maybe after I’ve had about 6 pints and arrogant Tom comes out.

What were a couple of early jobs?
Milk boy, Dish pig, laborer, scaffolder, bartender.

How did those jobs define who you are now?
Well none of those job’s literally relate to the job I do now but I guess the importance of understanding that hard work pays off. I’d also say it’s the people you work with that define who you are not necessarily the job itself. I’ve been lucky to work with many good people throughout my work life and I’ve learnt from all of them all.

What does your day to day look like?
These days it is meetings. Meetings after meetings.

How did you get into product design?
At school I was into tech drawing, art and furnishing classes. After school, I went and studied graphic design then got a start at Billabong as a design assistant and learnt the ropes from a team of absolute legends at the Bong.

Tom Purbrick. Global Design Director for Surf at Quiksilver.


Empire Ave – For the last few years, you’ve been in charge of the trunks program at Quiksilver. What are the top 3 essential design elements that go into making a good pair of trunks?
Tom Purbrick – At Quik we prefer to call them boardshorts 😉. The top 3 essentials for me are:

  1. GOOD FIT – They need to fit like a boardshort, they should be loose and allow for movement, not like a pair of skinny chino shorts. A fixed waistband is also ideal so that they don’t come off in the surf.
  2. GOOD FABRIC – The fabric should be woven, not knitted. It should be comfortable and durable with a nice drape; it shouldn’t take on too much water and dry fast. After that, depending on who you are and what you’re looking for, the sky’s the limit with levels of stretch and technical attributes. 
  3. GOOD COLOR & PRINT – This ones very subjective but as long as the colors have good harmony and the prints are executed well the job is done. After that it depends on personal taste.

What’s one thing a lot of people may not know about designing a pair of trunks that may be interesting?
I think the one question I get asked the most is about the process of designing boardshorts. How do we do it? I think from the outside looking in, it might seem like we spend all day sketching different boardshorts. In reality, there’s a process we go through which builds all the ingredients and takes a lot of collaboration between many different roles in the business.

Boardshorts are a super competitive market within surf, how do you separate yourselves from the others?
Indeed boardshorts are very competitive within the surf market but it’s no different to footwear in the shoe market and cars in the automobile market. The main thing is that you should try and stay true to your brand in terms of design and try to be as original as possible. That being said, designs and products tend to evolve at the same pace and everyone is influenced by the same things at the same time so it’s inevitable that brands will bring out similar concepts to each other at the same time. That happens in every industry from cars to shoes too boardshorts.

What’s one mistake a shocking number of other brands continually make in your eyes?
When I think about the boardshort market and how saturated it is these days — with lots of brands in the mix from core surf brands to fast fashion labels and everything else in between — I feel that surf brands need to stand tall and focus more on quality when it comes to boardshorts. After all, no other brands outside our industry really have the means or personnel to truly test the products like we do. As the world focuses more and more on sustainability, I like the idea of boardshorts that last. I do believe that most of the surf brands out there are making quality boardshorts that last from the stitching used to the seam construction – but maybe we don’t communicate on that enough.  

Where do you see trunks evolving to? How will they get better?
Refer to my previous answer. I think brands will look to longevity and sustainability innovations in the near future.

What are your starting points when designing for a new season, in particular, the forthcoming summer collection of trunks?
Without giving away too many secrets we generally work on 2 calendars. One is a long-term calendar which focuses on testing our boardshorts as well as any other brands that are trying something interesting or new. That leads us to work on new fabrics and constructions. As we get to the seasonal calendar which we start with trend inspiration for prints, colours, trims and details.

You take inspiration from many facets of design, how do you apply these inspirations to the design of your collections?
Every season we need to come up with a colour palette and a menu of about 15 prints before we design the collection. To do this, we take inspirations and build mood boards which then inform the direction for the colours and the prints. We also take inspiration from many other places, which gives us ideas for all the details, whether it be a construction or a fabric idea.


Empire Ave – Congratulations on the Highline Pro Wetsuits!. We noticed a lot of the team surfing in them during the Europe leg of the CT last year. What’s the basic elevator pitch with the Quiksilver Highline Pro?
Tom Purbrick – The Highline Pro 1mm wetsuit is all about super sessions or contest surfing. The original idea actually came from Kelly Slater years ago. He wanted a super-thin, ultra-stretchy wetsuit that he could wear at cooler water events like Bells and J-Bay because there is nothing like the feeling of dominating another man in a heat. 

If you’re not anyone who is surfing and in professional contests however, then the suit is designed for quick surfs where you can be comfortable and free, maximizing your energy. It’s for going hard and fast. Getting in, getting the job done, and coming away from it happier than you were before you got wet. The Highline Pro 1mm is kind of like a Formula 1 option for our athletes but it’s also available for surfers and anyone who wants to know what that feels like!

Can you tell me what the starting point for a new solution like this is, as opposed to a more seasonal update on a product?
This wetsuit concept was started by our Japanese team and our custom factory partner over there. They worked on many different prototypes, fine tuning the pattern/seam design and the fabrication and seam construction. It took about 2 years of development and testing before we brought it to market. 

What were the problems that you identified within the wetsuit market that lead to the development of the Highline Pro?
Wetsuits have become pretty bloody amazing over the past 2 decades and it seems like they’re getting better and better! This wetsuit didn’t come from a problem identified in the wetsuit market. As mentioned, it was purely answering a need of professional surfers to get an edge in cooler water locations.

What was the thought process behind the goofy/natural concept for the Highline Pro?
The concept is all about flushing. Generally, when you fall off your board you fall forward, meaning that your front arm enters the water first. Therefore, when you have the opening of a suit on your front arm, you get water flushing into your suit when you fall. We made two versions so that the entry can always be on your back arm. So when you fall, no water can enter your suit because you rarely, if ever, fall with your back arm going forward. If you fall, that is. I don’t. I am top 2 everywhere I go.  

What are the top 3 essential design elements that go into making a good full-suit for winter surfing?

  1. Fabric (neoprene) 
  2. Seam lines 
  3. Branding

What’s one thing that not many people know about designing wetsuits that may be interesting?
Perhaps how long it takes to develop a new neoprene fabric. I think you really need around 2 years to develop something new. Maybe longer.

It seems Quiksilver has become more competitive in the wetsuit market in the last year or two, what can you attribute this too?
I only started overseeing the wetsuit design since last July so I’m still getting my head around the whole thing. I feel like the monochrome wetsuits Quik was doing and the marketing around Mikey Wright had a good impact and created a bit of excitement. It also seems we’ve had good penetration with our more entry price wetsuits the “Syncro” these are all round great suits and won’t break the bank. Penetration is a key aspect of performance and your angle of attack is immensely important. 

With Patagonia running Yulex, Cheer with Hevea, and Hyperflex running Greenprene, what can we expect from Quiksilver in the environmental area with future wetsuit development?
We’re certainly going to be working hard on the environmental aspect of building wetsuits. We’re already making neoprene using recycled car tires and recycling the off cuts from the raw sheets as well as using a lot of solution dyed linings, which save 85% more water and use less chemicals compared to regular dying process. We will also be using a lot more recycled fabrics and 100% of the lamination will be done with water based glue which, in the future, will enable us to be able to recycle old wetsuits. That is something we’re really focused on, to be able to recycle your old suit back into a new one and close the loop to enable a fully circular lifecycle.


Empire Ave – What do you listen to while you work?
Tom Purbrick – A lot of different things. I mostly listen mixes on NTS radio.

What are you currently reading?
The Art Of War by Sun Tzu 

What apps, software, tools can’t you live without?
Certainly Adobe creative suit as its how I make my livelihood. And Tik Tok. 

Where do you love to travel, and what won’t you travel without?
Anywhere but my favorite places are probably Italy / Spain / Hawaii / Indo

Still got so many places to see though. If I’m going somewhere that has surf, I need to travel with a board. There’s nothing worse than rocking somewhere finding the waves a pumping and you need to try and find a board to borrow.

What cities inspire you?
Tokyo / NYC / London / Melbourne / Warwick 

For more around Tommy Purbrick and his obessesion with being Top Two, hit the below links :
*Stab Feature
*Instagram Account
*The Inertia Feature

And if you’re like more Empire Ave Interviews, we’ve got some nice ones below:
*Jun Jo on In4mation, Vast and the Momentum Generation
*Sam Coombes from TCSS on STAB, Art and MTV
*Bosko talks shooting Film, Sports & the Surf Industry