For an industry that in the '80s was responsible for popularizing one of the great faux pas in fashion history--neon apparel--the surf crowd proved last Saturday night at the fourth annual Waterman's Ball that the trend was long buried.
About 800 designers, distributors, artists, professional surfers and anyone who is anybody in the action sports industry attended the gala, held at the California Scenario Sculpture Gardens in Costa Mesa. The event, hosted by the Surf Industry Manufacturers Assn., raised about $75,000 to benefit the Surfrider Foundation, the Orange County Marine Institute and the American Oceans Campaign. Ted Danson, founder of AOC, was on hand to present surf pioneer Hobie Alter with the first Waterman's award.
As if to underscore their aversion to last decade's palette, the majority donned black. But no one was mourning. The mood was strictly upbeat as guests bid on surf-related art and products, feasted on lobster tamales and funked to the live band.
Clean lines, glamour and style mattered to this new generation of industry leaders. Mandarin dresses and other Asian stylings in red, emerald and gold added sophisticated flair. Few men went black tie; instead, vests in textured and printed fabrics finished the look. Others opted for loose colorful suits. There were no white socks (what California dressing has been known for), but an occasional Hawaiian shirt was spotted. As for the dudes still pairing shorts with their tuxes: it might have been amusing in the '80s, but it doesn't ride well anymore.
The accessory of the night? Colorful leis of roses and wildflowers passed out during the silent auction.
In a laid-back industry in which companies are started on prize money won at surf contests, where rebellion is encouraged and teen-agers are in charge of setting a company's image, the crowd was--not surprisingly--hip. No socialites at this ball, no froufrou dresses or Dynasty 'dos.