Founded in the mid-90s, GONG was developed by the ACE workshop in La Baule to become a brand for Magic Surf store franchise in Britanny.
The goal of GONG was to offer high-end boards at a good price to win over a large and demanding clientele.
First by producing EPS, epoxy and PVC sandwich boards, which was very rare in 1996. The vast majority of workshops offered only PU. But the EPS was the solution to energize the boards and to raise their volumes without over doing the weight. The shapes had to respond to the changing and sometimes confusing wave conditions in Brittany. Efficiency was the only goal, the foundation of GONG’s “think out of the box” spirit.
Then by reducing the intermediaries, with the principle to own brand, to lower the prices on great technology. GONG’s DNA started there.
At the end of the 90’s, ACE had been forced to close following the poor management of a self-centered factory, some small productions had launched in Asia up until 2003.
Then it was the takeover of the Magic Surf network by the H2O Group and its incredible development that would benefit GONG. With such a presence, it was easy to offer good boards at a bargain price.
The shop years and the launch of SUP in Europe
In 2006, GONG will be the first brand to fully believe in the potential of SUP and its practice in Europe.
L’Ours used to surf big boards to get out to his spot off the coast. These bigger logs allowed him to row fast and wait for the waves standing and also to see far off. The benefits of SUP became obvious. The rowing power the paddle brought was an absolutely perfect complement to handle these big boards.
With his team, they will be the only ones to believe in it. The shops called this sport “Surf AIDS” for years. Professionals were be divided between the hilarity of seeing them standing on a board with a paddle and the worry of seeing these “Kooks” invade the beaches and cause accidents by the hundreds. Most of those who praise the SUP today perceived it yesterday as a threat to water. First they said it was “moronic”. Then they said it was a “foolish trend”. After that it was “spot pollution”. But L’Ours really believed in it because he did it every day and he knew the pleasure potential of this new sport. Laird Hamilton is anything but a fool and it goes without saying that this guy did not force himself to surf logs with a paddle just to do photo ops. The pleasure and the performances were there.
L’Ours was the first in the world, in 2006, to create a mass production-molded SUP board. He released a 7’7 board in 2007, a Race board in 2007 and a range of 15 shapes in 2008. With Stéphane, from Select, they created a model for a high performance paddle, the first of its kind. At that time, not so far away, the bigger brands of today were still wondering if they should jump in the game. Not so easy to throw away the hardcore image and become part of a ‘foolish trend’!!! Yet the SUP is great and L’Ours had understood that those gave the “Paddle” a kook image: the unfounded criticism came from the competitors and the surf establishment.
L’Ours was also one of the first to show that you can easily move a SUP board, make modern shapes and moves as varied as they are engaged.
It is also decided it would be up to him to explain the sport and to show it in all its glory and forms in pictures. Showing and proving is the best way to silence the nay sayers.
To Surf, first and foremost, L’Ours is personally involved in communicating the surfing spirit of GONG. It is he who puts online 200 moves in the How To section of our site for example.
While “nobody” believed it and some people try to keep the sport for themselves and rewrite the story, L’Ours and his team found ambassadors, developed a spirit of friends and strengthened GONG around a really cool idea. The color Red was born, accompanied by the voluntarily invasive Flame Ball. This approach will attract the wrath of the profession.
Yes, GONG has been redeveloped since Marseille. So what ?!!!? So it’s embarrassing a lot of people. But that was already the case when GONG was in Brittany. Surfing is not just Biarritz; the history of French Surfing demonstrates it!
Voluntarily provocative, the Team GONG shakes the foundation of this sport and proves that whether in Marseille or Hawaii, this sport is legitimate. Why ? Because it’s awesome. Wherever you are, this sport is fabulous. So stop the snobbery of surf elitists and long live the fun.
L’Ours and his team did the our of the trade shows in the USA to show their shapes. They competed in Makaha, Hawaii, and got noticed. They went to California to test the prototypes and met positive people. This was the time when they compared their shapes with Hobie in the garden of Hobie Alter Jr, with C4, and with Yolo. It was a fun and relaxed time when the GONG men surfed in Trestels with CJ Nelson and the big names in surfing. We got to discuss shapes with Greg Noll. Everybody there present at the time knew very well that it would need the support of others to make SUP known to the world. GONG is hated in Europe quite a bit whereas in the USA everything is super cool. Paradox…
The huge adventure of direct sales on line
In 2008, the H2O Group was in difficulty and the shareholders decided to resell and deconstruct the group. In this period of hesitation, some competitors smelt the bargain and jumped on the prey and tried to loot GONG: mold theft, murderous criticism and cheap, low blow criticisms and an attempt at trying to rewrite the story … L’Ours and Team GONG had left but Patrice didn’t let go and purchased GONG and decided to redevelop it with its own meager means.
Not easy to create a business with a rising brand and almost zero means and the whole profession, or almost, on your back. There ended up being many disappointed customers (lack of stock) and still the same fox around the chicken coop trying to stalk GONG and drool over the Brand.
But step by step, Patrice solved the problems, accompanied by his lifelong friends. The company didn’t earn enough to pay, had no staff for lack of resources, but it worked and grew slowly.
L’Ours had set up a shaping workshop in Bastia, Corsica, isolated, to work on the ShortSUP. Already in 2009 the shaper business could be done 100% on computer by sending 3D files to factories in China that replicated them to the millimeter. Just needed to test them and validate their production. But L’Ours chose to take GONG from zero, or almost, for the third time, Planer in hand. He believed that this was the path he must take to lay the solid foundation for his personal financial investment. When you want to do a good job, you have to put your hands in it. Hard work and calloused hands is the best answer to criticism.
GONG grew slowly but the banks were not so keen to follow. The factories were faulty and manipulated. But whatever happened, GONG bounces back. Why ? Because behind GONG there is no big capital but there are thousands of growing customers. Over 20,000 people have been GONG customers since 2003. And beyond pure business, GONG is above all a state of mind that is open, fun and innovative. Many people really like this new concept and they get the energy needed to achieve great things.
Patrice does everything by himself and delegates or automates trade-related tasks as much as possible in order to free up time to shaper. Stage 1 between 2008 and 2009 was to focus 200% on prototypes. Two hepatitis, from resin intoxication, later, L’Ours was ready to change the model range and show what the modern SUP should start looking like.
Betrayed by “local” factories, he went to China to visit dozens of factories, train teams on site, and improved production that holds up to the GONG standard. The 2011 range is born. Almost 30 boards SUP, 8 ShortSUP shorter than 7’0 , radical LongboardSUP and more powerful than real longboards … The new generation is there. Suddenly the Corsican Bank renigs and drops the ball on all the production. It took 6 months of work to overcome this new obstacle and bring the series boards to customers.
The range expanded in 2012 thanks to the assistance of Banque Populaire Atlantique in Saint Nazaire. And above all thanks to the confidence those people who will not hesitate to pay the equipment in advance to obtain it and thus help the financing of our containers.
2013 is a new year. The one that will go to the top by offering products always at record prices, constantly improving quality, focusing on service and helping to boost the other sports that we have always loved.
2014, 2015 were years of strong growth that bring GONG back to 2007 (around one million Euros). It took some time to get back in the running!
2016 was the catastrophic fall of the dollar. 20% margin that went up in smoke for nothing, and therefore big difficulties to finance. This is where L’Ours revives its production in Europe. First by producing in a workshop in Portugal, then supporting the creation of one of the largest factories in Europe, in Portugal always.
The Bear brings all the technology, the processes, the rigor. The plant grew fast, too much so, and is overloaded with the ever-increasing demand. Only 18% of orders were honored. A real disappointment that showed the limits of relocation when large-scale knowledge had been lost.
2016 is also the year that GONG set up its surf foils manufacturing workshop in France. An R & D of excellence, high-end molds, a clean technology, the product is superb. This will be the starting point for the reconstruction of production in France. The GONG workshop is reborn in France.
2017, L’Ours revived the manufacturing of boards in France, in its own factory. Of course, at the very top of the range, 200 boards for professionals and relatives, but that’s exactly what was missing in the range GONG: Made in France.
2018 offers a considerable acceleration with more than 4 000 000 € turnover. It is a small commercial success but especially the recognition of the relevance of a model by the customers. The direct sale of the producer to the user begins to weigh in and becomes popular.
2019 will be the year of all records and that will launch major projects to consolidate the bases of GONG and make us even closer to the people. A huge shop that is at the heart of the melting pot of the Glide is stirring up the magic and will be offering you even more choice and pleasure for the user.
In summary, GONG is above all a group of friends who had the chance to live at the water’s edge. They did not have much money but they wanted to be on the water. The whole spirit of the GONG brand is based on this element. A cool and practical surf spirit. Make the best shapes to have fun every day and sell them 2 times cheaper than in traditional shops for everyone to access.
We have never been against shops (L’Ours had managed a chain of 80 stores in Europe) but for us online distribution has emerged as the only solution to combine high quality and low prices. We remove the distributors. We visit the factories themselves without going through middlemen who take 30% to monitor the production. We sell direct to keep a valuable links with our customers and offer them the lowest prices.
Our factory’s purchase prices are the same as those of the biggest brands, with whom we share the production chains. The quality of our products is of the highest level. It is our method of sale that makes our prices low. We never lose quality. On the contrary, we put everything on the quality to get ahead of the critics and not be associated with low cost.
Why not sell twice as much and make double? Because our customers are not all millionaires. Because it already exists. Because we are not hungry for money. Who can afford a quiver at 1500 € per board? Very few and we are very happy for them. The less you spend on quality material, the more you will progress.
To make the sport inaccessible because of prices or by an overly technical image is nonsense to us. While it’s nice to be two at the peak rather than fifty and keep this small business for a select few and elite, but we live from this sport. It seems fundamental to us never to snub anyone. The guy who surfs once a year is as valuable to us as our Team Pro. Everyone must be able to have fun, in the strict respect of surf rules, whatever his pedigree.
At the end of this long history it is worth emphasizing that GONG has always been focused on the future:
- technologies of the future
- shapes of the future
- sports of the future
GONG is a new vision of our sports that we hope is fresh and positive. No hero stories and giant waves to make you surf in front of your house. We walk the talk and we show online every day that we are real actors involved in the life of the sport, not just financiers.
GONG is not a Hawaiian brand either. We surf what you surf: small, choppy, flat and sometimes fabulous days and massive waves. We are a Brand for day to day, a Brand that lives more than it sells.
So, if you want to play, we probably have something for you.
A big thank you to the people who directly or indirectly allowed GONG to exist:
Thierry Dumon, Jean Michel Germanangues, David Vincent, Fred Meunier, Pascal Trimoreau, Stéphane Mocher, Alain Clementi, Didier Corre, Xavier Rolland, Hubert D’Heilly, Delphine Chauveau and many others.
Thanks also to all those who support GONG with their energy and ideas:
Colas Nahaboo, Didier D’Hervez, Jean Paul Averty, Jean Louis Bernard, Benjamin English, Arnaud Guénolé, Pascal Brec, Patrick Kruithof and all the Ambassadors and Forum Fiends.
Thanks to the Team Riders who helped make GONG known:
Fred Compagnon, Romain Maurin and his father FX, Antoine Albeau, Antoine Delperro, Corentin Chardin, Hugues Oyarzabal, Niko Denard, Boris Thouin and Jess, Marianne Bellegarde, Fleur Caulliez, Mikael Pontaud, Moritz Mauch, Xavier Leroy, Ingrid Ulrich and many others.
Thanks to the GONG staff who perform the feat of serving you every day :
David Vincent, Frédéric Lemoine, Ysoline Bureau, Jaime Rodriguez, Erwan Bidault, Diane Gateclou Marest, Béryl Besseau, Yohann Sallé, Matthieu Gouzes, Romain Carré, Olivier Bertinetti, Valérie Peltier, Fabien Drouin, Théo Labonne, Titouan Goujon, Thibaut Jacolot, Raphaël Chiche, Brandon Dalmard, Mathieu Le Guen, Anthony Despeisse, Alexandre Mace, Elise Rottreau, Valentin Oury, Marin Catoire, Maxime Chaigneau, Benoît Marquette, Etienne Teil, Jeanne Legoeuil, Marine Daniel, Valentin Lechat, David Deweer, Maxime Piasek, Gaëtan Guézo, François-Xavier Dubourg, Ombeline Marodon, Joanna Legeay, Gaëtan Le Caherec, Boris Le Roux, Damien Coulomb, Marion Dusart, Cyril Lejeune, Stephen Le Mitouard, Aymeric Barbieux, Mollie Rocquentin, Lucile Kingham, Gabriel Le Corre, Baptiste Raffin, Louis-Marie Loncan-Rigoire, Benjamin Barella, Thomas Pannetier, and future GONGistes.
Special mention to Thierry Dumon cited above. Without his total investment in our sports, none of this would have been possible. Thierry had no passion for our sports but it was he who supported, with own his personal money, GONG rise from 2002 to 2008. With debts and lawsuits as a final reward, he is the one who has most marked the story of GONG.
And an immense thought to our missing friends, who in their own way have helped GONG and the Bear in this magnificent journey: Stéphane Brec, Pierre Agnès and Guy Ringrave.