Interview with Jean-Louis Rodrigues

“Although the industry has been affected, I’m pleased to see that there was no catastrophic situation because we were reactive from the outset. We set up a production of 50,000 masks for our companies, we were able to obtain aid, we went in search of aid for companies and participated in the National & Regional Recovery Plans.”


The Spotyride team was lucky enough to spend some time with Jean-Louis Rodrigues, a great man of the surfing industry and current President of EUROSIMA. He told us about the challenges of the past year and those to come.

PROFILE – Who are you?

My name is Jean-Louis Rodrigues and I’ve been President ofEUROSIMA since June 2019. I’ve been in the surfwear industry for almost 30 years, and have held various positions in different companies.

I’m of Portuguese origin and my parents came to France when I was 11. They settled in Biarritz and had stores selling surfwear: surfshops and other types of stores… I’ve always been in this environment, it was a family business. When I was 15/16 years old, I wanted to do two things: the first was to travel, and the second was to work in the world of sport, and surfing if possible.

I started out in sales positions with responsibility for multi-brand sales to technical stores and key accounts. Then, in the mid-90s, I helped set up the retail side of the business, with the opening of a number of Quiksilver stores and, following on from this, everything to do with e-commerce and digital distribution. For just over 20 years now, I’ve been managing major groups as General Manager of the O’Neill brand (General Manager Southern Europe), then General Manager of the Billabong Europe Group. At the end of my last experience as Managing Director Wholesale for the Boardriders group until June 2020, I decided to give back to the industry by becoming President ofEUROSIMA.

Today, I’m working at the heart of the system, trying to provide advice and drive this organization so that the sector is stronger and more listened to by the institutions, and able to look ahead ten or fifteen years.

“It’s a great source of pride for me, because I have great respect for this environment. I’m really passionate about it.”


EUROSIMA: Can you tell us a bit about your history?

EUROSIMA, which translates as European Surf Industry Manufacturers Association, is an offshoot of a US-based organization. It is established in several countries, including France. Created almost 22 years ago by the major surf brands, the original idea was for extremely individual people or companies to define a number of issues on which they could unite. This was the very beginning of trade shows, for example.

Over the years, EUROSIMA has grown enormously. We worked on a number of different topics: How to defend the surf industry? How do we let the press know who we are? We began to put in place a number of processes to let people know who we were… In the mid-90s in particular, our market became a fashion phenomenon. Incredible sales growth, company structures that doubled every year…

EUROSIMA: How does the structure work today?

We’re a non-profit association, with 60% of our budget coming from the private sector and 40% from the public sector, which is quite rare for this kind of structure.

Within the association, we have people with very clear and assertive roles, the association board:

  • Franck Laporte-Fauret is Executive Director (association operations and administration).
  • Christophe Seiller is the Cluster Manager (for institutions and training centers).
  • Stéphanie Godin is in charge of communications and HR.

Added to this is the Board of Directors, where all the brands are represented, with some fifteen people meeting once a year. In English, this is called a “Board”.

I’m a volunteer Chairman by statute. From the outset, all our presidents have been people who have been active in the surfing industry and who are steeped in what we are all about. They need to be credible in terms of what this can and should represent.

When I became Chairman two years ago, I wanted all types of companies to be represented: not just the major ones, but also startups and people involved in professions other than surfing (skateboarding, bodyboarding, electric bikes…). In this extended group of directors, all sports and all company sizes are represented.


EUROSIMA: How do you help structures today?

Particularly with the Covid-19 health crisis?

The surfing industry in New Aquitaine represents almost 4,000 jobs and sales (generated from New Aquitaine) of €1.8 billion. As a result, we have been identified as an extremely important economic sector in the region. We work a great deal with the French and international surfing federations, but not only that; we’re legitimately involved in all aspects of water sports. We owe it to ourselves to make the most of who we are.

Everything has accelerated with Covid-19 since last year, when everything was closed overnight. We ended up with a huge number of different requests, ranging from “can we have masks?” to “I’ve just set up a small business, with two employees, how can I survive?

We were extremely busy at every level. And I’m proud to say that the team responded 24/7 to help companies deal with this situation. Although the industry has been affected, I’m pleased to note that there has been no catastrophic situation, because we have been reactive from the outset. We set up a production line for 50,000 masks for our companies, we were able to obtain aid, we went in search of aid for companies and took part in the National and Regional Recovery Plans.

We’ve also been thinking about what to do after Covid-19: what do we have to do, and what do we need to do? You can imagine that for startups just starting up two years ago, this wasn’t necessarily their priority, but given the reality of the situation (all the stores closed) it has become a major focus.

Very recently, at the end of last year, I was in sessions with ministers to explain the benefits of reopening our beaches. It wasn’t an easy exercise, since the Minister of the Interior didn’t want to reopen the coastline; he was afraid there would be an invasion of people and that it would create clusters. We built up a solid argument and set up a health protocol, and managed to convince the institutions to reopen the beaches. From this experience, we signed a two-year partnership with Union Sport et Cycle, on whose Board I sit. Our industry is now represented at the highest level of sport in France, and we’re going to set up a commission in Paris called “Sports de Glisse et Sports de Nature” to defend our interests. A wide range of topics are covered, including changes in legislation, the circular economy and CSR.

We work a lot with the regions and also organize events throughout the year for the industry, such as the Employment Forum and the Surf Summit, among many others.


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Employment Forum


The Forum des Métiers de la Glisse takes place in Hossegor at the end of the first quarter of the year. It brings together some 400 young people who have just left school and whom we put in touch with board sports companies. Company human resources managers are present, and very often this leads to jobs. We organize it with the support of Pôle Emploi and institutions such as the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region, MACS and Hossegor Town Hall.

Surf Summit


In October, we organize the Surf Summit during the Pro France surfing competition. It really is the annual gathering, where you have riders, institutions, companies and their employees. Over the course of two days, you will attend seminars always featuring personalities, either a world champion who has left his mark on our sports and who will share his experience, or an ex-world or top-level champion, who will explain his transition […] We also have subjects that are related to business, which might be, for example, “How do you motivate teams?”

It’s during the Pro France, so it’s got a nice feel to it, and in the evenings there are parties organized, often with local riders.

In 2020, we went digital and replaced these two days with 5 video sessions between September and December. We had lively sessions on different topics with different speakers with lots of people connected. So it doesn’t have the friendly feel of a face-to-face meeting, but we didn’t want to be at odds with what we usually organize. This is really part of what is the industry? What do we need, how do we evolve…

Tokyo J-O


We were involved in Tokyo and the Paris games in different ways. For Tokyo, as this is the first time there will be surfing at the Olympic Games, we were involved in the search for equipment and brands with the French Surfing Federation, because we share the same offices.

To equip riders defending France. So we’re obviously in touch with the organization and we’re very attentive to what’s going to happen. Because obviously, this will have an impact on the games afterwards in 2024 in France.

Click here for the event calendar.