Slip ons, flip flops, deck shoes, skate shoes–these have been footwear giant Vans’ bread and butter since time immemorial. But recently, the iconic surf/skate brand has branched out and started exploring other avenues, first creating some damn comfortable all-terrain shoes last year with the UltraRange and now thrusting a trio of what they’re calling “experimental surf products” out into the world. Let’s have a look, shall we?
Perhaps the most eye-catching of the new offerings, which Vans announced yesterday, is the warm-water Surf Boot Mid. You might be picturing the kind of thick-soled reef walkers that are good for clamoring over sharp coral heads, but about as intuitive for surfing as a pair of Dr. Martens. But apparently that’s the exact opposite of what Vans’ warm-water boot is meant for. The SURFER staff got an early look at the Surf Boot Mid, and its sole is a textured, sock-thin strip of rubber that is meant to increase grip (and theoretically performance) while maintaining your ability to actually feel your wax.
A performance bootie for warm water is an odd proposition, of course, because it would seem counter-intuitive to put on something we associate with warming our feet when we’re already in tropical waters. But the neoprene on the top section of the boot is perforated to keep the water flowing and your feet from cooking, and, hell, if you can get past the idea of being “the guy wearing booties in 75-degree water”, these things certainly would offer increased control.
While we didn’t have a tropical lineup handy to test out the Surf Boot Mid, we did have 60-degree water and a crumbly, onshore beach break to try out it’s coldwater cousin, the Surf Boot Hi. This is a bit more of a straightforward surf bootie, save for the same sock-thin sole that offers ample grip, while still allowing you to feel individual beads of wax on your deck. The Surf Boot High is also an unusually tight-fitting bootie, which probably helps prevent the “ballooning” feeling you can occasionally get with booties, but also makes them require a small feat of strength to pull on.
The last experimental product revealed this week is a pair of boardshorts, minus the fly and the inseam. The new Vans Surf Trunk is about as streamline as boardies get, with no velcro fly, no bare seams on the interior of the trunks and no bulky drawstring to lay on while you surf. Instead of the latter, the Surf Trunk can be cinched down using a thin cord on the right hip. The material used for the trunk is also among the softest and stretchiest you’ll find on a pair of boardies, which certainly bodes well for keeping you out of the chafe zone amid marathon sessions.
Is the new line of Vans releases little more than a collection of gimmicks, or is this the kind of outside-the-box thinking that could actually shift the surf industry as a whole, and 10 years from now people will laugh thinking that we used to do barefooted airs and surf whilst laying on small knots? Probably not. But maybe. If a Vans team rider lands the biggest air we’ve ever seen in a pair of warm-water booties, that would certainly be a sign.
For more info on the new Vans line, which will be released on the 13th, click here. See what these items look like up close below: