INTERVIEW: Jesse Faen – New CEO of Insight USA

Life on the WCT tour can be grueling, tough, hard working, and exciting. You get to see the world’s best surfers at the world’s best spots, and you get to surf with them every day. Why would anyone want to leave all that? To become the CEO of a strong Australian clothing brand making their push into the U.S.A., that’s why.

SURFING: Can you tell us a little bit about {{{Insight}}}? Is it still the same brand that Shane Herring rode for back in ’92 or have things changed?

Jesse Faen: Insight began as a surfboard company with Greg Webber. We did well there, and Greg parted ways with his own surfboard label, and Insight continued as well. Towards the end of the ’80s and early ’90s they had started to do a few hats and t-shirts to basically promote the boards. And then George Gorrow came on as creative director in the mid ’90s and the clothing side of the business has just gone through the roof in Australia. Our line is actually in 28 countries, but Australia is the main hub.

SURFING: What made Insight decide to come to the US market?

Jesse: We came to the US tradeshows in September and January, just to get a feel of how interested the US would be, and the response was amazing. So that’s why I’m here – to help get the whole thing off the ground.

SURFING: How long have you been with the company? Because it sounds like you’ve been with them for years.

Jesse: I’ve had a relationship with Insight for the last 15 years. Actually, the first surfboard I ever bought was an Insight, and I have a bunch since. And in the last couple of years I’ve just kind of been helping them as much as I could, as a friend, because I’ve known them for a long time. And it was just over a year ago when I was helping with the trade shows that I started talking with them about possibly getting involved here in the US. But it’s really been over the past month that we finalized this whole deal, I jumped on a plane, changed my life, and here I am.

SURFING: So you have basically gone from being on the WCT tour full time to staying in one place and running a company?

Jesse: Well, yeah. My background is definitely in the media side of things. I’ve spent the last seven years traveling with the WCT tour. And Insight brought me on to bring together the right team and get our infrastructure in place so that we can roll into the US market place.

SURFING: Where will you be located in the US?

Jesse: We’re going to based in Venice Beach.

SURFING: That’s a change from the standard companies set in Orange County isn’t it?

Jesse: There’s a few reasons for that. Insight’s roots are based in surf, but it’s more fashion driven. It also touches into the art and skate scenes, so we're not just surf. We didn’t want to get pigeonholed into just surf, even though that does remain our core market. We want to make sure that in the US, we are able to stretch out into other markets. And Venice is kind of a melting pot for all sorts of different things.

SURFING: How has the brand been doing so far in the US?

Jesse: Well, we have already established a few accounts in the Orange and San Diego counties, thanks to the Australian sales reps coming over here and getting a feel for it. And now it’s “all systems go”.

SURFING: When will we see the full product line in shops?

Jesse: Well, there is currently product out there in the Southern California area, but the end of this month [May '05] we'll have another range release. It is all dependent upon assembling a key sales force for California and beyond.

SURFING: So with being in one place so much, are you going to miss the traveling lifestyle on tour?

Jesse: I spent seven years on the tour, so there are obviously things I loved about it. I’m not going to miss it though. There are places I will definitely go back to because I have great friends. But I definitely got what I wanted out of the tour. So now it's time to start a new chapter. And this is definitely beyond any expectations of what that chapter would be.

SURFING: With your connections on the WCT, are there any possibilities that any 'CT members might be coming aboard with Insight?

Jesse: I wouldn’t rule out anything. Insight’s whole perspective is a bit outside the standard box though. We’re not looking to emulate any other brands. We’re going forward with our own strategy.

We’re involved with Christian Fletcher, and he definitely fits our image on one level. And we’re looking beyond that to find people that fit OUR image. Whether that’s a ‘CT surfer or a kid at your local beach, or an artist that doesn’t even surf, or a skateboarder, musician… we’re not limiting it.

SURFING: After seeing you take apart J-bay a few years ago and knowing what an aficionado of twin fins you are, did you bring a whole quiver of twinnies with you?

Jesse: No, I didn’t actually. Because I know some of the best twin fin makers live here in Southern California, and I can get them here. I’ll definitely be getting a few boards from guys like Skip Frye and Rich Pavel.

SURFING: Good luck – those shapers are in high demand right now with the fish “revolution” that has hit.

Jesse: Well, I’m actually pretty good friends with them already, so I look forward to going and surfing with them one of these afternoons. The waves are so perfect here for boards like that. I’m just looking forward to getting out there as much as the waves and work allows.

To learn more about Insight, check out their website at