Inside Anian—Canada's Naturally Technical Surf Company
This story was originally published in November 2016 by Nouvelle Vague surf and culture magazine. Read the full article here.
A lone traveller strolls into a remote village and slowly realizes that the last thousand kilometres have turned his mind and body to mush. He asks someone on the street how to get to the beach, but he’s forgotten that he doesn’t speak the local tongue. As his stomach begins to grumble and the rain continues to flood the busy streets, thoughts of a warm meal and a place to sleep drift into his subconscious. It won’t be long before he’s wondering why he made this trip at all. But for Paul Long, owner of Canada’s rustic surf-inspired clothing company Anian, such reckless travelling is easily justified by his unique appetite for riding waves in remote places.
Paul brings this unique appetite to the table as the current brains and brawn behind Anian, which was born three years ago out of a few simple backyard surfboard shaping sessions. Since its birth, the small company has experienced unforeseen growth and change. But Paul, the original mastermind behind Anian’s clothing designs and the only remaining founding member, insists that those summer nights spent shaping boards hold fast as the heart and soul of the company.
Originally from Calgary, Paul recalls a childhood spent battling the elements in Canada’s soaring Rocky Mountains. Frequent skiing, climbing and hiking trips shaped his understanding of the mindset and the gear required to survive Canada’s harshest weather. For the past eight years, the small city of Victoria has served as his home as well as his jumping off point for surf safaris on Vancouver Island and around the world.
With surfing experience dating back more than a decade, Paul has ridden waves of all shapes and sizes. He explains that most of the waves found off of Vancouver Island are fickle and often difficult to access. It’s not uncommon to drive and hike for hours through rain or snow only to find that the wave isn’t working that day. When the waves are pumping, he says, they offer much less power than ocean waves found elsewhere. In short, the Vancouver Island surf experience requires bigger boards with more float and a mind to embrace the Canadian wilderness experience even when the waves are flat.
Having only ridden his shortboard twice in the last year, Paul brings an attitude that is always tailored to the waves. If the forecast spells small swells and lots of rain, he doesn’t stay home. Instead, he dresses for the occasion and hauls his funshape to the shore with a couple of friends in search of a fun time. For Paul, surfing Vancouver Island is all about embracing both the beauty and the uncertainty that a journey in the Canadian wilderness inevitably brings.
Much of the uncertainty in the wilderness comes from the weather, which is usually cool and rainy in Paul’s neck of the woods. No stranger to battling Canada’s harsh elements, Paul knows better than anyone how to properly dress for a hike in the rain in search of waves. But after sweating bullets under his 100% Gore-Tex jackets and retiring yet another feather-leaking puffy jacket, he noticed that the ideal layers that he envisioned for staying warm and dry on the rainy coast were hard to find. Furthermore, the clothing that did exist, on top of being unfit for his needs, had a massive environmental footprint—a flaw which he could overlook no longer.
Paul decided to take matters into his own hands. With no prior design experience, Paul took to the books to learn how to manufacture clothing that was highly functional and safe for the natural world. Gradually those summer nights spent shaping surfboards in the backyard turned into a brick-and-mortar business selling custom shapes and a few unique Canadian-made clothing designs tailored to an active lifestyle on the coast.
Instead of trying to fix the broken system of Gore-Tex shells and down-filled insulating layers, Paul looked to the past in search of solutions to the problems he had noticed in existing designs. He wondered to himself, “What was George Mallory wearing when he tried to summit Everest, or Ernest Shackleton when he tried the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent?” The answer to these questions unlocked the secret of using 100% natural fibres.
Rather inventing new and potentially harmful materials, Anian now capitalizes on the designs of nature to produce clothing that is built for the occasion. In their wind and water repellent Melton wool overshirt, for example, they are able to avoid synthetic Gore-Tex layers by using the natural fibres of the sheep to create a rain layer that is 100% breathable. Rather than battling against nature, Anian works alongside it with their naturally technical designs.
There is no doubt that these designs, while being extremely functional, are also very beautiful. However, they are demanding the attention of more than just consumers with great taste. Increasingly aware of their own environmental footprints, technically-minded clients such as backcountry ski lodges and heli ski guiding companies are now looking to Anian for more responsible ways to outfit their clients and their crew. Having noticed the same design flaws which Paul noticed in the standard clothing layering system used for outdoor activities, both guides and adventurous individuals alike have begun testing Anian’s designs with great success in the severe weather conditions found in the mountain ranges of Alberta and British Columbia.
While imagining clothing designs that are both beautiful and durable, Anian also aims to build a community for like-minded people to find each other and share in each other’s stories. Their flagship store in Victoria consists of three rustic-looking structures and a stage, all of which are powered exclusively by their on-site solar panels. This space, nicknamed “The Yard”, plays host to monthly shows in the summer where the melodias of local bands harmonize with the voices of the local community.
The Anian brand was born out of a passion for Vancouver Island’s rugged nature and it’s local surf community. After three years of designing, testing, and manufacturing in a sustainable way, it’s clear that whether Anian finds itself on the Pacific Shores of Vancouver Island or on mountain tops in the Canadian Rockies, surfing and local community will always be at the heart of the brand and will fuel future designs and projects to come.