Quiksilver: Robert McKnight Jr.

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Quiksilver got to be one of the biggest brands in the fast-growing arena of surf-inspired teen apparel by managing to be offbeat yet accessible to the mainstream.

"It's a tricky balance to be widely available yet perceived as a niche brand, and we do it by staying close to surf specialty stores near the beach, the heart and soul of our style," says Robert McKnight Jr., the company's surfer CEO. Carried by department stores including Nordstrom, Quiksilver strives to position its products as off-mainstream by using uniquely designed in-store boutiques and arresting print ads, created mostly in-house.

Quiksilver now makes dozens of related apparel brands, including Roxy, the leading brand of girls surfwear, and recently launched Fidra, a line of surf-style golf togs for people under 40. Quiksilver's revenue hit $516 million last year and is growing at a steady 15% annually.

"We want to avoid appearing to be too big," says Quiksilver's 48-year-old CEO, who launched the Huntington Beach, Calif., company in 1976 after attending business school.

"We sponsor a lot of surfers and extreme athletes, we do a lot of grassroots marketing, and we stay authentic. Kids can smell anything that's not," Mr. McKnight says, noting that he still surfs.

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