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Chairmen of the Board (Shorts)

SMALL BUSINESS: Driftline’s Debuts New Eco-Conscious Apparel

College roommates on the East Coast more than a decade ago, Greg Orfe and Wes Horbatuck turned an “aha” moment in the cool water of Pacific Beach into a unique line of swimwear. The duo’s 2022 appearance on the reality TV show Shark Tank exponentially helped their online board shorts business take off, allowing them to scale their product.

Greg Orfe
Co-Founder
Driftline

Horbatuck and Orfe’s Driftline brand of wetsuit-material lined Drifties shorts are made of a breathable stretchy polyester fabric blend with water-repellent coating on the outside attached to a neoprene lining offering warmth, support and protection on the inside.

Most notably, the patented shorts provide cushioning and prevent the painful inner-thigh chafing so well-known – and universally loathed – from fabrics that irritate the skin while in and out of water.

Since 2019, Driftline has offered a line of eco-conscious apparel being sold online direct-to-consumer that helps watersport athletes – from swimmers to kayakers to wakeboarders – stay comfortable and fashionable both in the water and out.

Horbatuck and Orfe partner with what they call “a select group of watersport athletes, content creators and epic individuals” who they say represent the things they value in life and include filmmaker and surfer Jackson Lebsack and professional wakeboarder Jaden Reichl.

Wes Horbatuck
Co-Founder
Driftline

In time for Earth Day celebrations in 2023, Leucadia-based Driftline recently launched a sustainable brand of their shorts called Eco Drifties. Using the same post-consumer recycled materials in their original line of shorts, the production of the sustainable-focused eco line of apparel produces far less waste and has a lower dependency on petrochemicals.

Driftline works with Singtex Industrial Co., a bluesign-certfied company based in Taiwan and Vietnam, which uses eco-friendly processes, products and materials.

Horbatuck and Orfe say the new version of Drifties saves 70% of the water for future re-use during manufacturing. It also uses only half of the energy compared with traditional apparel machinery and can then reuse 30% of that heat energy during production. Along with that, the process for Eco Drifties emits 50% less carbon into the atmosphere.

Connecticut-born Horbatuck and Philadelphia area native Orfe both moved to San Diego at nearly the same time, but separately, a few years after they parted as college roommates.

Four years later, the friends were busy working day jobs – Orfe in sales, Horbatuck in tech – but one early October morning the friends found some time to get together in PB. As they were paddling out at the popular surf spot at Tourmaline Street Beach when “it was too cold to wear board shorts and too warm to don a wetsuit,” Horbatuck says, the two realized “there has to be a better way.”

Together over the next few years they continued to stay in contact and collaborate – and eventually created their innovative board shorts.

While the initial idea for the product germinated in 2015, they didn’t begin bootstrapping the funding of their company until 2019, even as they worked – and still continue to work – other fulltime jobs. Driftline has operated lean from the start, Horbatuck said, and still has only the two founders as employees.

In between 2015 and the official birth of Driftline were several key planning moments.

The biggest: Orfe was attending graphic design classes at night at San Diego City College when one part of his coursework required a project showing “something starting from the ground up,” he said.

“We had come up with the idea for Driftline and at the end of the semester in 2017, we had come out with something that was pretty tightened up,” Orfe said. “The professors cleared it so we had the concept in hand for business branding.”

Horbatuck has a financial background that includes an MBA from New York University and also has long-term connections in what he calls “the subculture arts underground world of surfing” on the East Coast.

In 2020, while the pandemic hurt many businesses, Driftline’s sales started to climb once beaches opened and people headed to the water.

Interest in board sports exploded at that time, Horbatuck said, and the company started to focus its efforts on reaching a demographic willing to spend about $100 on shorts – pushing out toward the paddleboard and kayaking communities. The company made about $150,000 in revenue in its first year.

Since that time, Driftline has continued to grow and invest, and has been able to start scaling.

The duo said a big part of their growth is tied to Shark Tank, even though they didn’t land an investor. But their appearance on the show drove sales in a big way. Driftline launched its spring 2022 line and three weeks later Orfe and Horbatuck’s Shark Tank episode aired.

“We probably sold about 2,500 units in the next 2- to 5-month period of time,” Orfe said.

Because of that success, they were able to sock away some money to scale Driftline and made the decision to create Eco Drifties. “With some money in the bank, we can offer a product where our values are meeting our technology, and it’s very cool,” Horbatuck said.

Driftline

FOUNDED: 2019
CO-FOUNDERS: Greg Orfe and Wes Horbatuck
HEADQUARTERS: Leucadia
BUSINESS: Water sport apparel
EMPLOYEES: 2
WEBSITE: driftline.co
CONTACT: info@driftline.co
SOCIAL IMPACT: The company is part of 1% for the Planet and Driftline also assists Feeding San Diego with various needs.
NOTABLE: Their appearance on Shark Tank in 2022 “blew sales out of the water,” the co-founders say.

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