Quiksilver/Boardriders CEO Pierre Agnes Missing at Sea
The first alert that something was amiss in the life of Pierre Agnes was seen by most on Kelly Slater’s Instagram. On the morning of Tuesday, January 30, Slater posted a photo of a shirtless man wearing a green hat with a large sportfish on a boat that appeared to be called Mascaret – the French word for the tidal bores that move up the rivers that feed into the Bay of Biscay.
I love this man. @pierre_agnes went missing in Hossegor today when his boat washed ashore in the cold, early morning fog. I’m praying for a miracle but it’s just starting to hit me what a profound effect this man had on my life and the surf community at large. He loved his morning fishing trips, family, @quiksilver, surfing, friends, motorbikes, Capbreton… I’m not even sure how to let it sink in.”
Kelly Slater’s Instagram from the morning of January 30, 2018.
The man Kelly was concerned about and wanted to honor was Pierre Agnes, a 54-year-old father of three who had a long history in the surf industry, beginning in 1988 when he became Team Manager for Quiksilver. Agnes worked in various capacities for Quiksilver in France According to Shop-Eat-Surf, Pierre joined Quiksilver in 1988 as team manager, then worked in various capacities throughout the company’s European marketing operations. Agnes was appointed Managing Director of Quiksilver Europe in 2003, then President of Quiksilver Europe in 2005. Agnes became Global Head of Apparel in 2013, Company President in 2014 and was Quiksilver CEO since 2015.
In the Orange County register, Quiksilver honcho Bob McKnight said Agnes joined Quiksilver when he was a teen, at the time a stand-out surfer who won the national title in France.
He worked small jobs at Quiksilver, always a great kid and fun to be around. He grew up in the company, went through every regime and ended up being CEO. Agnes was a disciplined businessman – smart and quiet with how he approached everything.
He just did his job, and he’s very close to the people close to him. He’s a quiet stallion at work and family and friendships, and got his job done, thoroughly. He never really slept, he was up all night on his e-mails. He was better at numbers than I ever was.
Agnes was at or near the helm of Quiksilver through all the swells and bumps and turbulence the company experienced out of the 20th Century and into the 21st. The undulations of the surf industry are a metaphor for the ocean waters of the Bay of Biscay, which Agnes regularly navigated in his 36-foot fishing boat Mascaret III. All who knew Agnes knew he was a talented man who loved suring, loved the ocean, loved his immediate family and his Quiksilver family.
Former Surfer Magazine Art Director David Carson remembered being called to France to do branding for the Quiksilver Pro France:
The day I arrived in France, Pierre was out towing into some of the biggest, best beachbreak waves I’d ever seen. He was an absolute joy to work with, and his main objective was to show off the area, land, the trees, the colors, the waves. Everything he’d grown up with and loved. He seemed to have figured it all out – life, work, love, play.. He was the real deal.
Agnes loved to start his day either surfing, or fishing from Mascaret III. On the morning of Tuesday, January 30, Agnes left Capbreton Harbor at 7:30 AM. There were reports Agnes sent a message to shore indicating he was delaying his return due to thick fog. Only two hours later, the Mascaret III was found flooded and washed ashore north of La Graviere – where the Quiksilver Pro is held every year.
A daytime search was launched, with three helicopters and two boats scouring the area, and rescue officials and friends keeping a watch from land. Conditions were reported as rough seas with light winds and clear visibility. But this is the Bay of Biscay in winter – at 43° north, that’s the equivalent of falling overboard in February north of Crescent City, or in New Hampshire.
The all-day Tuesday search was called off at 8:00 PM as the Internet rang with tributes and concern for one of the most solid citizens of the international surf community. At that time, Quiksilver issued an official statement:
Early this morning our CEO, Pierre Agnes, did what he did many mornings and went fishing on his beloved boat to start his day.
Later in the morning his boat was recovered on the beach near his hometown and Pierre has not been heard from since. The Boardriders family and entire surfing world are devastated by this news.
Given the situation on the ground is still evolving, our statements today will be limited. We are concentrating on working with the local authorities on the search and rescue effort and supporting Pierre’s family.
Please keep Pierre and his family in your prayers. Thank you.
The search in the Bay of Biscay continued at daylight on Wednesday, with two Personal Watercraft and a French Coast Guard patrol boat joining in. That search was cancelled at 2:35 PM local time, with a French rescue official declaring teams,
We’re looking for clues which could have washed up along the beaches. Other than that, we also continue our investigation to try to understand … the circumstances of his disappearance … and to reconstruct the timeline and the facts to better understand the situation.
All surfers know that the ocean is the definition of “shit happens” and anything could have happened to someone even as experienced as Pierre Agnes: A rogue wave, slipping overboard. Agnes was fishing alone which can turn a minor mishap into a major tragedy.
It appears one of the most reliable members of the Quiksilver family and surf community is gone, at a time when Quiksilver is consolidating with Billabong under the new corporate banner “Boardriders.”
They will need a new leader, but by all accounts, Agnes’ booties will be difficult to fill.