30 years of Animal
Discover the Animal story from the beginning, our riders, inspiration and most memorable moments
Ian Elliot, Nigel Broughton and the start of an epic journey
It all started with two surfers, Ian Elliot and Nigel Broughton, friends from university, with a shared love of chasing waves, riding fresh powder, or biking headlong down a mountainside. Life was about getting out there, searching for the next adrenalin rush, travelling the world and enjoying every minute.
Whilst being drilled by heavy waves somewhere off South Africa, they hit upon a concept that would win the recognition of action sports fans far and wide— an unbreakable hook and loop watch strap designed to withstand the rigours of the ocean.
Heading back to local shores, the pair began creating prototypes and soon the first hook and loop watch strap was ready to go. With its rugged, functional nature and bright fluro colours, it quickly caught on among the like-minded action sports community and the Animal brand was born.
The original ‘social network'
Thanks to its ‘unbreakable’ design and distinctive claw logo, orders were soon rolling in for the watch strap. Needing a little more space than the back bedroom, it was time to officially set up shop and so the first Animal HQ was opened in a modest little room in Poole. As business picked up, Ian and Nigel were able to call on the original ‘social network’ in the local action sports community for support with marketing and sales, or simply packing up orders.
“We were a group of windsurfing friends in Poole, working in the attic of the local windsurfing shop. We grew from there to an international brand. The qualities we shared growing together are like childhood memories.“
Animal’s first ever rider.
Making time for adventure
The move from watch straps to watches made perfect sense so the design and research process began to create a timepiece that offered flawless functionality, combined with rugged durability.
“The very first Animal watch was the W001 Glow.”
1994/5 was the year Animal took to the mountains—heading downhill at crazy speeds.
Steve Kitchin set up the sponsorship of their first local downhill MTB team and with the likes of Steve Geall, Robin Kitchin and Tim Ponting (1996) it wasn’t long before the team went on to dominate the UK circuit.
A promising young grom called Alan Stokes joined the team...
Little did we know that 3 British Championship titles and 23 years later the relationship would still be going strong!
“Animal’s commitment and confidence in me has been critical to my progression as a surfer.”
From a single product, Animal was now ready to introduce a dedicated men’s apparel collection. Obviously it was totally 90s and seriously rad!
The first Animal watch specifically designed for women went into production.
“Animal’s hook and loop watch straps and bright faced timepieces were all the rage.”
1997 was the year Team Animal went big, at the heart of the action across a growing range of sports from downhill MTB, motocross and surf, to wakeboarding, snowboarding and BMX.
Early Animal legends included the likes of: Timo Mullen, Tim Ponting, Guy Cribb, Alan Stokes, Stefan Gimpl, Robin Kitchin, Russell Winter, Sunny Garcia, Greg Minnaar, Shea Lopez...
1997 saw Team Animal enter their first world cup race.
"We turned up looking factory in our awesome team van that Steve Kitchin (Animal team manager) had sorted out. We walked the track and just couldn’t believe how rocky and technical it was!
We were one of the first teams to have the new Mr T triple clamp forks (I can still remember sprinting into a pile of bricks to test them out to see how flexy they were, they weren’t!!)”
Great partnerships were established, including the Animal Giant Downhill Racing Team, with the additional power of Cadbury’s boost and Playstation! The Animal truck became a home from home for the team.
The formation of one of Animal’s most epic teams–Animal Orange. Featuring the likes of Glyn O’Brien, Tim Ponting, Andy Bostock, Robin Kitchin, Steve Geall, Adele Coxon, and Greg Minnaar, the team became one of the most iconic on the downhill scene.
Orange developed the Patriot bike for the team, working closely with the riders to engineer the optimum design.
“The Patriot is where it all began, from the Animal Orange days through to Global Racing, the bike that influenced a whole generation of riders. The Patriot is for the mega pinner, the rider needing something different for how they hit the trails.”
Animal gets technical
Whilst Team Animal was expanding, the Animal range was doing likewise. Women’s, kids’ and technical collections were introduced in ‘99.
In 2001 Animal hit the high street. Opening our first store in London’s Carnaby Street.
Today we have 35 stores in the UK and are represented across 20 different countries internationally.
Pro snowboarder Johno Verity signs with Animal.
"Animal sponsorship enabled me to travel and focus on my riding, I learnt to surf because of this help too!"
The Animal Bike Tour
Martyn Ashton signs and the Animal Bike Tour is created. A whole new generation of young riders are inspired by the tour, with Martyn pushing the crew to new heights year on year.
“I was chatting with a young rider at one of the Animal Bike Tour shows a few weeks back. We had a great time talking about different lines to ride and afterwards I was as buzzed about riding as he was.”
Young guns Dan, Gee and Rachel Atherton join the Animal program as juniors, taking the team to a whole new level of international competition performance and freeride action.
“They were talented, raw, unpredictable and we loved them.”
A home from home
Animal House in Poole becomes HQ for the brand. From small beginnings in a back bedroom we’ve come a long way!
Today you’ll still find us here, all under one roof, driving the brand forward for a new generation.
Team Animal Commencal
Animal celebrate our 20th Anniversary by forming a brand new team—Animal Commencal with long-time Animal riders Dan, Gee and Rachel Atherton.
It was also the opportunity to introduce some striking new kit!
“Inspiration for the kit was taken from Animal’s original zebra stripe hook and loop watch strap of 1987. As part of Animal’s 20th Anniversary, selected team riders from pro teams across board and bike sports will carry exclusive zebra graphics.”
A record breaking year
Guy Cribb (along with Antoine Albeau) becomes the first windsurfer to cross the English Channel from Cherbourg to Poole, raising money for the Ellen Macarthur Trust.
“We sailed from one country to another in a storm, never had to change sail and battled the whole journey in the harshest of conditions with a sinking boat.”
Rachel Atherton becomes the first British woman to win the Elite UCI Downhill World Championship, with older brother Gee also nailing the men’s title.
Martyn Ashton enters the MTB Hall of Fame. In his stellar career he has been British Champion four times, World Champion and Guinness World Record holder (twice) and is also the man credited with bringing trials to the international stage.
Freeriding dirt jump star and all round top guy, Blake Samson, joins the Animal Bike Tour.
“I was SOOOOO stoked to be asked to ride with Martyn Ashton and Pilgz. From watching the Animal Bike Tour when I was growing up and getting a wallet signed by Martyn himself, and then to be riding along side him was like a dream come true.”
Animal joins the e-commerce world, launching the online shop.
Animal launch our own wetsuit range. Our ‘rider refined’ programme means designs are constantly tested and refined by the Animal Team to create suits offering maximum performance. This is a process we still follow today.
We also run some pretty awesome wetsuit ads, featuring our very own Alan Stokes.
“Engineered by Animals. Tested on humans.”
Road Bike Party
In 2012 Martyn Ashton hits the radar of roadies, taking on the seemingly impossible by using an unmodified carbon road bike to perform a series of incredible acrobatic tricks. Shot on locations across the UK, Road Bike Party, and its sequel, amass millions of views and garner a whole new legion of fans.
3 x British Champion
Stokesy wins his 3rd British Championship title as well as also scoring top spot at Night Surf. (He must like surfing in the dusk as this is the 5th time he’s won the crown!)
Hitting the slopes
Animal representation reaches new levels with pro snowboarder Dom Harrington and half pipe skier Murray Buchan selected for Team GB at the Sochi Olympics.
“Making it to the Olympics was a childhood dream come true and I absolutely loved everything about the whole experience. Thank you so much for supporting me, especially over these last few years.”
On less snowy slopes, new Team Animal addition, Manon Carpenter, is crowned UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Champion.
“All of us who ride bikes – whatever level it is – experience the exhilaration and freedom of riding. For some, and especially for me, that sticks and never goes away.”
Back On Track
In 2013 Martyn Ashton suffered a life changing accident during a bike trials demo at Silverstone Moto GP. However, this didn’t end his passion for MTB, and after many months of rehabilitation, Martyn returned with ‘Back On Track,’ which sees him heading down the Antur Stiniog trail in North Wales on a sit-ski seat adapted bike with long-time mates MacAskill, Akrigg and Samson. The video becomes a global sensation.
“I couldn’t be happier. It’s just so overwhelming. It was nerve-wracking to wait for the others to finish but I felt like I had done enough.”
Animal rider, Madi Rowlands, makes history after becoming Team GB’s first Winter Youth Olympic Games medallist on snow, taking gold in the ladies’ halfpipe event at Lillehammer 2016. We are stoked!
Back in time
Drawing on our horological heritage we release a capsule watch collection for 2016, including the Z42, inspired by the very first Animal 001 watch series.
30 years young
To celebrate our 30th Anniversary we take a trip back into the Animal archives to release a capsule collection with original logo reissues and retro 80s patterns—paying homage to one of the very first Animal watch strap designs.
It’s been a blast. 30 years of adventure and many more to come....