Earn Your Salt.

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Original Watermen President Recounts History of Company

For the first time, Ken Miller, president of Original Watermen, shares information about the beginning of the company and its vision for the future.

In the beginning, Original Waterman began as a dream. The year was 1978, and like so many great things, it started in the back of a VW bus. The craze of surf and beach lifestyle that began in the 60’s blanketed the continent and stormed the globe. While the world witnessed the first Sundance Film Festival, Space Invaders, and the legendary surfing of Mark Richards and Rabbit Bartholomew, local college student, surfer and lifeguard Ken Miller began making and selling water trunks. The first customers were Carlsbad locals and eventually the State of California lifeguards signed on for 36 red shorts.

The budding enterprise grew from the back of a VW bus with Ken leading the charge and his girlfriend, Jennifer, now his wife, designing and managing production. The pair would eventually outfit over 2,000 organizations from local and state agency lifeguards and fire fighters to military special forces. The company born from lifeguard boardshorts eventually branched out into the retail and mail order company, Thousand Mile.

In April 2005, Ken and Jen sold Thousand Mile, opening the door to focus all their energy on the core Watermen/ lifeguard business. Original Watermen, as a company, was created with a solitary vision: provide the best quality, fit, and performance in every garment. "Few industries have the opportunity to test their metal each time a great set rolls in," says Ken Miller. "We’re fortunate, we do. At Original Watermen we measure our success by the quality of our products and the satisfaction of our customers."

Ken Miller notes that Original Watermen's vision for the future is similar to that of many other startup businesses. "If you boil it all down, we’re all pretty similar. 'Surf’s Up' and 'gone fishin' or 'No friends on a powder day' speak volumes about who we are individually but also collectively. We’ll take it warm, cold, salty, fresh or frozen, but however you take yours, we are admittedly addicted to water. Anatomically we’re over 70 percent water by volume. I’ve had the good fortune of spending a lifetime on water. Surfing, fishing, paddling, swimming, you name it, I’ve been hooked my whole life. I’ve taught ocean rescue to fellow firefighters in Half Moon Bay and ridden the crystalline faces at Teahupoo. I’ve sailed to Hawaii and paddled in BC. With every experience, my conclusions never change: watermen are watermen. From Eskimo fishermen to Polynesian outrigger racers, maybe mankind would be better named watermankind."

Original Waterman has one goal: provide the best quality, fit, and performance in every garment. This is a company that has been there and wants to be there for customers every step of the way.


Original Watermen, created by Ken Miller, provides quality surf and swim gear for more than 2,000 lifeguard agencies nationwide. Original Watermen's motto, "Earn Your Salt," not only refers to the surf and lifeguard lifestyle but to the high quality standards the company sets for each of its products.

For More Information:

Leif Madron
Original Watermen
1198 Joshua Way
Vista, California 92081
(760) 599-0990