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Encinitas company sees business swell with ‘Shark Tank’ appearance

Mark Cuban with Wes Horbatuck and Greg Ofre of Driftline on "Shark Tank."
Mark Cuban with Wes Horbatuck and Greg Ofre of Driftline on “Shark Tank.”
(Christopher Willard/ABC)

Driftline specializes in double-action board shorts called Drifties

Encinitas-based company Driftline proudly represented their city and brand on the May 13 episode of ABC’s “Shark Tank”.

Founded in 2019 by best friends and avid surfers Wes Horbatuck and Greg Orfe, the apparel brand’s signature product are Drifties, a two-in-one board short with a patent-pending built-in neoprene liner connected to a stylish outer shell offering comfort, warmth and chafe protection. The modern board short that works like a wetsuit comes in a variety of colors and designs from black camo to seafoam green.

On the episode, two of the Sharks bit and they got very positive feedback from Sharks Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner, who thought the product was “super smart” and “phenomenally creative.” While they didn’t make deal that day, they were most excited to show the world a product they really believe is the next big thing for water sports apparel: “We’ve put our heart and soul into this project,” Orfe said.

Driftline's signature apparel, "Drifties".
(Courtesy)

It ended up being a wild, crazy weekend after airing— their website exploded and they were fielding questions from new customers. Luckily, they were uber-prepared, knowing companies featured on “Shark Tank” can expect to capture 50,000 to 200,000 unique visitors the weekend after an airdate.

In the two-week sprint leading up to Shark Tank, the entrepreneurs had prepped their social media, stocked their inventory and optimized their website to take advantage of their moment to shine.

“People came out of the woodwork and showed an incredible amount of support,” Horbatuck said. “That has been really awesome.”

“It’s been tremendous to feel that support,” Orfe echoed.

Horbatuck lives near Beacons Beach in Leucadia and he and his wife’s home serves as Driftline’s headquarters.

Horbatuck and Orfe, self-proclaimed watermen and ocean-lovers, were college roommates at Elon University in North Carolina. After layovers in New York City (Horbatuck) and Washington D.C. (Orfe) in 2015, they both moved to San Diego and adopted the lifestyle: “Living the dream,” Orfe said.

Far from retail, Horbatuck comes from a background in the financial/tech world and Orfe’s background was in sales and graphic design.

The avid surfers had their “aha” moment for Driftline before a morning surf in San Diego in the fall when it was too warm for a full traditional wetsuit, but too cold for board shorts. They knew there had to be a better way and set out to create one.

There were many iterations as they perfected the design and material and went through many manufacturers, doing their R&D on the beaches in front of Horbatuck’s house, each version slightly more enhanced.

The line has since grown to offer more than 13 styles, selling out multiple times.

The shorts are sold mostly direct to consumers through their website but they can be found at West Coast Paddle Sports in Clairemont and the Alila Marea Beach Resort.

The guys had been fans of “Shark Tank”, now in its 13th season, and had been through a long and extensive application process to get on the show. The filming about a year ago was the first time they had actually seen each other in-person in almost a year because of COVID—the admitted perfectionists rehearsed their pitch over and over in their hotel room and over-prepped by grilling each other with every question they might be asked.

They went into taping confident but the memory of the day is a blur.

“I think it was just a brain buster for us because we couldn’t believe this had happened for our small two-person business,” Orfe said.

Being on camera was no biggie for the guys, they have been posting and making videos for Driftline for the last couple years, selling the product on social media. “We were pretty dialed in,” Horbatuck said.

On their episode, dressed in Drifties, they were seeking $100,000 for 10% equity in the company.

Shark Robert Herjavec was in but he wouldn’t do it for 10%—he said he would give more money, $150,000, for a 33.3 % stake, wanting them to ramp up faster. The guys would not agree. Shark Daymond John also quickly offered $100,000 for 20% but when the guys didn’t immediately accept, he was out. After some bargaining, Herjavec came down to 28% but they stuck to their guns and said no.

“We just weren’t willing to give up a third of what we’ve worked so hard at,” Orfe said on the show. “But at the end of the day it didn’t feel like his heart was in it and that’s what we’re in for so that’s the reason we were out.”

“We had gone in with numbers in mind and we, unfortunately, couldn’t come to an agreement with the Sharks,” Horbatuck said.

“It was so exciting that we actually got offers, it was so mind-blowing to us,” Orfe followed up. “It really solidified the feeling that Wes and I have that we have an investable business.”

The Sharks have buoyed their confidence to continue to grow their business. Beyond surfing, they hope to expand into all water sports and meet their unique needs—Drifties already have found fans in kite surfers in Northern California and wakeboarders in Florida.

But nothing beats being on a hometown surf session and seeing Drifties out in the wild.

“I’m blown away when I see guys wearing our shorts and they’re not friends or family,” Horbatuck said. “It’s still cool, I have to pinch myself.”

To shop, visit https://driftline.co/


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