- Our Story
1992 - INNOVATION FROM THE BOOT OF A CAR
Scott Unsworth, a former New Zealand age group triathlon champion, had to stop competing due to a chronic back injury. Whilst working as a swim coach, and from his first hand experience in competing in triathlon, Scott realised that the wetsuits used at the time were completely inadequate for swimming.
In 1992 Scott started up a company called Performance Speedsuits Ltd, based out of his parent's house in Auckland, New Zealand. He began to develop his "Speedsuits", which featured greater flexibility and buoyancy than other existing wetsuits. The business started with Scott selling his Speedsuits from the back of his car at swim meets and triathlon events.
The Speedsuits quickly gained a following amongst athletes and the business started to grow. Scott was taking his first steps towards introducing what would become Orca, to the world.
1994 - DESIGNED BY ATHLETES, FOR ATHLETES
A young New Zealand triathlete named Hamish Carter became one of the first athletes to sign up with the company that is now Orca. Over the next 13 years Hamish Carter went on to become one of the best known triathletes in the world - culminating in a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Hamish is one of a number of athletes that Orca has had a long term relationship with. Orca does not simply supply athletes with their apparel; it uses their knowledge and expertise during the research and development of new products.
Many of Orca's most innovative new designs and features are the direct result of working with professional athletes - who else could provide the insight into what really works on the race course?
1995 - AN ORCA EMERGES FROM THE WATER
Performance Speedsuits Ltd is re-branded "Orca" after Scott Unsworth discusses potential new names in a chance conversation with a friend. The Orca is a perfect example of natural design. With every inch of its sleek, powerful body minutely attuned to the sea's rhythms, it roams the world's oceans as undisputed ruler. For a company set on achieving the pinnacle of performance in challenging environments, it's hard to envisage a better source of inspiration.
Scott chose the World Cup Triathlon event in Auckland in 1995 to launch the brand - saturating the course in Orca branding and flying one of the fastest swimmers in triathlon at the time to the event, to ensure an Orca Speedsuit is first out of the water. He also supplied Orca Speedsuits to as many competitors as he could - these bold tactics prove successful, with Orca stamping its mark on the triathlon world.
1996 - BRANCHING OUT FROM WETSUITS
Such was the success of Orca's wetsuit range; a demand amongst athletes for other sporting apparel quickly grew. By 1996 Orca had developed a range of new products in keeping with the innovation inherent in the heritage of its wetsuits.
Athletes were soon running and cycling in Orca gear and the brand's reputation for innovation and world-leading design continued to gain momentum
LATE 90's - GROWING THE BRAND
Through the mid to late 1990s Orca developed its retail capabilities, enabling it to take the brand to a wider market. It was immediately obvious that it wasn't only athletes competing at the highest level who sought out a product that provided a competitive edge.
Orca opened its first retail store, close to its base in Auckland, New Zealand. As with its products, the Orca store was design-led, seeking to challenge traditional retail sports outlets.
2000 - 0-60% IN FIVE YEARS
In five short years since Orca launched in 1995 the brand had firmly established itself as a favourite amongst the world's elite triathletes. At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, the first to feature triathlon as an official Olympic sport, two thirds of all triathlon competitors wore Orca Speedsuits in the swim leg.
An athlete wearing an Orca Speedsuit was the first out of the water, providing the Orca brand with incredible visibility to an international audience of millions.
2001 - DESIGN-LED SUCCESS
Orca products are designed and tested on athletes, not computer models. The design, materials and production techniques are always at the cutting edge. While success for the competitors who use Orca was clear, the business world began to recognise Orca in the early 2000s.
• 2001 New Zealand's Best Design Led Business Award
• 2002 Winner of the University of Otago Small Business Award at the New Zealand Marketing Magazine Awards
• 2002 Scott Unsworth, Service and Retail category winner in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards
• 2002 Recipient of an Industry New Zealand Government Grant to assist with product research, development and innovation
• 2003 Winner of Trade New Zealand Export Award in the Design and Creative category
• 2002 World's best products and athletes
• The growth of the brand beyond wetsuits was evident by the 2002 Commonwealth Games, where eight national triathlon teams wore Orca apparel. Orca signed agreements to supply sporting apparel with major sporting groups such as Bike NZ. In addition, Orca was providing the world's best products to the top athletes.
2004 - ATHENS - A GLOBAL STAGE
In 2004 Orca entrenched itself as an iconic New Zealand brand when it provided apparel for the entire New Zealand Olympic team. A small New Zealand company took on the global sports businesses and brought the brand to a whole new group of people.
The Orca brand was seen on the medal dais, and in particular long-standing Orca-sponsored athlete Hamish Carter won gold in the triathlon event.
The demand for Orca's competitive edge was such that eight different sporting disciplines at the Olympics competed in Orca gear.
2006 WORLD-FIRST INNOVATION
Orca's track record of innovation in triathlon continued with the introduction of a world-first fabric called KillaSkin. The material was more densely woven, lighter and more water-repellent than any other fabric used in triathlon. In addition, Orca introduced a world-first and exclusive neoprene called AirLite in its Apex 2 wetsuit. AirLite features air cavities within the neoprene, making it lighter, more flexible and 20 percent more buoyant than normal neoprene.
In the same year 70 percent of triathletes wore Orca apparel at the Commonwealth Games, including competitors from the New Zealand, Canadian, English and South African teams.
2007 SETTING NEW BENCHMARKS
With more than a decade of innovation in triathlon design under its belt Orca once again set a new benchmark with the introduction of a unique "AirRelease" system for wetsuits. This world-first technology allows heat and moisture to be transferred out of the wetsuit, whilst remaining impervious to water. Cameron Brown was the first triathlete to utilise this technology, wearing an Orca 3.8 Speedsuit as he crossed the finish line to win his seventh consecutive Ironman New Zealand title. He became the first ever Ironman athlete to win the same event seven times
2008 INTO THE DEEP
William Trubridge set new world records in two of the three competitive depth disciplines in freediving. Both world records were set at the 2008 Vertical Blue Invitational Freediving competition, held at Dean's Blue Hole, on Long Island in the Bahamas. William Trubridge wore an Orca Apex2 as he plunged into the deep, reaching 86m in a CNF (Constant weight, No Finns) and 108m in a FIM (Free Immersion) dive.
Courtney Atkinson has been crowned Australian Triathlon Champion for the third time
Australian Craig Alexander has been crowned Ironman World Champion for 2008, taking out the sport’s most prestigious event in Kona, Hawaii. Craig Alexander choses to wear the Orca 226, our most breathable and flexible triathon garment, perfect for the endurance athlete!
The track cyclists have enjoyed fantastic performances at the Laoshan Velodrome, assisted by the AeroSkn-based skinsuits, with a silver medal for Hayden Roulston in the individual pursuit and bronze for the team pursuit.
2009 DOUBLE IRONMAN WORLD CHAMPION
Craig Alexander backs up his 2008 win and stakes a claim as an Ironman legend, taking out the 2009 Ironman World Championship.
Cameron Brown won his eighth Ironman New Zealand title in March 2009, setting an Ironman record for number of wins at a single event, and a new course record with a time of 8.18.04.
Orca's new Alpha wetsuit quickly created a stir amongst professional triathletes, with the 40 cell neoprene, 1.5mm shoulder, back and chest panels offering flexibility never seen before.
The Orca Free free diving specific wetsuit is launched. The Free was designed in conjunction with world record holding free diver William Trubridge.
Orca is a finalist in the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Business Excellence Awards.
The Orca Store is opened in Auckland's Westhaven Marina.
2010 CAM MAKES IT NINE
Cameron Brown continues his dominance at Ironman New Zealand taking out his ninth title. Cam holds the all time record for most wins of the same event for any Ironman athlete.
Will Trubridge sets new free diving world records in his Orca Free, becoming the first man to dive unassisted past 100m.
Chris McCormack wins his second Ironman World Championship.
Emma Moffatt wins back to back ITU World Champion titles.
Orca launches a world first material called SeaMerino. It is constructed from a 50/50 blend of New Zealand Merino and SeaCell - a fibre containing active minerals and nutrients derived from seaweed.
2011 15 YEARS WITH MACCA
Chris McCormack re-signs with Orca taking his sponsorship relationship with Orca past 15 years - the longest in triathlon history.
Orca in Vogue - Orca wetsuits appear in a photo taken by Annie Leibovitz accompanying a story about open water swimming.