Three’s Company

21 01 2010

For the greater part of three decades three surf companies have dominated professional surfing in terms of event sponsorship money and world titles. Nugable takes a closer look at the situation.

Most sports have Nike and Reebok. Surfing has Quiksilver, Billabong and Rip Curl. Since 1982 only four surfers have won the ASP World Championship without one of the Big 3’s stickers on their board (Barton Lynch/Instinct, Derek Ho/Gotcha, Martin Potter/Gotcha and CJ Hobgood/Globe). Since 1990 it has essentially happened twice.

It leads one to wonder if there’s a conspiracy and whether or not a surfer not sponsored by Rip Curl, Quiksilver or Billabong will ever win a world title again?

“I think the answer is yes,” says veteran Australian journalist Tim Baker. “I don’t think there is a conspiracy. Have a look at event winners over the past few years and there is not a high incidence of surfers winning their own sponsor’s events. It happens here or there, Parko at J-Bay, Mick (Fanning) in Portugal, but not enough to suggest a conspiracy, and there was nothing contentious about those wins. It would be a bit too obvious anyway and I think ASP head judge Perry Hatchett is a man of enormous integrity.”

The last time a surfer not sponsored by the Big 3 won the title was in 2001 when Florida’s CJ Hobgood took home the crown in a season cut short by the tragedy and uncertainty of the events surrounding 9/11.

“I was the last one to do it, but mine doesn’t count,” said former ASP world champion CJ Hobgood. “Look at any sport…golf, tennis, etc.  I mean when was the last time a world number one in golf or tennis wasn’t sponsored by Nike or maybe Adidas? (When) you have the most money it’s pretty easy to get the best athletes.”

Looking back, 2002 was the turning point for the ASP when the majority of the events (8/12) main sponsors were one of the Big 3. Since then the Big 3 have essentially controlled the ASP’s World Championship Tour. In 2010 they account for 8 of the 10 events.

An oligarchy is a form of power that effectively rests with a small, elite group of inside individuals. It can be argued that the ASP operates as a corporate oligarchy. Behind the scenes there are always people who complain about surfers getting “pushed” in heats.

Transworld Surf editor-in-chief Chris Cote suggests there is a morsel of truth to that argument. “I don’t think it happens often, but I think the judges, just like the media, get caught up in the hype and push the ‘it’ guys through sometimes.”

Let’s face it, today there are only a handful of surfers with a realistic chance at a title—Kelly Slater, Andy Irons, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Bede Durbidge and Taj Burrow. All except Durbidge ride for the Big 3. The current number-three in the world was recently picked up by Fox when his primary sponsor, Mada, went belly up.

There is no question the large surf companies do a fantastic job of signing, finding and nurturing talent. Just look at the junior’s scene today. Owen Wright, a 2010 WCT rookie, is a Rip Curl Team rider, as is 16-year-old Brazilian phenom Gabriel Medina.

“The big companies have the resources to get the best guys,” says Cote. “It used to be kids would come up riding for smaller companies, and then get snatched by the bigger companies. Now you see big companies like Target and Nike snatching up kids from the biggest surf companies.”

A perfect example is the recent signing of 9-time NSSA national champ Kolohe Andino by Nike. He bolsters an already impressive lineup of young Nike surfers that includes Dusty Payne, Nat Young, Kai Barger and Michel Bourez. Yesterday, Target also signed the up-and-coming San Clemente teenager. He joins Carissa Moore on team Target and more surfers will surely follow.

Baker suggests subtler forces may also play a role. “Yes, these companies do a good job of picking up the cream of the talent pool, but they also do a really good job of marketing those guys and showcasing their surfing in video and photos, so that we all get a slightly elevated view of their prowess compared to their less-well sponsored peers. If, say, Tom Whittaker was sponsored by one of the Big 3 he would be a lot more visible and we would all be more firmly convinced of how hard he rips. I think this even unconsciously can rub off on the judges at times and get the high-profile guys through tight heats. But I think all concerned know if it became a case of obvious bias pro surfing would quickly lose whatever legitimacy it has.”

If you aspire to be a world champ someday, just to be safe, you’d better make sure you sign on the dotted line with one of these three companies. Or at least until Nike and Target take over.


The Chris Cote Interview

4 12 2009

Like him on not  Chris Cote has made himself into a surf media enigma. More than 10 years ago he helped launch Transworld SURF when there was heavy competition from several well-established American surf magazines. One thing I like about Chris is he takes criticism well and doesn’t take himself too seriously. He agreed to steer bravely through my gauntlet of questioning.

From what I understand you are laid up with an injury. What happened?
Tore my ACL and MCL skateboarding in Chicago last year, kept re-injuring it and decided it was time to fix it.

What is your typical day like at Transworld?
Come in around 7:30 or 8, straight to the coffee, check emails, get online and go through a few sites, talk shit with my crew, most likely have some form of meeting for a few hours about what we’re going to eat for lunch, eat lunch, have a few beers, go back to work, watch some TV, then attempt to write a story or two, make some calls, blah, blah, blah—finish the day with a glass or red wine at my desk.

What is the story or integral part of the magazine you are most proud of?
The whole thing.

Least proud of?
I try to be proud of everything we put out.

Proud of everything? Really? Be a little more specific.
I know what you’re trying to do here, yes, there are some articles I won’t be cutting out and pinning of my fridge. But as an overall product, I like everything Transworld SURF does.

Surfer just celebrated its 50th anniversary. Transworld SURF just turned 10. The traditional anniversary gift after 10 years is aluminum or tin. What should I get you? A case of Red Bull?
You should get me this.

What did you think of the Surfer 50th anniversary issue?
I liked the charts the best, it was a good issue. I think it was exactly what people wanted out of a 5oth anniversary issue, which is a good thing. I loved the poster with all the covers. Looking at that was like a trip down memory lane.

The average reader of Transworld is in high school. You are about 5 years away from Social Security. Is it difficult to relate to the kids?
Surfing keeps you young, and like Wooderson said, “I get older, they stay the same age.”

Is it a challenge writing for a magazine aimed at readers who can’t read?
Is a challenge to do a web site that nobody sees?

How much do advertisers pay for the cover shot?
Depends which advertisers and how much clothing they have given me over the last few years.

When you took the job at TW were you hesitant due to the fact there were already like 16 major American surf mags at the time?
Not really. I was actually one of the people who started Transworld SURF , and if there were 16 at the time, there are only three now (not including Surfer’s Journal which is my favorite).

Transworld’s roots are in skateboarding and snowboarding. I think both skateboards and snowboards are surfers at heart. Does this automatically seat you at the cool kids table at the Transworld office?
No, my wit and charm gets me at the cool kids table.

Dennis has a system to lure females. What is the Cote method?
My system is easy. I take chicks to see New Moon and when the wolf kid rips his shirt off I do the same thing, stand up on my seat, pull my pants off, howl, and then just pounce on the poor girl. The only female I have been trying to lure into anything lately is my wife, and what works for her is taking out the trash, making the bed, putting my shoes away, etc.

Who is the best underexposed surfer today and why don’t you cover him more?
Jesse Ventura has a lot of good things to say, he’s never been in our magazine—hopefully he will be soon.

Is San Diego the best city in America because it means whale’s vagina or because of the weather and surf?
Neither, it’s because of the Mexican food.

TW Surf is never shy about featuring young scantily-clad females in its pages. What are your thoughts on the recent Stab cover controversy? It’s international news now. I think I saw a story about it in a Polish newspaper. I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I understand Polish and Nugable is the number-one surf blog there.
I think that cover was artistic and tasteful. I don’t see why fashion mags can get away with it without any recourse. In the end, it will be good for Stab.

You are filling in for Pat Parnell on The Daily Habit? What else? Have you seen Brent Rickenbaugh naked?
Yeah, on top of being a Fuel TV correspondent I am one of the guest hosts for  The Daily Habit. I also DJ, play shows, MC/DJ weddings, etc.—I don’t want my wife to work, so I have to work three or four jobs. I like being busy. And yes, I’ve seen Brent naked once. His body was smooth like pudding skin and he glowed like a post-coitus pre-teen. It was magnificent.

When I log onto TW SURF it takes an hour to load. What’s the deal? I have a fast computer too.
Fuck, I don’t know. It drives us crazy too.

Transworld Surf to Re-Produce Surfing Mag in its Entirety

25 11 2009

Today it was announced Transworld Surf will forgo all original editorial and produce a magazine identical to Surfing Magazine every month.

It was a logical step in the evolution of the 10-year-old magazine which was lambasted online recently for “poaching” Surfing’s cover photo this month.

The move will save millions and put them on the path to profitability by 2212.

Yesterday, Surfing’s Assistant to the Assistant Photo Editor Jimmy “Jimmicane” Wilson posted a rant on titled “Jimmy Wilson is Used to this Bullshit.

In the post Wilson said, “This blatant lack of respect and order in surf photography will eventually lead to the downfall of professional surf photographers and also may eventually spell the end of surf magazines altogether.”

“It’s true,” admitted Transworld Surf Editor-In-Chief Chris Cote. We have been living in the editorial closet so to speak for years. It’s time to come out. We aren’t copying them though. Our generation calls it sampling. If Kayne West samples an R&B classic he’s considered a genius. How is this any different? Frankly, I’m surprised it took this long to notice the similarities. Surfers are stupid really. But if we throw in a few shots of scantly-clad females no one notices.”

Cote said the February issue won’t be an exact replica. “It just wouldn’t be Transworld without a Broism or two. Like this one. What do you call a Bro who wears no condom…someone who likes to go Ruff Ryder style? Give up? A Teddy Brosevelt.”

Inside A Transworld Surf Editorial Meeting Part II

20 10 2009


Inside the Transworld headquarters in Carlsbad, California.

Editor Chris Cote storms in…

Chris Cote: Okay, quiet down everyone. As tradition dictates let’s give thanks to our savior, leader and mentor… aSalaam ‘Alaykum Sal Masakala!

Everyone: Sal Masakala aSalaam

Chris Cote: Okay brozas. Welcome. Research tells us we aren’t so doing hot in several key demographics. Sure… we have the whole pre-teen and clergy crowd down skippy, but we ain’t testing well in Middle America.

Liam Ferguson: Yes! Mid-dul America! I already have the ad department working on Cheeze Whiz and Walmart.

Chris Cote: Okay bros…any ideas?

Liam Ferguson: (Stands up…stretching…) I have to excuse myself. I have a fundraiser sponsored by the San Diego Chamber of Commerce and the NRA. Duty calls.

Justin Cote: (coughing…places hash pipe gingerly on boardroom table… ) Boat trip… Indo.

Chris Cote: Uh, wasn’t that your idea last month?

Justin Cote: Okay. Bass fishing excursion with tow-ats on fan boats? Kind of a Deliverance meets Modern Collective vibe.

Chris Cote: Awesome. That’s not a half bad idea. Mitch Coleburn did look pretty saucy with that moustache in Surfing Mag.

Casey Koteen: Uh…I don’t think there are any waves where there’s bass fishing.

Chris Cote: Heck there’s no waves on the entire East Coast but that still doesn’t stop Eastern Surf from producing a magazine every month.

Casey Koteen: Good point.

Aaron Checkwood: (adjusts monocle…speaks in a thick German accent) All of these photos are crap. (slams fist)

Chris Cote: Here we go again.

Justin Cote: How about a NASCAR photo feature. No… I got it. How’z about you send me and Chris Ward to Colorado and do the whole Bubble Boy thing. ‘Where’s Wardo. Is he in the balloon? Am I retarded for watching this?’ It will be huge. Cross promotion and all that shit.

Casey Koteen: Lost would pay top dollar for that type of placement. AND…we can interview Wardo’s alarm clock.

Justin Cote: Do they have alarm clocks in jail? I’m just sayin’.

Chris Cote: Hey broza? Why don’t we just have Wardo edit the issue? The Joel Tudor SURFER issue was huge. When Transworld turns 50 I suppose we’ll start mailing it in too.

Aaron Checkwood: Uh guys? There’s a world title race going on. Joel Parkinson?…Mick Fanning?….ring a bell?

Justin Cote: Come on Cheekwooooood! Fuck those guys. It’s all about Dane Reynolds yo. Ry Craike…Dusty Payne….Julian Wilson…represent bitches. You know we care even less about the WCT than Volcom.

Chris Cote: That’s right… we know who our daddy is. (nervous laughter) Okay, we’re done here. This meeting is adjourned. All Hail Masakala!

Everyone: Sal Masakala aSalaam

Click here for Part 1 of Inside a Trasworld Surf Editorial Meeting