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.

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Surfing Prophecies for 2010

7 01 2010

Michel de Nostredame, also known as Nostradamus, was born in 1503 and was a French apothecary and reputed seer whose prophecies have been analysed and debated for centuries. Many give him credit for predicting the rise of Hitler and Napoleon, 9/11, both world wars, and the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Like most seers, Nostradamus was vague in his writings. His “success” was essentially based on misinterpretation and his reputation as a prophet is largely manufactured by modern-day supporters. Well, I don’t play that game. I’m a little more direct. I tell it like it is.

The Surfing Prophecies for 2010 are as follows:

-The Rebel Tour will not get off the ground in 2010. It will be shut down like Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg.

-CJ Hobgood will enroll in night school classes and learn to read and write. Sadly, all this new knowledge won’t make him any more interesting.

-The ASP will finally have a legitimate all-star event. Why not? Every major sport has one. And I’m not talking about a contest like the WPS All Stars held at Huntington during the U.S. Open. Half of the field consisted of Hurley surfers. That was a joke really. Do it right. Take the top 10 and have an online vote for an additional six surfers and send them to Tavarua or the Mentawais.

-Dane Reynolds will win his first WCT event in 2010 and finish in the top 5 in the final rankings. It might be at the Gold Coast or Bells, but it will most likely be at Trestles. He will also write a book titled “Playing the ASP Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit.”

-Kelly Slater will not win his 10th world title. In fact, he won’t compete full-time. I put the over/under on the number of WCT contests he surfs at 4.5.

 -Joel Parkinson will win the ASP World Championship. Mick Fanning will finish second and Bede Durbidge will drop out of the top 5 but stay in the top 10. After the one-year layoff, Andy Irons will struggle to stay in the top 32 but just make the cut. Owen Wright will not only win rookie of the year, but he’ll finish in the top 12. Out of the 15 WQS qualifiers only Dusty Payne, Brett Simpson and Wright will make the cut.

-Being conservative will be the norm rather than progression. With less spots on the CT (32 instead of 44) risk taking will take a back seat.

-A wetsuit manufacturer will finally realize it might be a good idea to make booties in half sizes.

– …Lost will sign Tiger Woods and the guy you buy weed from.

Surfer Magazine will only publish six stories about Miki Dora this year.

 -Vans will send out a press release to announce the first billion-dollar surf contest. Of course the “contest” will take place over the course of 20 North Shore winters.

 -The words El Nino will be written 1 billion times and hype about a “40-year swell” will hit in March. It will be slightly smaller than the February “40-year swell.”

 -Another major surf magazine’s parent company will file for bankruptcy. That same surf mag will contact Nugable about advertising opportunities.

-The yet-to-be-released 2011 Billabong team video Filthier Than Ever will win an AVN and the 2010 Surfer Poll’s best video award.

 -There will be more than 5 surfers in the top 32 without a major clothing sponsor by year’s end.

-ESPN’s surf blog will hire four additional writers. It will still suck.

 -And finally, Jamie O’Brien’s upcoming film Who is Job will change the way we look at surf films.





A Quick Chat with CJ Hobgood

4 01 2010

Everyone loves CJ Hobgood. Photo by Jimmicane

Clifton James Hobgood has seemingly been a permanent fixture in the top 10 ever since his first season on the ASP World Championship Tour when he was named rookie of the year. Even though he finished seventh in the ratings, he calls 2009 his “worst year on tour” because he didn’t win an event. Balance may be the best word that sums up CJ today. At the moment he is juggling an ex-wife, a newish girlfriend and raising his daughter Genevieve. In 2010 CJ will embark on his 12th year on tour. I had a quick chat with him about what’s going on in his life and his dry sense of humor took over.

How does it feel to be back at home after another long season?
It’s like Florida out there (on tour)! Feels like home.

I heard you rent a room in your brother’s house on the water?  
Room or house however you say it, but yeah it’s on the water and my bro’s the landlord. But I pay on time.

You have a daughter. How difficult is it raising a little girl when you are away from home so much?
It’s not easy raising a child period, but it’s the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do.

How long have you been on tour now? Wasn’t Bobby Bowden in diapers your rookie year?
Me and Sunny (Garcia) started the tour at the same time. Ah, am I a senior citizen on tour I guess. But, hey, I’m from Florida. Everyone’s old here.

At the midpoint of the season you were second in the world and in title contention. Are you happy with your results in 2009?
No. Last year was my worst year on tour. I didn’t win a contest.

What are your goals for 2010?
To win a contest and hopefully have the most points.

Is there a lot more pressure to get results early with the reshuffling of the deck so to speak at the midway point and whittling down of the top 44 to 32?
Change is always good, but with the changes some people will get the shaft and some will benefit…just the way it is. To win a title you will have to get results all year so hopefully that’s the case.

Are you happy with the new direction and changes on tour this year?
I’m happy with changes. It keeps it interesting for an old man like me.

You and Damien kind of lead the charge with web sites/blogs to connect with the fans. Now it seems every surfer has one. But you guys do it all yourself right?
It’s this program that me and Damien developed where athletes can have there blogs run for them. They just have to plug in some stuff on the back end and voila. So in theory… no.

Two of the Gudauskas brothers are now on tour. Are you going to show them who’s boss, give them a rookie hazing and let them know they have no shot at taking on team Hobgood as the best sibling duo on tour?
I already hacked their blog and sent their computers some viruses.

You and Damien are lumped together so much. How do you different in personality and opinion?
We’re the same person? Opinion? What is that?

Do you have another world title in you?
Yes sir.

For more on all things Hobgood visit The Goods Life.





Top Fucking 5 Undeserving Surfing World Champions of All Time

2 10 2009
Mick Fanning celebrates with the Brazilian fans in 2007. Pierre Tostee/ASP

Mick Fanning celebrates with the Brazilian fans. Pierre Tostee/ASP

Now that Mick Fanning has made the world title an actual race again after back-to-back wins at Trestles and France, I thought it would be relevant to take a trip back to memory lane and critique the most undeserving world champions in ASP history. Perhaps undeserving is the wrong word. All five tallied enough points to win the title, but all of them left surf fans empty inside.

5. Mick Fanning (2007)
Don’t look now but Fanning’s back in form and ready to rock us to sleep with his ultra-quick yet relatively conservative approach. Fanning attacks crappy, two-foot surf like the Kardashian sisters attack black, professional athletes. His head is huge. To his credit, the dexterity and strength needed to keep that bobblehead from tipping over and smacking his board every time he hits the lip is extraordinary. Twenty years from now we might look back and realize his main contribution to the sport was a sandal with a bottle opener on the bottom. Bottoms up.

4. Damien Hardman (1987, 1991)
This two-time champ was the ultimate three-to-the-beach competitor. His Brillo pad, curly locks looked like pubic hair trying to escape the nether regions. He made up for quality with quantity. Hardman clearly wasn’t lactose intolerant because he could milk anything thrown his way. It’s rumored he once did thirty-six turns on a 15-yard ankle-high wave in Chiba, Japan. One year later Slater won his 1st of nine titles and surf fans worldwide rejoiced.

3. Barton Lynch (1988)
In 1988 surfing was like NASCAR. It was huge. Florescent colors and mullets were the norm. There was an ASP contest every other weekend and surf companies were thriving. That same year the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan and President Ronald Reagan was trying to remember his wife’s name. The lanky Australian won just two of the 24 ASP events but took home the trophy anyway.

2. Peter Townend (1976)
In 1976 America celebrated its bicentennial and there were 14 events on the IPS tour. Peter Townend didn’t win any of them, but somehow still won the first-ever professional surfing world title. The VCR was introduced the same year and no one has used the recording device to study his surfing since. I kid Peter. Nice man. Really. I kid.

1. CJ Hobgood/Osama bin Laden/Halliburton (2001)
Right now Ceej is one of the 10 best in the world, and probably the best goofyfoot since Occy, but in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks sports took a back seat. The tour was reduced to 5 events and CJ won the title with an asterisk attached. The real winners were the terrorists and defense contractors. This week an arm of General Electric (a defense contractor) loaned Quiksilver $200 million so they can keep the lights on (pun intended). The hopes of another title for CJ are as dim as Osama bin Laden’s Tora Bora hideout..–Nug





The Twitter Nation

3 08 2009
Twitter is Creating a Stir in the Surf Industry. Photo: Cozad

Twitter is Creating a Stir in the Surf Industry. Photo: Cozad

Last month surfing scribe Charlie Smith created a minor stir when he revealed he had been writing Jamie O’Brien’s Twitter page. As lame as Twitter is, it’s interesting because it provides an unfiltered forum for users to connect with regular Joes. Plus it sifts out some of the bro-bro surf journalism. In the future there may not even be a need for the surf media, and I’m not so sure that would be a bad thing. Let’s take a look at some of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Damien and CJ Hobgood: http://twitter.com/hobgoods

The Hobgood brothers actually have one of the best Twitter pages out of all the pros. During the US Open CJ wrote this about the Jetski pilots that were utilized: “some real cowboys on the ski for our heats, me and Damien Wills caught 4 foot air on the way back out, judges didn’t score it.”

Joel Parkinson: http://twitter.com/joelparko

The world champ elect’s Twitter page is updated quite a bit, but it’s a little on the vanilla side. He also has his own website. I recommend you watch this video of Occy, Barca and the boys dancing and singing after Parko’s JBay win.

Jason Shibata: http://twitter.com/theBATS

I met Jason at the Coldwater Classic in Santa Cruz about 10 years ago. He seemed like a nice enough kid. The weather was horrible and we ended up at an undisclosed Westsiders house drinking beer. Parko won the event that year and I proved you can actually cover a surf contest without even watching the surfing. Right now he’s giving live reports form the ISA Games in Costa Rica.

Kelly Slater: http://twitter.com/slater9

Probably one of the least exciting. This guy must be busy or something. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he broke news of the new tour on his Twitter page. Kelly does have a good sense of humor though. Check out this interview.

Occy: http://twitter.com/Occys_Chin

As far as I can Mark Occhilupo does not have a Twitter page but his chin does.

Ben Dunn: http://twitter.com/dunny86

Ben had this to say about Lewis Samuels last month. “@postsurf your funny, i’ve never herd that before. do u wake up every morning and think about different ways to rag on me?”

Shane Beschen: http://twitter.com/shanebeschen

I’m not sure he even writes his own updates, but I have always respected Shane’s surfing. I interviewed Shane a long time ago and asked him about progression in surfing. “I don’t think any of the guys on tour are into airs,” he said. “Even during expression sessions you see guys doing four moves to the beach. I honestly don’t think that guys on tour have control over them.” A lot sure has changed since then.

Others:

Bede Durbidge: http://twitter.com/BedeDurbidge83

 Mick Fanning: http://twitter.com/Mick_Fanning

 Bobby Martinez: http://twitter.com/Bobby805





Samuels Bails on Postsurf.com for US Weekly

29 07 2009

No longer the most hated man in surfing

Editors Note: The following press release appeared in my email inbox this morning.

The most hated man in surfing, Lewis Samuels, announced today he will be leaving the helm at Postsurf.com for an editorial position at US Weekly, the American-based celebrity gossip rag.

“Fuck yeah,” said a clearly excited Samuels. I’m ’bout to get paid! Shit is expensive up in Norcal. Microbrews, weed and kosher meat can get pricey. The Power Rankings are blowing up. We’re going to make the Maxim Top 100 look like the Christian Science Monitor.”

US Weekly Editor in Chief Janice Min is excited about the opportunity to work with Mr. Samuels, who gained international notoriety for being fired by Surfline.com earlier this year. The young wordsmith parlayed the situation into becoming the most talked about surf writer since Ben Marcus started punching people out. Min said he would receive an uncensored voice for the magazine that caters to women whose interests range from shopping to soy milk to breast implants.

“We’ll have him write power rankings for everything…celebrity couples, plastic surgeons, jewelry, Kelly Slater’s boards, high heels, Chris Ward’s knuckles, Hollywood boutiques, supermodels, massage parlors, cougars Jordy Smith is dating…everything. We have a pretty broad target audience.”

Samuels added, “I was basically bored and with the current state of the surf media and wanted a fresh start. US Weekly provides me that opportunity. Heck, the surf industry’s is filled with morons, imbeciles and near retards, so naturally, the transition will be smooth.”

Brazilian surfers are reportedly dancing in the streets of Rio after hearing the news. Jihad Khodr, a Brazilian ranked 33rd on the ASP tour couldn’t be happier. “It’s crazy down here in Brazil. This is bigger than Carnival. I haven’t seen Brazilian surf fans this happy since Neco Padaratz placed 3rd in Huntington a few years back.”

CJ Hobgood, the former world champion Floridian surfer, predicted the change months ago on thegoodss blog. “Shoot, I’m like the “Costadamus” of surfing…you know that dead guy who predicted Hitler and 9/11 and stuff. I’m so happy for ‘Perez Samuels.’ I hope he hooks Parko up with some celebrity poontang so he loses focus. Look out bastards! World Title number two is on the way!”