Archive for category: Marketing
Ask anybody who has ever stood up on a wave and they’ll tell you there’s nothing like that first time. It’s an incredible feeling you never forget, one that can change your life. The same is true of skateboarding and snowboarding. Mastering these admittedly challenging skills is so exhilarating, not only because of the pure joy we experience when performing them, but the self-confidence we gain as a result. Such moments lead us to believe that if we can accomplish these feats, then there’s likely much more we can achieve from having the courage to try.
Mikey Bondoc understands this concept. A talented surfer, skater, designer, writer and illustrator, he also understands that self-confidence doesn’t come naturally for everyone, especially kids. While all of us are born with unlimited potential and a desire to believe our dreams can come true, those feelings can easily fall by the wayside if not purposefully encouraged and pursued. So Mikey’s using his own unique gifts – some he only recently discovered- to help others understand this concept. He’s created a children’s book series centered around a singularly unique, memorable, character: a blue-billed, web-footed platypus who loves to surf, skate and snowboard.
The Hatch: The Radventures of Radimus Platypus is the first of Bondoc’s seven book series. He has written all seven volumes and published one for proof-of-concept to line up investment to be able to complete the rest (one very well-known, highly respected global brand has already expressed interest in helping Bondoc, based upon the success of The Hatch).
In this first book, the curious, creative Radimus bursts into the world. His mother worries for his safety, but ultimately allows Radimus to follow his heart. Each subsequent book takes Radimus, who expresses himself through his love for board sports, on another surprising “radventure” where he learns new things, discovers what makes him happy, and grows as an individual. In subsequent books, Radimus surfs, skates, snowboards, wakeboards and even discovers yoga.
Parents of all children will enjoy sharing “The Hatch” and its encouraging messages with their little ones. And parents who happen to be into surfing, skating and snowboarding will quite likely want to set this brilliantly illustrated rhyming tale right up alongside classics like, The Cat in the Hat and Oh, The Places You’ll Go. To be certain, Radimus channels the positive spirit of Dr. Seuss and other lovable, iconic characters of youth like Kermit the Frog. At the same time, Radimus’s unique, modern context allows the playful platypus to connect with today’s generation in ways that are more relevant and thus, likely more meaningful to them.
Bondoc’s own story of self-discovery is a radventure unto itself. An accomplished graphic designer, art director and apparel consultant with more than 20 years of experience working for big-named brands, Bondoc moved from New York City to Orange County in 2008, craving more time outdoors and in the ocean than he was getting where he was at.
Once there, he rented a 100-year old oceanfront cottage in Laguna Beach and began practicing yoga to invigorate his creativity while freelancing. In 2009, a friend -an intuitive medium- told Bondoc that when she looked at him, she saw the Sesame Street character, Big Bird, and felt he had the potential to work with children. Exactly one week after that event, the name Radimus Platypus came to Bondoc, along with the entire storyline for “The Hatch”.
Bondoc, though creative, did not envision himself as a writer, nor an illustrator. But he continued thinking about developing Radimus while working, surfing, practicing yoga and meditating. In 2010, while on a weekend juice cleanse, Bondoc wrote volumes 1-3, and completed volumes 4-7 within the next two months. “It is still the most creative experience I have ever had”, says Bondoc. “I never aspired to write anything. The books seemed to write themselves. The words and sentences just seemed to flow out of me. Each storyline came in one shot, and I knew exactly what was going to happen in each subsequent book.”
With stories in hand, Mikey reached out to about two dozen publishers and a handful of agents, but received little response. One agent indicated that he liked Bondoc’s character and stories, but felt he was the wrong person to represent Mikey.
In 2011, undaunted and realizing he had to take the next step, Bondoc commissioned an illustrator to work on the books. But after a year of trying, he terminated the contract because the feeling just wasn’t right. Too heavy. Too much color… It just wasn’t what Mikey was envisioning. He put the project on the back burner for two years, occasionally researching illustrators, but with little money to commission another one. In 2013, with work ebbing in Orange County, Bondoc decided to return to the creative energy of New York City. A few months later, he would experience another transformative moment on his path to personal growth and the development of his book series.
“Through daily yoga and continuing meditation, I was given the confidence to illustrate Radimus Platypus, myself. Since day one, all of my friends insisted that I should illustrate the book. I was the only person who did not believe in myself. I did not think I had the skills and talent to do it.”
“Over the years, I had journaled a lot about my vision for Radimus. I wrote about traveling the world and inspiring millions of children and adults to follow their hearts and be their true selves. After a yoga class that involved journaling and deep meditation, that message came through loud and clear: “I can illustrate the book.” It repeated over and over again, until I heard it, and felt it in my heart. For the first time in my life, I felt fully capable of illustrating Radimus and all of the books. I loved to draw as a kid, but always of things I could replicate– characters, band logos, skate logos- I never drew from my imagination. That’s why I thought that I couldn’t illustrate the books. But it was only my own confidence and self-perception stopping me”
In 2014, with only some sketches of Radimus in hand, Bondoc launched a Kickstarter campaign to help finance production of his books. His campaign was selected as a “Staff Pick”, but Bondoc says he set his goal too high, intent on using one of the best eco-printers around. The campaign reached 18% of its goal, before stalling.
In 2015, Bondoc completed illustrating The Hatch. He made his first printed copy and held a few readings around NYC, where he found kids were both stoked on Radimus and enjoyed engaging with Mikey. Bondoc launched a second Kickstarter campaign and was again selected as a “Staff Pick”, but pulled the plug after two weeks, due to a lack of traffic.
Determined not to give up, Bondoc decided to front the costs of a small run of books and sell them himself on his website. In early 2016, he signed with Bookmasters in Ohio to print a limited quantity of high quality hardcover copies and opened sales on his website.
Since then, Radimus has been steadily gaining traction. The character’s made-for-Instagram IG channel boasts over 1,700 young fans and followers, who, along with their parents, are posting fantastic pictures of themselves doing things they love to do– the things that make them unique… and rad! Radimus encourages kids to tag their posts with the hashtag, #imradtoo.
With the groundswell of interest in Radimus rising and the likelihood of finding investment also stacking, both Bondoc and Radimus may soon find themselves living out the very lessons they’re both so committed to imparting: Be yourself. Follow your dreams. And don’t be afraid to go for it. Because all of us are rad in one way or another. And if we’re just brave enough to live that out, we might surprise ourselves with what we can accomplish.
Note: This article was originally written for and published on The Inertia. To see the original article and response, click here.
A little Instagram love from the boys at The Inertia! They used an excerpt from an old article I wrote for their 2015 Thanksgiving Day wishes. I wrote this piece for them back when they were just getting started, before their site was getting hundreds of thousands of visitors every month– far more (incredibly) than even Surfer or Surfing’s online properties! I’ve always been so impressed with what Zach Weisberg, Alex Haro and their Team have accomplished. And they’re great humans, to boot. I’ve really enjoyed writing for them, and watching their business grow. I just love seeing people step out to pursue their dreams with passion, courage and determination- making it happen! That’s exactly what these guys did. I’ve been working on my own side project lately, but look forward to getting back to publishing on The Inertia again, very soon! Thanks for the shout, fellas!
I love this video. It has had about 50,000,000 views since coming out a year or two ago, but deserves another 300,000,000 in my opinion. As the father of two strong young girls who have been brought up to think for themselves, and to understand that their strength, worth and value does not come from anyone else around them, but by God alone, I appreciate this beautiful social experiment and all the things it says about girls, our culture, the innocence of youth and the power of positive self-image.
As a marketer, I believe that developing a compelling campaign for a personal hygiene product like Always might be considered a challenge by most. But that’s exactly what the creative team succeeded in doing here in a way that is memorable, supports the brand’s values and connects emotionally. In fact, I’d say that that this campaign transcends great creative. It is a truly profound, revealing and inspiring work of art.
As we head into the homestretch of the 2014 ASP World Championship Tour, we know that a fast-approaching storm of inevitable controversy, heartfelt conviction and colorful commentary is headed our way. We don’t even have to wait to spot it on the horizon. It is coming just as surely as that sneaker set at your favorite big wave surf spot.
Just sit deep and get ready for it.
By December 20th, the entire surf world will be blowing up over botched scores, titles earned or gifted, the new world order and the very future of our sport. Or… err… “activity”. (Dang it! I knew that one was coming and still took it right on the head! When will I learn?)
Jokes aside, I say this because I know full well that in the midst of all the coming noise, the loudest voices won’t be from those interested in the compelling storylines that the ASP, ZoSea and the world’s greatest surfers will have delivered for us. Nope. It’ll come from those who wish that professional competitive surfing would just pack up its sh#t and go away.
After all, surfing is too diverse to be siloed. Too sacred to be packaged and sold. It was always meant to be, “free”.
The continuing segregation of surfing into two camps, “freesurfers” who believe that surfing at its core is a spiritual activity inherently at odds with competition and consumerism, and those who support professional surfing as an acceptable way to advance and enjoy the sport, is as old as competitive surfing, itself. But these days, like so much other social and ideological phenomena, the divisions just seem to have grown deeper, the conversations more shrill and cynical, our ideological differences pulling us further apart in ways that are neither fun, healthy nor productive.
Maybe it’s just me. Heck, I’ve been “freesurfing” for the past 25 years! I haven’t competed in a contest since college, when I launched my own citywide surf league. And even then, when we competed, it was always in the spirit of fun and fellowship.
At the same time, if I had sufficient talent to make a living competing as a pro on the WCT, would I do it? Hell yes- in a second! I do love competition. Professional sporting competition. Professional surfing competition! As a result, I’ve followed it closely for nearly as many years as I’ve been surfing.
And therein lies the biggest disconnect of the whole, “surfing as an activity vs. surfing as a sport (or a business; or product)” narrative: Why should any of us have to choose one over the other? Can’t we enjoy all of the various aspects of surfing? Haven’t most of us always done so, to one degree or another?
Following the careers of surfers like Shaun Tomson, Tom Curren, Kelly Slater and John John Florence… watching live contests in places most of us could only dream about in conditions we could only imagine… enjoying the sheer drama of the battles for glory that have provided the fundamental appeal of all athletic competition since the first Olympiad in 765 BC?
Increasingly, it seems that the freesurfers of the world –the real freesurfing purists and not those like me, who are only half-in– would have us be free of everything but their opinions and their judgment, ever-projecting a self-righteous air of pretentious enlightenment that the rest of us poor souls who watch contests more than clips, could only ever hope to understand. And, while I couldn’t care less about how anyone might try to frame me as one kind of surfer or another- that mindset, old as it is, is fast becoming as stale and sour as the rest of the ideological antipathy that we increasingly see grinding our country and our communities to a halt.
Interestingly, the Pew Research Center noted in a recent study that people with strong political views are increasingly constructing their lives around people who agree with them, while shunning those who disagree. The report stated that this kind of ideological rigidity is increasingly leading people to actively avoid others with divergent opinions, making them not only more likely do simple things like defriending on Facebook, but also affecting their decisions about where to live (think Red State / Blue State- all the way down to the neighborhood level); where to eat; where to shop and do business; even who to start a family with (“My name is Canyon. I’m 25. I love surfing and traveling, ride a ’73 Steve Lis fish and am looking for a girl who hates Paul Speaker as much as I do.”)
It begs the question: Are many surfers today really not traveling down the path of independent thought, but rather, simply following the well-trodden and increasingly crowded path of rigid ideologues whose close-minded thinking continues to sabotage compromise, civility and acceptance in so many areas of society, today?
No offense to my friends in California, but I often wonder if the whole freesurfing “purist” vs. “competitive” or “commercial surfing” narrative is primarily a Calicentric industry phenomenon? Because I rarely see so much hand-wringing about it over here on the East Coast.
Here, by and large, all competitors are idolized, from world champs to mid-level CT’ers and QS’ers to local blue-collar rippers. They are supported at every level from the amateur ranks to the pros. When they win, we all win. And when they lose, retire, get hurt, run out of money, head back to college or into the real world, it’s no big deal. They are welcomed right back into the water where you could always find them anyway between their competitions, heats and traveling- freesurfing.
I understand that California suffers from severe crowd-control issues at many spots (don’t we all), and that a common complaint about ZoSea, current owners of professional surfing, is that their ultimate goal to bring surfing to the masses via the aggressive marketing of professional competitive surfing will only worsen this frustrating trend. Truth is, shifting demographic trends and local zoning and development regulations are far more likely to impact these issues than people from Ohio watching the Teahupo’o contest live on ABC, or breaking heats down afterwards on YouTube.
Heck, in a well-researched article written earlier this year by Stu Nettle on Swellnet, his organization’s findings suggest that you could see the crowds at your local break plummet by as much as 30% as soon as Slater decides to retire! (Or at the very least, folks will be unplugging from watching professional surfing, online).
Ultimately, the fear of increasing crowds is just one of a laundry list of justifications that surfing “purists” cite for being skeptical of professional competitive surfing generally, and ZoSea in particular. There’s too much we know about them, and too much we don’t. I for one think they’ve been doing a pretty damn good job with the exception of the name change to the World Surfing League (I understand their reasoning, I just don’t like their choice). Regardless, the ASP and professional surfing have survived name changes and many much larger challenges in the past, and both have only continued to grow.
If the conspiracy theories are true and ZoSea ends up leaving surfing at the altar because like others before them, Paul Speaker, Terry Hardy and (allegedly) Dirk Ziff can’t figure out how to wring a dime out of it, rest assured, it won’t stay down for long. As long as there are surfers who yearn to make a living out of their passion, there will always be others willing to try.
As for me, I’ll continuing to keep an “open mind”, something surfing’s “purists” like to own, but which doesn’t resonate when they continually insinuate that those of us who enjoy professional competitive surfing are somehow uniformed, immoral or something less than “pure”, because we value surfing both as an activity and a sport. It is both those things and so much more.
Note: This article originally appeared on TheInertia.com. Go here see to the original version, and full ensuing discussion.
I was going through some old files today, updating my business portfolio on Contently, when I came across this old spot I conceptualized and helped produce in 2007. It was for a pitch we created for WestTown- a planned LEED-certified, mixed-used community that was to be Atlanta’s largest residential development in more than a decade (located in the west-Midtown area, thus the name, “WestTown”). The community was going to be a pioneering effort, expected a draw young professionals, artists, creators and those drawn to the development’s trendy urban location in a redeveloping industrialized area, not far from Georgia Tech. This, as well as its “live-work-play” and “sustainable” qualities. We came up with the theme of, “Go West” playing upon the west-Midtown location and the idea of going “west” for “opportunity”, as the neighborhood was going to offer affordable living in an otherwise expensive area. The video was intended to be a teaser for the community that would ultimately be formatted for both web and television. The music track is a song called, “Haley” from the album “Yuppie Ghetto” by the band, War Called Peace. It’s the closing song on the classic surf video, “Searching for Tom Curren”. Marc Rapp, a super-talented friend, NYC-based Creative Director and former employee at my old agency, Renaissance Creative, handled the digital development. We ended up winning the account. Unfortunately, before getting to market, the real-estate bubble burst, forcing the developer, Brock Built Homes, to put the brakes on the project. Atlanta missed out on what would have been a really cool, high-profile, signature neighborhood. Not to mention a fun, innovative marketing campaign.
I’ve recently begun working on a new project during my spare time. My idea is a website that people would use as a resource for discovering things to do outside in Northeast Florida (hiking, biking, boating, fishing, surfing, SUPing, kayaking, ziplining, etc.) The best activities; best places to go; best guides/lessons/gear/rental equipment; etc. I’ve been thinking about doing it for a while, and finally decided to get started. I’ve looked around online for similar resources and while there are a few good niche sites for individual categories, I haven’t found a really good aggregation of information in one spot.
It’s a pretty big content challenge and I’m creating it myself (using an online web builder software). I think it will probably take all summer. But, it allows me to scratch my creative, entrepreneurial and outdoor adventurist itches all at the same time. I’m not looking at it so much in the interest of creating a business at this time, more of a community-minded effort because I think we need this in our area. If it ends up generating some consistent traffic, I can always monetize it later. As I am developing it, I am doing so with strategic SEO in mind.
Below are the first few screen shots. Some of the navigation is hidden, but I’ve included some of the drop-down menus so you can get an idea of where I’m headed. Wish me luck!
Landing Page, Below the Fold
Some Navigation Menu Items
Author’s note: This is a story I originally wrote for The Inertia, billed as, “surfing’s definitive online community featuring news, opinions, photography, videos and art from many of surfing’s most talented figures.”
Transformation, reinvention and evolution are rarely easy. Yet they are a part of life as ancient as the ocean and constant as her rhythms. Life is a series of crests and valleys. And our conditions are ever-changing. When we embrace the concept of evolution, we not only learn to roll with life’s changes, we begin to recognize the opportunities they present. At the very least, we overcome our fears of them. I know because I was forced to evolve following a sudden, deep and unexpected period of change in my life recently. And turning back wasn’t an option.
I’m sharing my story for a few reasons: One was a remarkably timely email that I received from The Inertia a few weeks ago, informing me of some changes coming to their website. The note also asked if I might consider writing about a “significant moment of change” in my own life, something that led to “personal growth and transformation” in conjunction with their re-launch. “Ideally,” the email read, “it could relate to surfing, but also just to life in general.”
My experience certainly relates to, “life in general,” and, as for “surfing,” to me those two things are inseparable. After God, family and friends, surfing has probably been the most significant influence in my life since first standing up on a wave at age 15. Most major decisions I’ve made in my life – where I’ve lived, who I married, how I’ve spent my time and money, have almost always been linked to surfing in one way or another. Isn’t that the all-consuming nature of the sport (activity) that so many of us have freely surrendered to?
Interesting is the role that The Inertia itself played during my period of evolution. I don’t even know if Zach, Alex, Ted or anyone else was aware. Another reason I thought it an ideal time to share. Most importantly, I thought there might be others out there navigating similar times of unexpected change in their own lives who could find some value or encouragement in my experiences.
My “transformation” began in late 2007 when the collapse of the housing market struck a devastating, and ultimately fatal, blow to my 11-year old real estate marketing firm. The business I had launched with one friend out of a small apartment a decade earlier had grown into a 27-person, full-service integrated marketing agency doing about $5 million-a-year, every year.
Until the housing bubble burst.
Understand that there’s a reason people use this specific language when talking about sudden market collapses. When “bubbles burst,” by definition, they cease to exist. And that’s exactly what happened to our industry and our business. One day, we were working 20 or so large accounts. Then, seemingly overnight, all new development just… stopped.
All of it.
The next four years would become a steady series of layoffs of people I considered family, and for whom I felt responsible in much the same way. I delayed every cut for as long as I could while methodically feeding the company with all of the resources my wife and I had worked hard to accumulate over 15 years of marriage.
We liquidated our savings.
Our real estate investments.
And finally, our home, which we were forced to sell to tap its equity. Thank God it sold when it did, or the bank may well have taken it from us.
Now, I have never been materialistic and can be as happy with nothing as I can with abundance. But, the fact was that my life had turned upside down, and the changes were painful. The home my wife and I had built eight years earlier was located directly across the street from the ocean with private access to a beautiful empty beach, with three extremely consistent sandbars within 150 yards of each other. For years, I could walk right out my front door and go surf anytime I felt like it.
As owner of my own business, I rarely missed a swell.
When my boards lost their pop, I ordered new ones.
And I traveled… Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Barbados, The Dominican Republic, Mexico (Mainland and Baja), Costa Rica (over and over), the Bahamas (over and over). But those days had come to an end.
Breaking down our 10,000 s.f. office was physically and emotionally grueling. My partners and I had invested $425,000 building it out to create a one-of-a-kind environment. Now I was selling designer furniture and high tech equipment for next to nothing on Craigslist.
I remember a revelation I had when boxing literally hundreds of local, regional and national awards we had won over the years for just about every creative marketing and design category you could imagine.
You know the saying, “You can’t take it with you?” I get that now. At the end of the day, what value do these things really hold? I wondered then, and do still today, if Kelly Slater feels the same way about his collection of awards which must certainly far outnumber those we had accumulated. I have to believe that he must.
Still, stubbornly, I packed every last one of them with care, lugging five God-awful heavy boxes home with me. My justification: this was for my daughters – so that one day in the future they might pull these things down from the attic, brush off the dust and discover, “Damn – Dad was pretty good.”
A few weeks later, I reconsidered.
I realized that my daughters already know exactly who I am, and everything that is truly “important” about me, and to me. My values. My beliefs. The things I feel are important to stand up for. And what they might understand or think about my professional accomplishments one day in the future… well, that’s the last thing I’d ever really care about. Even at the pinnacle of my career, my work never defined me.
And it never will.
And I hope the same is true for them.
Following the four-year unwinding of my business, I spent the next full year trying to figure out, “What next?” By now, the rest of the country was gripped in the recession, and I was on the front lines with millions of others trying to find a job.
My circumstances were less than ideal. If you think it’s tough trying to find a solid job out of college, try doing it when you’re 40-something with an extensive resume, a reputation as a “specialist,” and you’re a life-long entrepreneur. Employers interpret this as “expensive,” “one-trick pony” and a guy who “can’t work for others,” regardless of what the truth may be.
The one thing that was genuinely vexing, however, was that I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had been doing the same thing for 15 years and that industry was now dormant. This is when I really began to embrace the idea of “transformation” and the opportunities it presented.
While a significant chapter of my life seemed to have simply vanished into thin air, I couldn’t repress my inner desire to get on with something new– to dedicate my considerable experience and passions to new challenges, whatever lied ahead. It was the feeling you get when paddling into large surf you’re not certain you’re equipped to handle, but that you’re committed to dropping in no matter what – a mix of nerves, fear, anticipation and excitement. During this time, I continued to rely upon those same foundations I always had during challenging times in my life – God. Family. Friends…
Yes, my travels had come to a halt about three years earlier. But during my year of career transition, I had plenty of time to get out in the water, and I did. Often. I used this time to try and decompress, focus my thoughts and figure out exactly what it was I wanted to do. I also began teaching my 9-year-old daughter how to surf. I relished the opportunity to share time with her in the ocean for that entire year, and I would never give one second of that time back. Those are days I will never, ever forget.
To keep my creative metabolism flowing, I began to write more and, in late 2011, stumbled upon The Inertia. I loved the website, admired Zach’s vision and reading posts from so many intelligent writers and surfers on subjects that weren’t being addressed in the mainstream print surf pubs.
I submitted a few of my own articles and received an incredibly warm reply. Before I knew it, my first piece was published. By coincidence, happened to share the home page with Kelly Slater’s first post to the site, lending a high number of views to my own article and a great response as a result. This would happen again just a few weeks later.
These were comforting distractions during otherwise stressful days. For a time, I considered transitioning into the surf industry full-time. But ultimately, I wasn’t ready to relocate to Orange County to try and do it. With limited resources and a family to support, the risks just didn’t make sense.
Instead, after months of searching and sending resumes into the black hole of online recruiting sites, I came across a notice for a position that perfectly suited my experience and passions for surfing, travel and marketing. The Southeast Volusia Advertising Authority needed an Executive Director to lead tourism marketing for New Smyrna Beach and the surrounding area. New Smyrna may be the most consistent break on the east coast and I knew it well because I had spent much time surfing there while finishing college at the University of Central Florida. I applied for the position, made the list of finalists, and eventually won the job.
I then began commuting to work from my home in Ponte Vedra Beach– 90 minutes each way, every day. While this was less than ideal, I was ecstatic just to be working again in a role I was perfectly suited for.
Not long after starting, I realized that our office needed a content producer – a photographer/cinematographer who could capture New Smyrna in the way I knew it needed to be represented: beautifully honest. Unpretentious. Pure and real. One of my team members suggested long-time local Patrick Eichstaedt. The name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. “You probably know him,” she said. “He surfs. And, he writes for that same website you do – The Inertia. But, he goes by the name ‘Tupat.’”
“Ah, Tupat!” Yes, I knew Tupat, who was an active contributor not only forThe Inertia, Surfline, ESM and others but who had worked for …Lost Enterprises for many years. I asked him to come in and ended up hiring him to help with our NSB re-branding efforts. Tupat would pull in local surfing icons like Shea Lopez, Lindsay Perry and others who graciously helped us create a series of marketing videos and other promotions.
During this same time, I conceptualized a new events festival for NSB I called, “Beach Weeks.” It would consist of seven straight weeks of coastal-themed events incorporating new events with existing ones in early summer. Beach Weeks included surfing and SUP contests, Reggae and Blues festivals, fishing tournaments, movie nights and many family-friendly events. We even brought Bethany Hamilton to town to help kick things off. The festival was a hit and Beach Weeks since expanded to include both Summer and Fall versions.
Although my fortunes had turned and I was doing something I loved, my transition was not yet complete. The commute had begun to wear upon me. I was rarely home for dinner with my family and we realized if I was going to stay, that we’d have to relocate. As much as I love New Smyrna, I am a third-generation native of Jacksonville, Florida, and our city has a lot going on in its own right. The surf scene is thriving from St. Augustine to Jax Beach and the home we were living in (and still do now), while far more modest than our last one, was still within walking distance of one of our area’s best breaks. My kids enjoy great schools and all of their friends, and so many of my own, are here.
As decision time approached, I was contacted by a former employee of my agency, who began recruiting me to come back to Jax for a position at a large public tech company where she was now working. The role: Director of Social Media sounded interesting and I was only weeks from having to make a decision on moving prior to the start of a new school year.
I live by the motto, “You don’t know until you go” and so decided to investigate it further. The more I learned, the more appealing the thought became. No moving. Short commute. Better hours. Better compensation. Better benefits. This included generous stock options – the type of benefit that, more than just a good salary, can truly help to build long-term financial stability. The perfect fit for someone starting over on rebuilding their retirement.
I accepted the job.
Looking back today, I am at peace with the changes that occurred in my life. I’ve continued to grow personally and professionally. I’m thankful for the time I was able to spend in New Smyrna Beach and stoked to see the programs we put into place there, producing positive results for the area. I’m grateful for the full year I was able to surf with my daughter, and for the fact that after 15 years, I was able to try something brand new with my career.
For those who might be going through similar periods of change, I would encourage you to never give up, never lose hope and never lose confidence in your own abilities. Recognize that no matter your circumstances in life, there are always countless numbers of people navigating greater challenges than your own. I reminded myself of this fact every day during my period of transition and never fell into the trap of feeling sorry for myself. Recognize that life truly is a series of ups, downs and changing conditions. Embrace those changes and enjoy the ride. Remember that it is always the most difficult conditions that provide us the greatest opportunities to learn, grow and evolve, and facing them that provides our highest levels of joy and satisfaction.
The real winners weren’t even in the water. Photo: The Surf Channel | Emily Bates
Cry all you want. Light up the net with rants, raves and conspiracy theories. Break down the heats, waves, drops, barrels, surfers, scores, could-have-beens, should-have beens and never-gonna-be’s. The contest is over. And while nerves were frayed, dreams shattered and emotions overflowed, one thing is clear – the winners of this year’s epic battle on the North Shore far outnumbered the losers. Kelly picked up his seventh Pipe Masters. John John nabbed his second Triple Crown, and Mick snatched his third World Title. All this, and the real winners weren’t even in the water. Rather, we were watching it unfold from the beach, the scaffolding, at home, at work, behind our computers, on our phones and through networks like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Congratulations ASP– you, ZoSea and fans of professional surfing everywhere won big. That. Was. Epic.
Regardless of whether you believe fill-in-the-blank was underscored or overscored (please choose one) by fill-in-the-blank points on his first, second or both (please choose one) wave(s), there are a few things I think we can all agree on.
a) The top surfers on the WCT are absolutely phenomenal. Pro-surfing snobs who still deride competitive surfing as uninspired, mechanical or lacking in any manner, spare us you indignation and spiritual self-righteousness. It’s you who are tired, repetitive and devoid of originality. No soul in pro surfing? Go learn to use the heat analyzer and watch Slater’s reaction after getting blown out of a menacing 10-point barrel against Parko in the semis. Watch him bravely trying to maintain his composure while speaking onstage prior to his heat with John John or Mick trying contain his own emotions after realizing he had earned the score to secure the World Title. Watch nearly any heat with surfers like Kelly, Mick, Julian, Gabriel or Adriano. Watch some old heats of Andy’s. Then shut up and stop trying to affix your definition of “soul” to everyone else. Thank God our souls are all unique.
b) The drama that unfolded on this year’s World Tour, from Bells to Cloudbreak to Tahiti and the weeks leading up to the Triple Crown rivaled any in professional sports. How much tension, how many storylines, how little margin for error in waves of beauty and consequence can we ask for? I think we got our money’s worth (and oh yeah, that’s right –I watched every contest online, for free!)
c) Mick may (rightfully) be 2013 World Champ, but Robert Kelly Slater is still the greatest surfer in the world. Right now. At age 41. Soon to be 42. How long can he continue to defy the laws of nature? Seriously? Had he won, I don’t think we’d ever really know. I think he would have retired. I’m a third-generation native of Florida and a die-hard Kelly fan. I wanted to see him win the World Title as much as anyone. But at the end of the day, I was stoked just to watch him put his full talents – his very soul – on display in the emotional way that he did following the loss of the title to Mick. Selfishly, I’m thankful that his own competitive drive and pure love of surfing will bring him back for yet another year. It’s historic. It will never be duplicated. And each passing year only adds to that legacy.
(Disclosure: I feel for Yadin Nicol, but believe that his heat with Fanning was a true coin-toss. And, I don’t believe that Mick’s last minute wave against CJ was overscored. I do, however, believe that both of Hobgood waves were underscored, as has been the case with both CJ and Damien many times over the years, in my opinion. Perhaps that’s just my Florida bias. In any event, we can’t change history. And frankly, at this point, I’m not sure I’d want to.)
d) The ASP won BIG time, controversy be damned. Here’s the dirty little secret of subjective judging: it’s as compelling as it is maddening! It’s going to be extremely interesting to learn what the viewership numbers were online. I watched nearly the entire comp on my desktop, but had to leave my house for a different event prior to the final. There, at a holiday performance of the The Nutcracker, in which my daughter had a role, I had brief opportunity to steal away and catch a few minutes of the final on my cell phone. And there in the hallway, surprisingly, three other guys were doing the exact same thing, or otherwise asked for an update from me.
Now, with Kelly returning next season, the schedule enhanced yet again with the addition of Margaret River, and a contract with ESPN in hand, the ASP has a legitimate shot to get their plane in the air. They’ll need to take quick advantage, because they very likely dodged a bullet by Kelly not winning the title. Once he does decide to call it a career, there’s little doubt that it’s going to present a powerful vaccum for ZoSea, the parent company of the ASP, to work against. And, as great a champion as Mick may be, and as dynamic a surfer and promising a future world champ John John seems destined to be (or Julian or Medina), it’s going to take the kind of effort and infrastructure that ZoSea seems to be putting in place to keep the tour strong once Kelly calls it quits. But for this moment in time, in the weeks leading up to and during this historic North Shore season, ZoSea, the ASP and fans of pro surfing have all won. Call it a Triple Crown.
Not: The above article was originally created for and published on The Inertia, Surfing’s Definitive Online Community. To see full reaction and discussion of the article, click here.
Was this the best viral video of 2013? Maybe even the best car commercial ever? It’s got my vote. Sixty-six million views and counting. What an incredible branding effort. Cheers for Volvo, JCVD and all involved in this imaginative concept and flawless production.
8/6/2013 Update on Beach Weeks... I was informed today by my former Operations Manager that Southeast Volusia County’s bed-tax collections for the month of June, 2013- the primary month that Beach Weeks took place – was $158,000 – the highest amount for this traditionally slow month in a decade (since the 2003 fiscal year!) GREAT results that should ensure the future of “Beach Weeks” for a long time to come, and a rewarding acknowledgement for a lot of hard work! Big shoutouts to my former SVAA Team Members including the Board of Directors, who trusted me enough to approve my recommended funding for this concept; Frank DeMarchi of Black Crow Productions, who spearheaded production and without whom it would never have occurred; Former Chairman of the SVAA Board, David Kosmas, who challenged me to make it happen this year, despite a short timetable; Liz Yancey, who helped steer some of the events/production and Elizabeth Gifford, who helped drive planning, budgeting and marketing from beginning to end. Thanks also to Sherry Hendershot, Myriah Chandler and Bobbie Clemente for all of their administrative and design work that went into this, and to Doug Garrison and Ed Bondi for their initial branding concepts! May Beach Weeks become a “can’t miss” annual event for Southeast Volusia County for years to come!
Bustin’ Down Doors: Right Coast Resilience
Making a living in the surf industry has never been easy. It’s an insulated world of pros and bros with highly concentrated epicenters of industry (think Orange County and Australia). If you live in a place like Florida, your odds for success drop faster than the waves on the backside of a passing hurricane swell. Of course “living” is a relative term. Some associate it more closely with money; others with rich experience. To follow are the stories of three Floridians who haven’t let daunting odds prevent them from building their lives around surfing. Their common themes: equal parts courage, determination and more than anything else– a love for surfing that is all-consuming.
Brian Weissmann: Trident Surf Shop
Brian Weissmann Photo: Mark Sain Wilson
According to recent statistics, about half of all new businesses fail within the first 4 years. Retail stores sit just below that line with only 47% succeeding. And surf shops– well, let’s just say that if you want to jump into those waters, you’d better be a strong paddler, because from a business standpoint, you’re going to be fighting some seriously stiff currents.
Fortunately, Brian Weissmann is that.
The Palos Verdes native and former Lifeguard recently celebrated the first anniversary of his Trident Surf Shop in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL and seems to be cruising along just fine. Growing up near the beach in California, Weissmann was a self-proclaimed shop rat, who like most surfers at some point in their lives, dreamed of owning his own shop. Fast forward through an adventurous adolescence, careers as a lifeguard and a project manager for AT&T, and a broken marriage that pulled Brian eastward to Florida to be near his two middle-school aged children; and the dream finally became reality. But it wasn’t without overcoming some formidable challenges.
Most important was finding the right location. Weissmann had become familiar with the surf scene in Ponte Vedra Beach following six years of visits to his in-laws. Northeast Florida is a hot bed for east coast surfing, with no less than 20 shops, including several well-established local players. Next, even if he had found the ideal location, Brian knew that he would next be faced with trying to get access to desirable product lines. Reps for some of the larger, more well-known brands are notorious for not selling their lines to newbies for fear of repercussions from established clients– at least not without demanding huge minimums that can quickly sink a new business or leave them dedicating their entire store to just 1 or 2 brands. Finally, Brian knew he’d have to distinguish himself from the competition in some sort of significant way.
The last hurdle was the least of Brian’s concerns. The independent-minded Weissmann had never envisioned his shop being like anyone else’s. His original idea for the business was actually a “Surf and Rescue” shop that would not only sell surf goods, but also state-of-the-art lifesaving equipment to individuals and organizations. Ultimately, research convinced him that markets weren’t large enough to support his concept. Still, even when his mind turned to a more conventional surf and skate business, it was anything but traditional.
Brian’s vision was of something larger– greater in presence and purpose. Something that would feed his clients’ appetites for escapism (think a Central American style shop with open rafters and an attached taco stand, steps from the surf); and one that could also bring the neighborhood together, like a YMCA or skate park. The only thing stopping Weissmann was securing that ideal location– the one he had identified in Ponte Vedra just a few hundred yeards from “Mickler’s, one of the area’s most popular public beach breaks.
For years, the spot had been home to a well-known restaurant and bar called the “Oar House”, where local surfers would stop for a game of pool and après surf refreshments. Eventually, the business, which snuggles up to the edges of an inland waterway and state park, closed– leaving behind a beautiful decades-old structure that oozes character on a spacious, rural lot. After several attempts at getting information from Realtors were ignored, Brian approached the landowner directly and shared his concept for the business. Trident Surf was born.
Today, Weismann’s’s vision is coalescing faster than a cup of UV-activated resin in the middle of July. Kids visit after school to hang with their friends and utilize several well-constructed skate ramps outside. Ocean breezes blow through open doors and visitors can sip on ice cold Jarritos, just like you’d savor in Mexico. And while you may not find Billabong or Quiksilver boardshorts in Weissmann’s shop, you will discover a treasure trove of hot new upstart brands that your friends aren’t wearing yet, as well as top-shelf surf, skate and SUP hard goods.
Nothing Weissmann does is anything like his competitors, and he’s never shy about promoting his own personal values (no drugs or alcohol), a comforting reassurance in the family-focused area he serves. Brian believes that all children should be able to enjoy a sense of adventure in their lives, just not the kind that leads to poor decision-making. Rather, the kind you might find out in the line-up, on a trip, or just hangin’ with your buddies at the local surf shop– an environment he’s working hard to perfect at Trident Surf.
Editor’s note: This piece was originally written for and published on TheInertia.com, surfing’s definitive online community. I later reposted it here on my personal blog.
Bustin’ Down Doors: Right Coast Resilience
Making a living in the surf industry has never been easy. It’s an insulated world of pros and bros with highly concentrated epicenters of industry (think Orange County and Australia). If you live in a place like Florida, your odds for success drop faster than the waves on the backside of a passing hurricane swell. Of course “living” is a relative term. Some associate it more closely with money; others with rich experience. To follow are the stories of three Floridians who haven’t let daunting odds prevent them from building their lives around surfing. Their common themes: equal parts courage, determination and more than anything else– a love for surfing that is all-consuming.
Chickie “Da Buh” Dimain: Surf Forecaster, DaBuh.com
Chickie Dimain and daughter, Ella Phot0: Ryan Ketterman
Chickie “Da Buh” Dimain has no formal meteorological training. He has no large financial backers, nor any kind of conventional web design experience that might make developing his namesake surf report a little easier, or less expensive. But none of this has stopped the 49-year-old lifelong surfer and former concrete worker from growing his DaBuh.com surf forecast into an East Coast phenomenon.
Fresh off the heels of the United States Surfing Federation’s announcement designating DaBuh.com as the organization’s Official Surf Report and Forecaster; high-profile gigs providing independent forecasts for both the East Coast Surfing Championships in Virginia Beach and Salt Life Big Wave Challenge in Jacksonville, FL, Chickie’s proving he has everything he needs.
Fans of Dimain’s unique and accurate style of surf forecasting will tell you that there’s simply no one else who does it like “Da Buh”. The name is short for “The Buddah”, a reference to Chickie’s Buddah-shaped belly. It’s also a nod to Pidgin, the Hawaiian slang that Benecio Dimain (his legal name; “Chickie” is a nickname he was given at birth); occasionally slips into when delivering the goods for his followers. “Mo Frens, Mo Better”, he likes to say when asking people to share his report.
Chickie, who is not Hawaiian, but Filipino, has been surfing for over 30 years and studying weather for nearly all of those. Growing up a Florida inlander, nearly an hour from the closest beach made accurate forecasts critical to Dimain and his friends, who began to depend upon Chickie to make the calls whether to venture out or stay at home, each day. Over the years, his love for surfing and all things weather-related prompted Chickie to become a more sophisticated climatologist. He began to spend up to 5 hours a day studying statistics, charts and models from multiple organizations to construct his own forecasts.
Dimain’s reputation for accuracy eventually landed him a long-running, part-time job as chief forecaster for one of Florida’s most successful forecasts– 911 Surf Report. After the collapse of the housing market caused him to close his concrete business, Chickie decided to take a chance on parlaying his dynamic personality and loyal fan base into his own new full-time venture- DaBuh.com.
Now, every day, email subscribers and visitors to DaBuh.com get reports unlike any others. Typically detailed and incorporating numerous graphics, Chickie regularly predicts weather events and swells days before other forecasts. He is known not just for his remarkable accuracy, but also educating his followers on the meanings behind the patterns he sees, helping to breed a virtual army of junior prognosticators. Perhaps most significantly, he communicates in a style that can only be described as passionate, positive… and refreshingly human.
Want a personal relationship with your forecaster just like you have with your shaper? Friend Da Buh on Facebook. Got a cause or event your hawking? Let him know and you’ll almost certainly see a shout-out in his next report. Likewise, DaBuh may hit you up for prayers for his 82-year-old mother, whose failing health has limited his own water time recently; or perhaps birthday-wishes for his beautiful 7-year-old daughter, Ella, known affectionately as, “Baby Buhette” to fans of the site. Dimain’s approach isn’t just down to earth. It is salt of the earth. Humble. Unassuming. And as a result, highly addictive.
You see, be they physical or spiritual, Chickie Dimain has always had an intuitive understanding of the laws of nature. He realized long ago that success in life isn’t always predicated upon degrees or dollars. Just as powerful are passion, perseverance and using your own unique gifts to serve others around you. That’s why DaBuh.com keeps growing. And why its long-range forecast is as good as it gets.
Editor’s note: This piece was originally written for and published on TheInertia.com, surfing’s definitive online community. It was also published in print, in a second variation in Eastern Surf Magazine. I later reposted it here on my personal blog.
Dear U.S. SURF Industry (SIMA Members, Grind Media, ASP NA, New Media, Shapers, Pros, Joes, Rebels and Start-ups):
Greetings from sunny Florida!
I hope this letter finds you well and that you have been enjoying some bountiful surf. We’re not complaining over here. Seems like there have been great waves all year. And hurricane season– well, you got a little taste of it in NY. (I hope you enjoyed your trip east and found your way around the city). We scored much more of the same down here (Bret, Irene, Katia, Lee, Maria, etc.,), only without wetsuits. The water temps have retreated into the mid-60s lately, though. I guess all good things have to come to an end sometime– which brings me to the reason I’m writing.
I know we don’t see each other a lot, but we’ve been friends for a long time. And I care about you. Everyone here in Florida does. But there’s something important that I need to tell you. It’s not easy and I hate to have to be the one to do it, but I just think you need to know.
You see, California– she doesn’t love you any more.
But you– the surf industry? Sorry man, afraid not.
Trust me, I’m on the websites and message boards. She’s been talking about you behind your back, dude. Nasty stuff. I’m hearing words like “incestuous”, “soulless”, “hose”, “monumental screw-up”, “sickly”“polluted”, “dangerous”, “evil” and “lame”… She’s over you.
But, here’s the deal: While you’re not a kid any longer, you’re still plenty young; not too old to bust a move and make a transition in your life. So what I’d like to suggest is for you to consider relocating to Florida. Yeah man, throw your gear in a bag and come on over! You don’t have to take all of Cali’s sh#%! Granted, she’s beautiful– but you have spoiled her rotten. And there’s plenty of eye-candy here. We can set you up big time. And you know, I think you’d really love it.
Most importantly, you’d have someone who loves you back.
Yeah, I know– global economic focus is shifting to Asia, and you’re a little closer where you’re at. But Florida is also a global hub for business with large modern and growing ports and airports. Consider: Once Europe finishes imploding and the US does the same, then who’s left holding the debt bag? That’s right- China! And once they are forced to restructure and we all hit the “reset” button, then where do you think the money will head? Yep, right back to the good ol’ USA– safest bet on the planet! China won’t be such a big deal, then.
Besides, even if things don’t go down exactly like that, consider: Do we (can I take the liberty of saying, “we”, because I’d really like for you to start thinking of us as your new “partners” here?) Do we really want to be in bed with China? I’m telling you– this is one of the problems that Cali says she has with you. You know… human rights issues. It’s serious stuff. And none of us want to ignore it.
Let me introduce you to Latin America…
I know you’ve always loved Mexico… We do, too! And hey, the Brazos– they’re NUTS about you! Man, with surfers like Adriano, Alejo, Jadsen, Heitor, Miguel and what’s the other new guy’s name?… Oh yeah– Medina! With those guys coming on like a 9.0 California earthquake, do you think there might be a growing market for you there? Those guys are our “neighbors”! Oh, and don’t forget about Puerto Rico… and Cuba! Cuba’s coming– just a little more time… you’ll see.
Look– I know at first glance, Florida might seem a little uptight for you; maybe a little more conservative than you’re used to. But hey, a little fiscal restraint’s not a bad thing, is it? Everybody knows what Cali did with the credit cards… (Yeah, we used ours too, but they’re on ice now.) In most other areas, things are pretty relaxed here. You’d dig it!
Oh, and how about this idea? Instead of sourcing to countries that want to kick our ass and rob us blind, how about getting your apparel manufacturers together and we can all help establish a sustainable new economy in Haiti? Seriously. Your Gen Y customers want you to do better. We all do.
Did you know that at the same time he is shrinking the state budget, our Republican governor is also pledging $40 million for Everglades restoration (part of a larger $600 million plan) and is pushing a $1 billion bump for education funding? And the part of the state I’m living in– Jacksonville (where I’d REALLY like you to direct your focus), well this may sound strange– but as one astute local columnist noted, we’re the “New Progressives”. That’s right! San Francisco has nothing on us.
Just look at the facts.
Our population is younger (35.8 to 38.2) (tons of talented young artists, photographers and filmershere). We have a new African-American Mayor– a fiscally conservative Democrat who is actually doing what he promised and now, the NFL’s first and only minority owner! Yeah- a dual-citizen Pakastani with a stylish ‘stache who “busted down the door” on the world’s most reknowned rich white guy’s club. Heck,Forbes even has Jacksonville listed at #6 on “Best Cities for Technology Jobs”! (I think I saw San Fran on there at #29). We’re happy at #6, but once our spaceports for horizontal and vertical space launch open, I think that’s when you’ll really see things blast off.
So what’s bringing businesses east (and south) to places like Jacksonville and Florida? Why did Lebron, Wade and Bosch choose the Heat over… everybody? Because Florida is business friendly. The tax advantages are huge compared to California. And financial incentives? State, local… we pay big for jobs! Operators are standing by.
But hey, this is all stuff for the suits. I know the real problem you’re having with leaving Cali is the emotional connection, right? A lot of good memories there, I know. (Hey, me too and we only hooked up a few times… Oh, I’m sorry– I didn’t mean it that way.) At first glance, Cali seems to offer a lot: 840 miles of coastline! Of course, Florida offers 1,350 by itself, not to mention the rest of the east coast.
Surfing Heritage? We’ve been doing it here since the 1930s and Florida surfers are responsible for 13 out of 29 ASP Men’s World Titles, and 8 out 29 Women’s Titles!
Look, I’ve played in Newport. I’ve caught a couple of those solid 8’+ south swells at Huntington. Man– big ol’ perfect skate ramps! So fun!! But, we get those same waves here during hurricane season and other times of the year… South Beach, Reef Road, Sebastian, RC’s, New Smyrna, St. Augustine and Jax Beach, not to mention the Gulf Coast– they all go off! Think about it– Nor Cal is cold and inhospitable. And Central and Southern Cal are crowded, with growing environmental concerns. Look through your photo album. Are you really enjoying yourself?
Steamer Lane: Cold, crowded and localized.
Sandspit: Crowds, localism, pollution (although, please take note that one of your premiere breaks is indeed a SANDBAR.)
Malibu: Hollywood. Crowded and localized. A zoo.
Huntington: Rips, localism, pollution and crowds.
Lunada: Sure, if you know martial arts.
Newport Jetties: Rips, rocks, localism, pollution and crowds.
Let’s see, what else is in Cali’s magic spellbook?
Look… here in Florida, the water is warm; the people are friendly; the waves are fun; and the line-ups not nearly as crowded. The weather and the business climate are both ideal and there’s not thousands of people bitching because you’re not good enough for them. Rather, this is a place where no one will take your venerable qualities– the jobs, the business and culture that you bring to the table– for granted.
So, what do you say? Will you consider ditching Cali once and for all? Yes, she has some fine physical attributes, but maybe it’s time you considered someone with a better personality.
You know, sometimes in life, it’s best to just stop arguing, and accept that you might not be right for one another.
I really love this concept: A professional surfer (former ASP World Champion and Central Floridian, CJ Hobgood), being sponsored by a non-profit group! TWLOHA (To Write Love on Her Arms) is an organization dedicated to providing help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA, founded by Jamie Tworkowski, is not only a non-profit, but also a surfwear brand. So people who support the brand also support the cause. It is a genius business model because it is also a very worthy one.
CJ, along with his twin brother, Damien, are in my opinion, two of the best ambassadors the sport of surfing has ever seen. They’ve both been ripping for years, as adept at the newest of new school airs and rotes, as negotiating the heaviest of slabs at places like Teahupo’o and Pipe.
C.J. nearly abandoned his coveted spot on the World Tour last year, but a couple of outstanding late season competitive successes, along with a bit of self-reflection, convinced him to continue in 2012. Having the opportunity to be supported by and in turn, to be able to promote such a meaningful brand/organization like TWOLHA no doubt provided a fresh surge of motivation for Hobgood, a strong self-professed Christian.
If you’ve ever known someone who has struggled with depression or addiction, then you know how debilitating those things can be. I’ve seen it up close and personal and have watched how it affects not only the individuals experiencing the issues directly, but nearly everyone around them in one form or another. Hopefully, CJ and organizations like TWLOHA will be able to use a similar “ripple effect” in reverse to raise awareness for these kinds of problems, and marshall more resources to help those who are fighting to overcome them.
If you are a Fantasysurfer player like me, take it from someone who has finished in the Top 1% of all players worldwide for three years in a row: Keep you eye on CJ this year. Despite a significant influx of rising young talent, CJ is going to be surfing with renewed purpose. If they price him low (likely), be sure to pick him up. And if he under-performs (unlinkely), well– let’s just say that won’t really matter.
You see, some things in life are more important than surfing.
After surrendering to a flood of questions surrounding its executive leadership, the drug-related death of one of its brightest stars, and an unrelenting wave of public criticism concerning everything from the scheduling of events to the scoring of competitors, the ASP announced today that it was ceasing operations, effectively shuttering the governing body of professional surfing. The announcement by ASP Executive Chairman Richard Grellman came just two weeks after former ASP CEO Brodie Carr resigned following a high-profile math error prematurely awarding this year’s ASP World Championship Title to surfer Kelly Slater and only days after releasing its 2012 events schedule which was to feature 12 contests at premier breaks around the world with $5,675,000 in prize money. The announcement sent sponsors scrambling to rethink their global marketing strategies and competitors to rethink their careers.
None of this is true.
But what if it were? Would surfing really be better off?
Clearly, surfing as a professional sport faces unique challenges. It stands at the mercy of geography, weather conditions, powerful brands and an inherent assortment of independent-minded competitors and fans, all with their own strong opinions about what surfing should or should not be. It’s an enigma, and so is easy to knock. But that doesn’t mean that the ASP and competitive pro surfing are worthless. Or worse, as some critics argue– destructive. Indeed, they’ve helped many surfers enjoy great careers in a sport they love. They’ve also helped surf-related brands to thrive, producing even more of these same lifestyle opportunities. And, they’ve progressed the overall level of surfing. Many might argue that this last point isn’t true, but pro surfing provides the macro-structure for amateur surfing, which drives the advancement of our most talented youth. If there was no structured pro surfing, you’d likely lose a lot of that. The ASP also continues to modify its judging criteria to conform with advancement in the sport, quirks like the seemingly renewed emphasis on floaters and occasional questionable scoring, notwithstanding. The ASP and pro surfing have also long provided a generally stable platform for surfer skill rankings and credibility. Is the system perfect? Obviously not. Nothing in this world is. Can it “miss” on people like Dane, Jamie O’ Brien, Bobby Martinez or others? Sure. Which is not to say that some responsibility doesn’t fall back on those same surfers to perform within the existing infra-structure if they or their sponsors feel a need for validation (or prize money). Not all of them do…
That’s a matter of choice.
And choice is always good.
That’s why I’m thankful for the ASP and the sponsors who support them. If you don’t like professional competitive surfing, don’t attend their events. Don’t watch them online. Don’t buy their sponsors’ products.
Take your board and go home.
Just to be clear – I’m speaking from the perspective of a life-long surfer, traveler and pro surfing fan (currently ranked 58th in Fantasysurfer). I’m also a marketing professional (but outside of the action sports industry, and California). But honestly– I am amazed at the voracity of the criticism leveled at the ASP and its institutional sponsors, when all of them have worked extremely hard over many years to advance our sport.
Most of the same people who rip the ASP also knock the surf mega-brands (Quik, Billabong, Rip Curl, etc.) as “soul-less”, but I think that’s lame. Those companies were started by people who were passionate about surfing. They loved it so much, they wanted to build their lives around it and they made that happen. Then, they created more opportunities for so many others to do the same thing, not to mention carrying the load when it came to promoting the sport, sharing it with the “outside” world and helping bring more of it to us through a variety of marketing and media channels.
Some decry the the mega-brands’ burgeoning relationships with China. It is no surprise that their eyes are fixed upon China due to the sheer size of markets there and the fact that China already has a vibrant youth action sports subculture. That is simply the nature of globalization, an inherent byproduct of advances in transportation and (especially) communications technology over the past 20 years. It does no good to stick your head in the sand to try and ignore it. Look at a well-regarded core action sports brand like Camp Woodward. Rest assured, they raked in a chunk o’ change taking their brand to China. And make no mistake- that wasn’t even about straightforward consumerism on China’s part, but rather the Chinese government’s ultimate goal of having the proper training facilities in place to soon begin dominating us in Olympic skateboarding and BMX! The flip side? At least the flow of goods is running from west to east for a change and perhaps as we export more western culture, an unquenchable thirst for freedom and independence will come in the box.
As for the exploitation of surfing in China– as some have noted, Kelly’s wavepool seems the perfect match. We can’t afford it. China can. And while I know better than to bet against Kelly getting his pool built somewhere, I have to confess that even the one he describes would not be that interesting to me. I should clarify that it sounds like it would be great fun to ride, just not interesting in terms of watching contests. Mechanical waves. Talk about “soul-less.” I strongly believe that the unpredictability and varying conditions of Mother Nature is a vital characteristic of what makes the current ASP world tour events so compelling and that wave selection is an integral part of a surfer’s skill set. That’s why I believe thinking about future contests in terms of wavepools will always be lacking (which is not to say that it won’t be successful, or shouldn’t be). And so we circle back to pro-surfing’s numerous core challenges. Surf in a wave pool and you increase accessibility; likely improve judging; provide viable platforms for Olympic inclusion and more affordable network broadcasts; paving the way for broader audiences and increased advertising revenue.
But you neuter its soul…
At least, in my own opinion.
Which brings us back to choice.
CHOICE is always good.
So, for those of us who appreciate the ASP and pro surfing as it exists currently – what can be done to make it even better?
I think you begin solving problems of these kinds with no-holds barred idea-fests– where no idea is a bad idea. I’ll start with a couple of softballs:
Stop giving the cold shoulder to non-traditional brands like Nike. If they can bring more people (and money) to the party, then by God, welcome them in! If Quik, Billabong, Rip Curl and Red Bull can’t fund MAJOR NETWORK BROADCASTS by themselves, then find corporations that can. The way action sports continues to grow, certainly most major brands even remotely trying to target youth have, or are creating divisions exclusively for it. And what kind of elitists are we to say who is, or isn’t cool enough to surf?
ASP: Take control of your media rights and get the events on MAJOR NETWORK TELEVISION. The ASP’s new media offerings are uneven (per event sponsor), but improving rapidily. The heat analyzers are brilliant. And certainly, distribution via the web has massive reach potential. However, online media, despite its propensity for complete, accurate measurement isn’t highly valued (everything on the web should be “free”, remember?)- not like network television broadcasts which ultimately bankroll organizations like the NFL, NBA, PGA, MLB, etc. And contrary to popular belief, kids are not abandoning TV for new media. They watch TV more than ever, up to 3.5 hours per day. Perhaps, when our televisions and our computers finally become one (Apple and Google may argue this has already happened, but many problems still exist), then the ASP will be in a great position to leverage it further. But network television has, and will continue to be king.
How to sell the major networks given the production expense, unpredictability of conditions and no assurances that anyone further than 50 miles from any coastline will care? How about simply identifying a world-class salesperson and media rights negotiator and incentivizing them with a minimum threshold and unsparing commission structure. I mean come on– Are you telling me that you couldn’t show anyone -and I mean anyone- the slabs that I saw during Chopes this year on an off day, and dare them to not be compelled? Can you imagine watching that contest on a 50″ HDTV? Live? Heck, even if it wasn’t live! And you don’t need to show the whole contest- just highlights and the finals. Even a fully pre-produced, creatively edited special, set to popular music. Then, jack the prices up and sell that #$%!. And if Quik / Billa / Rip Curl can’t afford it, don’t assume that just because they won’t swallow it, that no-one else will. Go over their heads. Bring in Ford, McDonald’s, Apple and Target. Better yet– get all of them. And if you can’t sell events like Brazil, then can those and replace them with Mavericks. Or more Hawaii. OrShipsterns! (How insane would that be?!) The ASP generally seems to have done a terrific job with pulling together a dream tour. They just haven’t done a good job of selling their dream.
Perhaps the ASP should invest in establishing its own network or production company.
If it can’t afford to regain control of all events immediately, take a stepping stone approach and begin taking back control of one event at a time, starting with the most compelling.
Finally, for the ASP and every corporate sponsor it is connected with: GIVE BACK. You want to connect with today’s disenfranchised youth (and all the rest of us)? Show them you care by making it a point to DO GOOD in the all the areas of the world where you play. There is a fundamental cultural shift underway in reaction to a world that has been broken by greed run amuk. That doesn’t mean that capitalism is bad, that all corporations are sinister or that the ASP sucks. Only that the entire world could use a little more selflessness. Corporations have it in their power to affect serious change in the world, while inspiring an army of brand loyalists. Critical is approaching charity earnestly and creatively and in a way careful not to suggest self-appointed elites pushing Marxism as “progressive”. When you approach anything in life with this mindset, you will always enjoy success. Eastern religions call it “Karma”. Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism) call it “God’s Will” or “Cause and Effect”. Bob Marley simply said, “What goes ’round, comes ’round.”
I’d like to see the ASP and competitive pro surfing come ’round.
I’m a FAN, and I’d like to continue to have that CHOICE.
Author’s Note: This is my latest piece for The Inertia, the highly-popular action sports website billed as, “The Planet’s Largest Network of Thinking Surfers” To see the response and full discussion of the article, please visit: http://www.theinertia.com/author/tim-hamby/