Nike downsize involvement in surfing

As of December 31 this year, Stab has learned that Nike's big-name surf athletes will peel off Nike logos and apply Hurley stickers. World tour surfers Kolohe Andino, Julian Wilson, Michel Bourez and Alejo Muniz will soon all surf for Nike-owned company, Hurley. The news came unofficially today, when head-to-toe Nike team riders were in Hawaii, that the company will be partially retracting and will now remain in surfing only as a footwear sponsor.

Tomorrow an official release will reach the surfing world with the news that Nike's marquee surf athletes are now riding for Hurley. Our industry insider said, "Every single guy who is on Nike is now on Hurley. Every. Fucking. Guy." And , the girls, too. Carissa Moore, Lakey Peterson and Laura Enever will all move across to Hurley. This marks a change for Hurley's strategy as they've never had a team who were professional surfers in the traditional sense, but rather ambassadors. And, also along for the ride are a huge list of surfers that include men like Koa Smith, Kai Barger, Filipe Toledo and Nat Young. The team will still ride for Nike but for footwear only. As of January 1, 2013, Hurley will be the main sponsor of eight outta 34 world tour surfers.

But, it all makes sense, right? While the noise Nike has made in terms of marketing and events has been loudest, sales have been tough. They pulled sponsorship following this year's US Open of Surfing and the failure to move serious product to cover this investment has been difficult. Nike owning surf was always difficult. They bought Hurley in 2002, a company that lives and thrives on innovation. Nike's mantra isn't dissimilar and both brands fight for the same space. The commercial success of surf companies has always been boardshorts and Hurley leads with their Phantom innovation. And, the post-GFC surf industry hasn't exactly been the field of dreams that it was in the early 2000s.

Does it all seem weird that the team can swap over so effortlessly and without legal red tape with managers? Not when you peel the layers back. Built into the contract of every Nike-complete surfer is the ability to be shifted from Nike to Hurley. Anything stated by a surfer's Nike contract will now be honoured by Hurley. For Julian Wilson, two years into a five-year contract, it's biz as usual. As well as Kolohe Andino who signed a 10-year contract last year.

Now, Nike aren't the kind of players who do things without a plan. The question now, is, what is Nike's plan for surfing through Hurley? The biggest piece of the puzzle will drop soon. Hurley's new star athlete unveiling will likely be John John Florence: the man behind surfing's biggest-ever contract signing. That means Hurley will now have nine surfers on tour: John John, Kolohe, Julian, Alejo and Michel along with the Hurley team of Miguel Pupo, Yadin Nicol, Brett Simpson and Ace Buchan.

Stab's communication with Nike and Hurley spokesmen along with various surfers revealed a very tight-lipped line until tomorrow's announcement is made. Stab will have the full story tomorrow.