World's 10th Most Popular Surfer Just Nabbed A New Sponsor - Stab Mag
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If ever there was an image that captured the term 'Banzai!', this is it. Frame: Landon Hayashi

World’s 10th Most Popular Surfer Just Nabbed A New Sponsor

A collab that just makes sense.

news // May 13, 2022
Words by Michael Ciaramella
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Last year, South-African-born, Hawaii-residing Benji Brand finished T10 (alongside Craig Anderson) in our Stab Surfer of the Year Poll.

To elect our SSOTY winners, we asked 45 of the world’s most influential surfers a simple question: who produced the most memorable and impactful surfing this year?

The likes of Kelly Slater, John Florence, and Steph G provided their two cents, and we watched the numbers tally. The last 10% of votes went to our Stab Premium members, as they’ve proven themselves to be the most vigilant and informed audience in all of surfing.

After the foam had settled, we had a clear view of the most impactful surfers in 2021.

Benji Brand had never cracked the top-25 of SSOTY before last year, let alone the top-10. The fact that he now shares space alonside Craig Anderson, and sits atop names such as Noa Deane and Filipe Toledo, goes to show the impact his Snapt4 part had on the generally insular surfing community.

Hit play. It’s pre-timecoded for your convenience.

Benji didn’t win the $50k for Snapt4’s best part — the honor belongs to Jack Robinson and/or Barron Mamiya — but he did win the people’s choice award…and a cool $10k for the best barrel of the film. He wasted no time spending that money on a new boat, to pursue his other passion: spearfishing.

“I obviously use the boat for myself all the time, but I see it as an investment as well,” Benji said. “I’ll probably use it to do some tours — some Airbnb experiences, just take people snorkeling and stuff. Just to make a bit of money on the side.”

And he needed it. Benji’s been unsponsored for the better part of three years, meaning he’s paid for all of his recent surf ventures out of pocket — subsidized by odd-jobs, investment earnings, and one-off event wins.

“I got some random Wave of the Winter Awards, the GoPro of the World — those really helped with setting me off.”

Imagine surfing this wave. Then imagine getting paid for it.

Fortunately for Benji, he also happens to live between two of the most tube-rich regions of the world — Hawaii and South Africa. This helped his situation as a (genuine) freesurfer.

“I was born in South Africa,” Benji explained. “When I was around seven, my dad actually got a place in Hawaii, so I went to elementary school at Sunset Elementary on the North Shore. Then we went to South Africa for most of my high school. After high school was done, I came back to Hawaii because I still was super amped on surfing. And then I started chasing swells, and Namibia was happening around that time. So I would spend the Southern Hemi winters in South Africa and chase Namibia, then Northern Hemi winters in Hawaii. It was a pretty rad setup.”

Between Pipeline, Skelly Bay and beyond, Benji has asserted himself as one of the most fearsome tube wranglers on earth, but in today’s world, that’s not enough to earn a paycheck from most surf brands.

Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that Benji is not self-promotional (“I cringe every time I look at my face or hear my voice — I’m like, oh no.”), meaning you won’t see his Tik Tok or vlogging career kick off anytime soon. As a result, Benji would need to find a brand whose values (both cultural and financial) aligned with the South African’s lowkey if universally-revered approach to life.

Enter the surf and fishing lifestyle brand, Salty Crew, who just signed Benji head-to-toe.

Stoke-ed.

So how’d this deal come about?

“I actually approached one of the main guys, Jared,” Benji explained. “I was like, ‘I’m at a point in my career where I’m thinking about not trying to make a living off surfing, because it’s pretty hard.’ And I just threw it out there that I would really love to ride for their brand, because they’re the only brand doing what they’re doing and living the lifestyle I’m living.”

After talks with the rest of the squad, including longtime member CJ Hobgood, Salty Crew was convinced — Benji would bring a welcome dynamic to their team. They already had the wild air guy (Matt Meola), the comp machine (Levi Slawson), and the dude who rides everything (Lucas Dirske). With Benji, they secure the humble charger, a staple in any respectable surf brand’s roster.

Benji recently went on his first Salty Crew team trip to Costa Rica, where they (you guessed it) surfed and fished til their arms were sore. We’ll see the fruits of their labors soon.

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