Stab Magazine | When 'Sponsor Me' Tapes Actually Work

When ‘Sponsor Me’ Tapes Actually Work

Lee Wilson on troubled times and his new contract.

news // Mar 30, 2016
Words by Morgan Williamson
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Just before the New Year, Lee Wilson went the old school route and dropped a ‘sponsor me’ tape. Nearly four months later, he’s officially signed with Brixton and when you review the evidence above, it’s well-deserved. “I’m just happy to do what I love again,” Lee tells me about the black rectangles that’ve found a home on his board’s nose. The Bali-born father of two has had his ups and downs. A failed marriage dug him into the dark hole of Bali’s club scene, and left Lee without a sponsor, scrubbing dishes and trying to reset the pieces. “I was going through a bit of a rough patch to be honest,” he says. “But it was an educational one, you have to learn the hard way.”

Stab: How long have you been without a sponsor?
Lee Wilson: I lost my sponsorship with Oakley four years ago. I was partying a lot, drinking a lot and going through a rough marriage. I didn’t really want to be married but in Indonesia if you get somebody pregnant you have to get married. That’s just the way it is here.
During that time I was actually performing really well, despite all the clubbing, partying and women… Bali’s crazy man, there’s always something going on. I was still surfing well but I think I was being looked at as a ticking time bomb. And, when I look back now, I actually was. I’m glad I lost my sponsor then, because only god knows where I could have ended up if I continued on that path.

T Ridenour lee3

Comparatively, when considering some of the surfers in the world who receive payment or goods for their surfing, Mr Wilson is well deserving of such treatment. Watch the clip if you disagree.

When did you start getting your shit together? My seven year old actually asked me to stop drinking a few years ago and I promised her I would. So it’s for her, for us, for me. I don’t drink at all anymore, I don’t party, I’m a full time father and I guess surfing is my drug now.

What were you doing to make ends meet before getting picked up by Brixton? I was living in New Zealand for a bit working as a dish-pig and running coffees. Then I moved to Australia and worked in a restaurant, waiting tables and scrubbing dishes. I got invited to the Padang cup last year and I told my girl, the one I’m currently with (they have a one year old daughter together), I wasn’t going to do it. I had a job, was making money and was trying let the dream go. I just wanted to work and try to support my family because surfing can eat people up sometimes.
She insisted she’d pay for my ticket to come over here and compete in the Padang Cup. I quit my job and went to surf in the comp. It didn’t run, so I just kept surfing. I was feeling really good, like really feeling my board and my craft. Which sounds a bit weird, but to me it was special. The more you feel your board the more you can translate what’s in your mind to the waves.

T Ridenour lee4sm

Making Jazz with a cool, blue drum kit.

The ‘sponsor me’ tape was a product of your trip back to Bali? Yeah, I ended up getting some clips and the boys were like, let’s just do an edit and see if it’s still possible to do this.

So, it ended up working out? Yeah man, (laughs) it did. That was the goal. The filmers I work with, Carlo and Ivan, put in their time for free. They could see I wasn’t mucking around anymore, I was out every day surfing and I knew what I wanted. So we figured we’d try… and it worked.

How long after the clip coming out did Brixton get in contact with you? They were actually talking to me a little before the clip came out but it was more of a social media type relationship. It wasn’t going to be anything that’d support me or my family. The clip really helped me negotiate a deal. It gave them something to go off of, take people and show, you know? I had to make it work for my girls.

T Ridenour lee2sm2

Is there any more intoxicating drug than renewed energy?

Is the Brixton deal enough to support you and the fam? Yes it is… because I live in Bali man. It’s not as expensive as the rest of the world.

Now that everything’s landing in its right place, where are you headed? New beginnings. My one year old daughter, my girl and I are living in Bali and my seven year old lives in Melbourne with my ex-wife. I just want to progress every day from here. Some people say I’m boring because I don’t party anymore, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about my kids, they’re the most important thing to me. I just want to be a good father.


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