John John Florence can toast his just-shy-of-six-mil fiscal 2017, popping bottles into the New Year as one of surfing's youngest multi-millionaires. Photo by Justin Jay / @justinjayphoto
The Stab Rich List: 2017 Edition
Stab’s Guide to Surfing’s Most Valuable (And Thoroughly Well-Paid) Players
Economists will look back on the second decade of the 21st century and remark on how thoroughly both micro and macroeconomic trends could explain the industry’s behavior.
The market’s invisible hand has been at many an industry’s throat, no matter how niche the neck, and professional competitive surfing—tied forever to its cottage roots but forever scratching to stay firmly in the mainstream—certainly felt its grip. We are living in the age of the winner-take-all economy.
That in 2017, half of surf’s Big Four—Quik, Billys, Hurley, Rip Curl—counted amongst their roster not a single million-dollar surfer speaks volumes to the growing gap between top and bottom.
Hurley’s Hawaiian Prince’s eight-year, multi-million dollar dice roll stands in stark contrast to the conservative cutbacks from nearly every other brand, and the near disappearance of broader, sponsored upper middle-class canopy.
John John gets paid nearly double what Rip Curl are paying his arch-rival, and Rich List Runner-Up, Gabriel Medina, and three-times as much as #3, Mick Fanning.
With three of surfing’s most valued personal brands—Dane Reynolds, Craig Anderson, and Kelly Slater—stepping back into the trenches, the impact and yield of their larger branded efforts is difficult to feel. One has to believe they’re bringing home salaries. Will history show their departures from Quik and subsequent brand launches as the first shallow breaths in the industry’s lungs since the 2008 collapse commenced a decade of unrivaled cynicism towards the “surf industry.”
And, of course there’s always the conversation of the non-endemics, which is any brand not deemed as "surf". Those cheeky “ambassador” roles that find Mick Fannings and Julian Wilsons behind luxury SUV wheels in 30-second spots? While Slater, Reynolds and the like have set out to build their own empires, their capitalist tour comrades have more than danced with the corporate devil. See: Gabriel Medina's shaved pits. What's that old saying?
The world is all the richer for having a devil in it, so long as we keep our foot upon his neck.
We'll let you take the money. Let us have our fun.
Here’s how the year went for surfing’s top earners, Stab’s Rich List 2017:
A fanbase as loyal as John John Florence's comes at a cost. For sponsors to ride the Hawaiian's back-to-back World Title coattails, JJF collects just shy of six bricks annually.
1. John Florence
Close your eyes. I want you to imagine something. The scene opens on a clear, blue open ocean scene, whitecapped groundswells rising and falling and a bright white catamaran cutting hard into the face, Robin Leach’s British baritone narrating…
“For two-time World Champion John John Florence, the Hawaiian Islands are his playground, a mere hop, skip, and a jump on his handy catamaran, launched from one of his beachfront North Shore abodes, the young star already making many a sound investment with the small fortune he's amassed…”
As professional surfing follows international trends across all industries, the radical shift in surfing's collective cultural and economic capital has landed firmly in the lap of Mr. John John Florence, again this year’s surfing’s winningest, wealthiest name in the game, taking the Lion's share, etc, etc.
One year into his eight-year contract with Hurley, John's annual salary might be somewhat hush hush, but the million-dollar World Title bonus he will enjoy this holiday season is common, much-envied knowledge.
From the outside trying to look in, John John Florence’s life is as cordoned off as any pro surfer’s in history, his most casual seeming public moves deceptively well-considered, calculated, documented thoroughly and strategically. Rumor has it, John hasn’t been to Foodland in two years, the routine tasks of daily life dealt with by handlers, coaches, members of the JohnTourage. It’s worth noting that at just shy of 6 million annual, that’s operating costs for Camp John John. The towheaded father of none has many a mouth to feed. Ross Williams walked away from a solid WSL contract before packing his sleeping bag and departing fo CJJ. Looking at who’s on the payroll, John’s gotta be looking at close to a mil in write-offs.
With a combined earnings of $5,692,500, Hurley’s multi-mil annual package is supplemented by smaller arrangements with Stance socks, Futures fins (whose John John Florence model fins sit firmly at the top of their best seller’s list), Nixon, and Pyzel. John’s annual revenue slipped a hair in 2017, a cool 300k falling by the wayside with the dissolution of his partnership with Monster.
In the age of the New Economy, it’s winner take all. With more of the Golden Era’s best bovines being put out to pasture every year, John John Florence will be sitting pretty for a few years, as surfing’s cash cow.
Sponsors: Hurley, Stance, Futures, Nixon, Dakine and Pyzel surfboards.
The Brazilian Storm might not have flooded the surf market yet, but it's certainly creeping towards the high-tide line. Gabriel Medina, your Rich List runner up, and the economic product of one damned proud country full of not jaded, uncynical surf fans who don't give a shit if you like their style or not.
2. Gabriel Medina.
By now even the most stubborn wallflowers have let their toes tap to that dark Bossa Nova steadily bump bump bumping in the world of surf. To see proof of the massive economic force Brazil is and will continue to be, look no further than this year’s Rich List Runner Up, surfing’s penultimate playboy and unwitting dark knight, Gabriel Medina.
It’s 2017: Audience and influence are currency, and we ain't talking cryptocurrency. Take Gabriel’s 5.7m Instagram followers, to Kelly Slater’s 2.1mil.
That kind of sprawling social media reach means big money with non-endemics. Gabby pulls down $400k for posting a semi-regular Coppertone spritz. Brazilian cellular giant Oi kicks him another $700k for slapping stickers on his board and a few days shooting promos.
While the details of his Rip Curl contract are under lock and key, it’s safe to say it’s Rip Curl’s way of doubling down on lassoing the Brazilian storm’s energy and enthusiasm into some Brazilian brand loyalty, after you’ll remember rumors of Quiksilver looking to snag Gabby as one of their International ornaments. “...after the loss of Dane Reynolds,” Stab reported last year. “Quik offered Gabs $3.2m. But because it was through a new manager, he decided to stay with Rip Curl, because the commission taken from the manager as “a new deal” meant that he’d make more money staying with Rip Curl. Even though Gabs knew he’d be the marquee surfer for Quik, he opted to stay with the Curl, and remain in Mick Fanning's shadow.”
With just shy of $375k in prize winnings and an Audi deal under wraps, Gabriel stacked just over four bricks last year, and will be looking to add another World Title bonus to it in 2018.
Sponsors: Rip Curl, FCS, Oi, Coppertone, Cabianca Surfboards (Pukas), Guarana, Audi.
With this year’s Pipe Masters rumored to be his last, his competitive future is up in the air. But with the bang Rip Curl got for their buck this year—from Mick’s leap-year African score yielding the most talked about clip since the unveiling of Kelly’s Wave—there’s no doubt Mick fanning’s public professional career has years left in it.
3. Mick Fanning.
While we were rather, uh, perplexed to see Mick Fanning fall off the Surfer Poll Top 10 this year, we’re unsurprised to see his disciplined work ethic and diverse portfolio see him into the top-5 top earners in the surf game.
Mick Fanning is a professional, and widely considered the hardest working guy in the game. He approaches his commercial deals the same way he approaches his competitive surfing. He’s prepared, organised, gives it everything. This year he inked a deal with Mercedes, to push their luxury rugged truck line. A more perfect pairing couldn’t exist. Made a commitment with Mick Fanning? Mick will be there on time, every time. He. Does. Not. Miss.
Where once mischief might have got the best of him out of a singlet, Mick’s got new rules now. On tour, off tour: he’s Mick fucking Fanning. Got a biz opportunity? Mick doesn’t suffer fools. You need $250k or you’re giving him a piece of the company.
Mick’s commercial story is well documented. His new softboards launched this year, and he became a partner in his long-time sponsor, Creatures of Leisure. But Mick capitalizes so well because of the perfect, subtle clauses written into the contracts with his sponsors. Rip Curl makes shoes and sunglasses. Mick wears Dragon and Reef. He can own a beer brand, and that don’t interfere with his Red Bull sponsorship. Because it’s Mick fucking Fanning.
With next year’s Rip Curl Pro at Bells rumored to be his last, his competitive future is up in the air. But with the bang Rip Curl got for their buck this year—from Mick’s leap-year African score yielding the most talked about clip since the unveiling of Kelly’s Wave—there’s no doubt Mick fanning’s public professional career has years left in it.
Sponsors: Rip Curl, Red Bull, Skull Candy, Dragon, FCS, Reef, Mercedes, Creatures, Balter, DHD.
At just shy of $3-million a year, Jordy Smith finds himself at #4 on the Rich List in 2017.
4. Jordy Smith.
After a late fall run at the World Title fell short, Jordy Smith can enjoy a healthy consolation prize, his $800k bonus for his performance on Tour this year, part of Jordy’s deal negotiated back in the more, shall we say, robust days for surf brands marketing budgets.
With Gabriel being the Brazilian Outlier, and Mick being the last remaining of the first generation of multi-million dollar World Tour surfers, Jordy Smith’s marquis contract stands in glaring contrast to that of his generational peer, JJF, though we’re told Jordy’s premiere sticker sponsor’s got him at just under a million.
Jordy’s O’Neill contract is up soon. Word is O’Neill re-up on the perennial Title threat.
The South African bruiser turned San Clemente loc-dawg ain’t hurting for supplemental support. A six-figure deal with Oakley, something similar with Corona, Jeep, and Brand Black, not to mention the close to half-mil he gets for donning a big, white Red Bull cap everytime his size 13s hit the sand. At just shy of $3-million a year, Jordy Smith finds himself at number four on the Rich List in 2017.
Sponsors: O’Neill, Red Bull, Futures, Trace, Oakley, Vestal, Neff, Channel Islands, Corona, Jeep, Brand Black.
Wilson and baby mama Ashley O, delicious in Armani and with the bank account to match the garb.
5. Julian Wilson
The effable, infinitely likable, high-performance Australian starlet slides into number five, still counted amongst the rare few collecting a mil-plus from their Sticker Sponsor. Hurley can rely each year on a mind-blowing Julian freesurf edit, as well as steady, modern competitive performances marked by occasional fireworks and more than a few frustrating shortcomings.
Julian enjoys the benefits of not only being a all-conditions handyman, but a very goddamned handsome man, a face any brand could see potential in (see: Jule’s seriously deep six-figured Mercedes deal!). With healthy cuts coming in from Red Bull, Oakley, JS Surfboards, Sunbum, and FCS, and prize winnings just shy of $300k, Julian can sleep easy knowing he and his lady’s forthcoming prodigy will eat well.
Sponsors: Hurley, Red Bull, Sunbum, Mercedes, Oakley, JS Surfboards, FCS
California's highest earning pro on the international scene, Kolohe Andino.
6. Kolohe Andino.
Still unarguably the highest profile Californian face on the World Tour (though Griff is coming for the throne), Brother rolls in at number six on Stab’s Rich List, still cruising on the ten-year, mil-plus annual contract his either ridiculously smart or ridiculously lucky management locked him into when the surf industry’s path to glory was paved in gold, the sky cloudless, bright blue…
But as the industry’s seen foul weather blow in, Andino has dropped the slicked-back, cock-sure Southern California attitude for a more humble, focused vibe, some foul weather gear and, for a brief amount of time, quite a bit of camouflage. But as far as his financials are concerned, Kolohe’s got nothing but smooth seas in front of him, despite the 2017 absence of the Target bullseye on his Mayhem’s decks, and those sweet, sweet non-endemic dollars in his San Clemente bank account. With endorsements accounting for just shy of $2-mil, Brother’s $200k prize winnings pushes him over the mark, California’s highest paid surfer today.
Sponsors: Hurley, Red Bull, FCS, Mayhem, Oakley
Surfing's leading lady, as seen in Harper's Bazaar.
7. Steph Gilmore.
At just shy of $1.7mil, Stephanie Gilmore glides into our room of mostly-male millionaires, necks craning as hard to see her dance in bright neoprene as in silken long- or little-black.
As the highest grossing female, Stephanie’s annuals are less than a third of the highest growwing males, a gender gap someone only someone of Steph’s marketability could approach closing.
While we’re glad to see her collecting skins on Tour again, clawing out just shy of $250k in prize winnings this year, we still think she’s only skimmed the surface of her broadspread value and appeal, though her contracts with Nikon and Australian health and wellness group, Sanitarium (see: Steph’s 2017 Sanitarium Weet-Bix Kids TRYathlon Series) certainly speak to the potential.
Non-endemic marketing wags with half an eye for sex appeal and genuine character should be tripping over themselves to slap a logo on anything Steph. Trust us, we’ll bite.
Sponsors: Roxy, Sanitarium, Nikon, DHD
Will Filipe make us all look silly in 2018 and climb straight over the pack’s backs? Did you see what he did at JBay and Surf Ranch? Come on…
8. Filipe Toledo.
The fire-eyed Brazilian and proud San Clemente suburban father of two, Filipe Toledo comes in at #8 on Stab’s Rich List.
While details of his Hurley contract are murkey, those close to the camp report Filipe’s various contracts with Hurley, Oi, Jeep, Panasonic, Stance, and longtime board builder Sharp Eye adds up to just over $1.3m, nothing to scoff at, but nothing compared to what the spring-heeled flyboy could be making if he could patch the holes in his heavy wave game and go on a tear like we’ve seen him do before.
Will Filipe make us all look silly in 2018 and climb straight over the pack’s backs? Did you see what he did at JBay and Surf Ranch? Come on… 2018 will almost certainly be a $2.5m payday for Filipe.
Sponsors: Hurley, Oi, Jeep, Sharp Eye, Panasonic, Stance
Leo Fiorivanti for Gucci.
9: Leo Fioravanti:
Our collab with Quik was done in good fun, the Bond rip low hanging fruit, but didn’t Leo look divine picking it? The young Italian slips into the Rich List for 2017 despite not requalifying for the 2018 World Tour, sent packing his Gucci gloveleather duffels for the ‘QS next year. But, as Kelly Slater told Stab, “Bummed for Leo. He’ll be fine, though.”
Kelly’s stoicism toward the handsome European regularfoot he called a teammate when Leo was just barely a teen isn’t a platitudinal dust-off.
Leo’s going to be fine.
With endorsements coming in at just under a mil, and winnings pushing him over the seven-figure mark, we’re pretty sure Leo’s going to enjoy the New Year in style, drink well and thoroughly in the company of European’s finest champagne flutes, knowing next year he gets to continue galavanting around the world... maybe not the Dream Tour, but there are worse ways to spend a year of your twenties, and we’re sure Roby D’Amico, Aritz Aranburu, Gony Zubizaretta, and the rest of the WQS’ European squad will take great care of him. The World Tour ain’t seen the last from Leo Fioravanti, Rocky analogies need not be applied.
Sponsors: Quiksilver, Red Bull, Smith, Gucci
Carissa Moore, pregaming in Rio a few years back.
10. Carissa Moore
Has there ever been anyone as wildly likable as Carissa Moore? Hers is an empire built on a gee shucks shrug, supreme sportsmanship and a saccharine smile.
One can only imagine the supreme value Moore brings to the table to Hurley, who are betting the bank that she’ll inspire throngs of tiny coastal preteens into the water, a million tiny Hurley wetsuits bobbing in lineups near you.
Combine Moore’s six-figure deals with Red Bull and Subaru (of course), with the cheddar she cut off the WSL wheel this year in prize winnings, and Moore earned over a cool mil, landing her just inside the top-10 on Stab's Rich List.
Sponsors: Hurley, Red Bull, Subaru, Mayhem
Surfing's all-conditions, all-boards household name, Kai Lenny.
11. Kai Lenny
The heir to the Renaissance Man throne long occupied by Laird Hamilton’s broad shoulders and meaty pelvis, Hawaiian Kai Lenny can count himself amongst the most broadly celebrated and well-paid men to ever scrape a living playing with toys in the ocean. And Kai’s got a lot of toys. Just at Jaws alone the kids got chops paddling, towing, foiling, kiting, and SUPing some of the heaviest waves of the last few seasons, all of which just happened to have been, by all accounts, historic.
Perhaps foilboarding’s foremost evangelist, Lenny’s captured the surf world’s imagination, and made believers out of more than a few of the World Tour’s best, while the sudden presence of foil boards in lineups the world over can be laid firmly on Kai’s thoroughly conditioned shoulders.
While his annual salary from Hurley pales in comparison to teamates John Florence, Filipe Toledo, and even Kolohe Andino, some would put Kai’s presence next to a few of those World Tour names and wonder where Hurley’s money is being spent best. With his first profile film in the bag, and the huddled masses yearning for validation of the most novel of ocean practices, Kai's marketability is as bottomless as his talent.
Sponsors: Hurley, Tag. Naish, Red Bull
A thoroughly broken foot at J Bay may keep Kelly's competitive successes to a minimum, but it'll take more than a late career injury to knock Kelly Slater out of the running for highest earners in the surf game. And we doubt that's changing anytime.
12. *Omission Admission* Kelly Slater.
With many a success story swirling, the entrepreneur is lauded in the modern day. But, let's not mince words—an entrepreneur is a salesman. You sacrifice a salary to convince friends and your critics your new business is worth investing in, getting behind, caring about...
And, it's mostly your own money on the line. Kelly Slater has been busy creating a different kind of legacy, his paws in all sorts of honeypot ventures these days. But Slater's realistic about his time, puts the right people in place so that he remains mostly hands-off day-to-day. Rumours abound it's often other people's money being thrown around leveraging his name, Kelly's smart in occassionally giving up equity while not jeopardizing long-term wealth.
Which is to say his annual income's hazy to say the least.
With investments in everything from the WSL and Kelly Slater Wave Co. standing on the precipice of surfing’s new age, Kelly’s got plenty riding on the next few years of competitive surfing, regardless of whether he ever dons a singlet or not. The Purps project seems to have settled in (Stab’s founder hardly operates without one these days). Outerknown’s hit a steady and sustainable stride...
If Kelly’s annual net income from his endeavors places him on the list, lines get blurred around what consists of income from professional surfing and what's income from just running your own business or making investments, etc. etc. in which case there's a lot of rich surfers out there, some of whom surf very well indeed. Which, we digress…
Freshly-minted professional surfers have typically been targets for shady investors. Many have torched significant parts of their wealth. Kelly has certainly flipped that script. Bravo, Mr Slater.