How Surfers Get Paid, S02E02 - Stab Mag

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How Surfers Get Paid, S02E02

The Loyalty and the Royalty of the Performance Surfboard. 

// Sep 25, 2021
Words by Sam McIntosh
Reading Time: 2 minutes

In the 10-plus years of the Stab Rich List, the focus on biggest surf contracts in the world, we’ve seen the surfboard sponsorship deal go from six-figure deals to zero in recent years. The goal of this episode The Loyalty and Royalty of the Performance Surfboard is to take a look under the hood at how contemporary surfboard sponsorship works between the best shapers and surfers in the world. 

Interestingly, in nine years of making Stab in the Dark, there’s never been a lesser-known shaper take down the big names for a victory. Plenty of final finishes from shapers Pukas and Luke Short but no one has taken it from Matt Biolos, Britt Merrick, Marcio Zouvi, Darren Handley and/or Jon Pyzel. It’s remarkable that year in, year out these names rise to the top. Also remarkable is that every big-name surfer usually ends up on the surfboards of these top-tier players. 

There are a tonne of fascinating characters who run the behind-the-scenes of the surf industry. John Florence’s production company, Parallel Sea, is headed up by a gent named Spencer Klein. (Spencer’s a super smart guy who recently proposed to me a WSL finals strategy that we’re trying to convince him to publish for us.) Anyway, when we were licensing footage of John Florence and Jon Pyzel for this episode, we shared an early cut with Spencer. His response: “I’ve always felt like DH/ Biolos/Pyzel were local incarnations of the same soul…  like their differences in board shapes were microcosmic of their personalities, so many similarities but discernible and shaped by the environment in which they grew.”  

A small round of applause is due to our talent. None moreso than Jack Freestone. Jack was very good-humoured about his previous relationship with Darren Handley and Jon Pyzel and was a major unlock of storylines in this ep. We have had quite a few interviews fall over last minute and Jack was self-deprecating and extremely honest.

We were racing to get this episode out before the WSL finals. When John Florence failed to make the top five cut in Tahiti, however, we pushed back the episode and changed up the ending thanks to a late starring role by Channel Islands’ Britt Merrick.

Similar to our approach in the Twiggy episode, we’ve allowed these narratives more space to evolve within the context of performance shortboards. And, given the popularity of the alternative surfboard, we’ve separated that into its own episode that will craft and feature down the track. Also, for the sake of clarity, financial contracts between shapers and surfers still exist but not in the upper echelon of high-performance surfing, which thrives more in the alternative boards ep down the track. These take a long while to build so when it’s done in a few months, we’ll send it live…


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