Stab Magazine | Three Surfers Write Big New Deals, Others Try To Hold On

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Three Surfers Write Big New Deals, Others Try To Hold On

Gossip Girl gets inside the sponsorship deals of 2017. 

// Nov 19, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 7 minutes

As we power toward Dec 31, GG is all about sponsorship swings and who’s holding and who’s folding their sticker packs. Cash ruined everything around me, as Joey Badass so aptly re-appropriated, and here we are. 

On a world scale, the hottest property in terms of salary increase is young Queensland surfer, Ethan Ewing. Ethan has moved from a virtual unknown banging his way to victory around the pro juniors to a 2017 world tour hopeful. The reason Ethan has captured so much attention isn’t the fact that he’s a contest machine, but rather his obvious style influence from surfers like Mick Fanning and Andy Irons. He prefers to wet the rail rather than pirouette into the flats. In the event of Ethan being on the 2017 world tour, he’ll pick up $500k-plus from his marquee sponsor, Billabong. These formative years is when a surfer has to make the cash. The real money favours the tour incumbents when they can sell themselves as world title hopefuls, and lock down big deals before actually being tested. We’ll come back to this point but for now, Billabong have always valued surfers on tour, and they’re heavily incentivised at the single digits.  

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Mr Ewing on location in New Zealand for our cover shoot for Stab issue 85.


Rambo Estrada

As you likely know, the surf biz is tough and the silly money contracts of 2006/2007/2008 are over. Almost every team has to rob Peter to pay Paul. Which means to earn the big bucks, you usually have to steal it from another team rider in the stable. Ethan’s cash will likely be docked from world tour rookies Jack Freestone and Ryan Callinan currently ranked 29th and 36th. The same way the previous year, these rookies lightened the taxable income of world tour veterans Taj Burrow and Joel Parkinson. Speaking of Taj, he’s currently negotiating his first ever off-tour package with the team he’s ridden for over 20 years. Likewise, there’s talk that the only reason Joel Parkinson is staying on tour is to keep a more bolstered salary before chasing the tube in post-tour years. And, it’s lucky he is because Ryan and Jack were underwhelming in their first year on tour, while Joel still sits inside the top 10. There was talk that 2017 would be Joel’s last year on tour but there have been recent murmurs he’ll go around again in 2018. Most companies understand that despite good intentions and work ethic, when a surfer leaves tour, they do lose a ton of visibility.    

Shall we address these Young Money contracts we spoke of earlier? This is where the smart money lies. Everyone from Jordy Smith to Julian Wilson to Kolohe Andino all locked big deals before they hit the big leagues. And, good on them. The thing is, as most rookies learn (with Italo Ferriera as the exception), the big leagues is a lot more difficult than they first thought. Jordy, Jules and Kolohe haven’t won world titles but they’ve all experienced the big-money contracts as the new face of world title hope. None better than Kolohe Andino. Before  the serious weakening of the surf industry, Kolohe locked down a ten-year, absolutely water-tight deal with Nike. When Nike transferred its surf focus to Hurley, the contract was honoured by the )(. Kolohe’s deal runs out in 2020.   

Speaking of Kolohe, there were rumours that he has been approached by Quiksilver to come join the mountain and the wave. Our sources say this is unfounded and perhaps just lower level industry talk, rather than fact that trickled down from the top of the food chain. However, the same can’t be said for fellow San Clemente surfer, Griffin Colapinto. Griff made some noise with a critical last minute spin-to-win at Haleiwa this past week and there’s rumour he might be joining good friend Leo Fioravanti on the Quik team.  

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Kolohe Andino in front of the quiver you wish you had on scene of our Thank You Andy // Scorched trip in the Ments. Photo: Richard Freeman

Hurley are now in the middle of the negotiation of their 2018-and-beyond contract negotiation with Mr John Florence. When it comes to the best surfer in the world, rumours can take on a life of their own. For the past few years, John has talked about wanting to sail to the world tour event in Tahiti from Hawaii. Anyways, this rumour has evolved into John taking 2017 off and sailing the world to surf and make another film. Which sounds cool but isn’t true. Fresh from the standard surf industry $1m world title bonus, he’ll wear the yellow jersey at Snapper. John is one of the rare feel good stories whereby negotiations actually involve an increased salary. The biggest ever salary in surfing will improve for John. Given the success of his film, a win at The Eddie and a world title – a good starting point to discuss the icky subject of money. One thing is for sure, though, he won’t be asking what he did during last contract talks. As they closed off the historic deal whereby John would earn over $10k a day for the next four years, Hurley asked if John had any questions.  

“Does that mean you’re not going to pay my phone bill any more?” asked the innocent but awesome Mr Florence. Uh, no John, that one will be your responsibility was the response.  

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Traverse the sea by boat and surf? Oh, Mr Florence has a good life now doesn’t he?


Brian Clifford

Josh Kerr is a potential target for joining the Quiksilver family, fitting into their waterman category, given what he’s been doing in srsly lg srf lately. This fit is driven in part by the fact his daughter, Sierra, rides for Roxy, which’d make it a Kerr team deal. Josh still has a Rusty deal on the table but is apparently not psyched on the numbers set forth. He was expecting to soak up a little more cash from Noa Deane’s departure, who left the team to join Volcom. Noa was courted by a lot of companies because of his appeal to kids. Noa knows what he stands for and it connects with his audience. Stab recently approached Noa about a month-long film project whereby he’d detox, train, eat healthily and give up the cigs and see how it affected his surfing. “I’m not super into it” said Noa. “I wouldn’t want to piss off any fans or anything and it just ain’t me.” We respected his honesty and left him alone. Anyway, talent like Noa isn’t cheap and this five-year deal has him locked in with Volcom until December 31, 2021. As per his manager Mick Cain: “I can confirm that in an industry that is going backwards at a rate of knots… Noz is one of very few going forward. He has signed a healthy five-year deal and is doing very well across all his sponsors!” Noa is the second highest earnings jumper behind Ethan Ewing.  

Surf has been a dirty word of late and Jordy Smith has gone beyond the salt water realm for his new shoe sponsor, Brand Black. Jords is a well known as a shoe aficionado and this alignment to street style is a natural fit.

The entire Fox team has been given the Samsung Galaxy 7 treatment after the brand ejected from surf (for good). They’re now owned by Altamont and we’re surprised it took a business this efficient, this long, to be frank. It means Bede Durbidge, Keanu Asing and Damien Hobgood are looking for new homes.  

If you’re a pro surfer, there are two companies you want to align with, first being Rip Curl. Because Rip Curl is privately owned and not attached to the share market who expect top level growth and increased profitability year on year, the Curl can make strategic long-term decisions. Apparently, there’s no pressure from them to have Mick Fanning on or off tour. And there’s rumour of Mick doing one last year on tour swinging for a fourth world title before pulling beers behind the Balter Bar on the Gold Coast, or retiring at Bells…

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Out with Rusty in with Volcom. Noa in the Ments filming for Thank You Andy and Scorched.


Richard Freeman

The final and warmest wing to nestle under is that of Vans, a pop culture icon whose business is currently steaming. Their team strategy has been to partner with icons who are immune to short-term market forces like contest results, and their team, from Nathan Fletcher, to Wade Goodall to Dane Reynolds and the Gudangs, remains intact. 

Let’s talk surfboards quickly. Channel Islands have had to step up to hold into Santa Barbara team rider, Bobby Martinez. Bob was a target of Kelly Slater’s surfboard company until CI upped the stakes and held onto him. Bob is influential around the 805 and is still one of the world’s best goofyfoots. CI have lost both Kelly and Rob Machado to Kelly’s board company and didn’t want to lose a third. And, when you think about it, it’s a smart move by Kelly. It wasn’t he or Rob who validated Slater Designs but strangely, it came down to Mr Stuart Kennedy. Not in a million years would you have thought that this world tour wildcard from Lennox would be the guy who puts the Kelly’s boards on the map. But, after his performance at Snapper, he did exactly that.  

Next week we’ll see the first hint of Dane Reynolds’ new brand. We’re big fans of the name and the team behind it, including Craig Anderson and skateboarder Austyn Gillette. Although the brand tragically lost one its founding partners Dylan Rieder, the boys have soldiered on to launch and we’re excited to see the first look. 

Finally, let’s have a word about sponsorships. We see a lot of chatter in the forums about who should be sponsored and who shouldn’t be. The rhetoric is around the surfing skill of some surfers and why this equates to big-monied contracts over others. Taking it back to its most basic form, all businesses exist to make a profit and as such, surfers are investments. When they perform and provide an ROI, they’re retained. Surfing sponsorship is an arbitrary marketing expense but if a company doesn’t feel they’re getting value from one surfer, they simply move to the next. And, if that surfer is so valuable, then they’ll be picked up by someone else. That’s market forces at play. If there is such a brilliant asset out there who is being robbed by not being aligned with a company, we suggest the following: Put your money where your mouth is. Quite simply, rake together some leaves, organise a business plan, create a product, approach the talent and have a swing with said talent as your frontman. To which we wish the best of luck. 

Until next time, xoxo GG


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