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Nike’s Surfing Swoosh

By August 4, 2012February 22nd, 2019Blog

The crowd at the Nike US Open of Surfing

Is Corporate America Stealing Surfing’s Soul?

This week in Huntington Beach, California the Nike US Open of Surfing is taking place. Although as an ASP Prime Event (one tier under a World Title event) the points acquired by the surfers do not count directly towards a World Title, it does boast over 500,000 people in attendance. Meaning, that the best surfers in the world have come
from all corners of the globe to compete in front of the biggest crowd of ANY surfing event.

Nike’s involvement in the surf world has steadily increased since it’s entrance several years ago, which was greeted with a very mixed reaction. The brand, which is valued at $10.7 billion (in comparison to Quiksilver at $413.7million), has since proceeded pour their dollars into sponsoring a stream of events from Junior competitions to the US Open (but not a World Title event, yet). They continue to sponsor some of the best young male and female stars of our sport, including: wonder-kids Kolohe Andino and Julian Wilson, 2011 Womens World Champ Carissa Moore and the current Women’s World number 6, 7, 8, 9th ranked surfers. They have also produced the most high performance female surf movie to date, ‘Leave a Message’ (which is available for free download on youtube).

The surf world is still very divided on the subject of how beneficial /detrimental Nike will be to surfing.

Some people believe that the brand will help to push high-performance surfing into a more professionally recognized, mainstream sport. Increasing the winners cheque of the 2010 US Open to $100,000 was greeted very positively as it has been long believed that there is not enough prize money for our top athletes, take the US Open of Golf’s $1,440,000 winners cheque as a comparison. Nike’s chief executive and president, Mark G. Parker, stated that “When we looked at action sports, we saw a unique consumer segment that was underserved in terms of product innovation,” and in the end a
diversified and competitive marketplace is the very breath of innovation, and hopefully that always equals a better product for the consumer.

On the other hand, many people believe that Nike is going to steal surfing’s soul. That their sponsored surfers have ‘sold out’. Although big brands have been involved in surfing for a long time, the main concern is that Nike is going to monopolize the surfing industry and push out the little guys. This could mean replacing local surf shops and small brands with Nike Surfing Mega-stores. Also, by paying their star surfing athletes huge salaries, other surf companies have already had to cut their teams back so they can pay fewer people more money.

Personally, I believe that our beloved sport of surfing is diverse enough to accommodate Nike. If they can help to push the innovation and progression of high performance surfing then great, just because they flex their financial muscle doesn’t mean that I want to buy one of their t-shirts. Local surfers will always support local surf shops, and I can’t ever imagine a time that surfers will forsake the little unique brands for a pair of shiny Nike boardshorts. Without the innovation that comes from a competitive necessity, we wouldn’t have the wetsuit technology we do today, or the same quality of surfboards, or wax, board bags, board shorts, the list goes on.

What are your thoughts on big name brands like Nike’s involvement in surfing? Or other
extreme/alternative sports for that matter?