Nike & Hurley decided to end it’s seven year (combined) sponsorship of the U.S. Open of Surfing based in the historic surf district of Huntington Beach, CA (Surf City USA).

The U.S. Open of Surfing was inaugurated as the West Coast Surfing Championship way back in 1959. In 1964 it was then renamed to the United States Surfing Championships. Then in the 80’s as surfing began to explode in popularity as a sport, in came the sponsors which changed the name to the OP Pro. 1994 the even was eventually dubbed the U.S. Open of Surfing (thanks Wikipedia).

The U.S. Open of Surfing is a huge event for So Cal beach residents, both surfing enthusiasts and non, driving upwards of $20 mil into the local economy and attended by a half a million people minimum.

Now, the surf isn’t always spectacular and probably one of the least exciting events to watch next to Brazil, which drives away some of the top surfers. Though, based on the turn-out, this was and has always been a real event. You have masses of people watching the surf, then you have masses of people just to watch the masses of people attending the event (people watchers) and a ton of semi-celebrity pro’s roaming the bar scene and getting crazy in the local hotels. All of this created buzz for this event as a go-to event in Southern California, of course, not necessarily for the surfing.

So why do I disagree with Hurley CEO Bob Hurley and Nike Global Action Sports VP Sandy Bodecker on pulling their sponsorship out of this event?

Ultimately, the U.S. Open of Surfing, at least at a micro So-Cal economic level, was one of the only things keeping these brands relevant in the surf community. Do keep in mind, that Southern California is the epicenter of the U.S. Surfing economy. I do realize there are surfers on every edge of water in this country (including the Great Lakes), though it’s no doubt that the largest percentage of the COR surfing community is based right here in Southern California. It is true that for large brands such as Hurley, Volcom, Billabong and Quiksilver, substantial percentages of their business comes from stores such as Macy’s that are able to reach the Midwest (the Midwest is crucial to larger brands).

Besides a pair of Hurley shorts that I have from 7 years ago that are indestructible that I use to wash the car, mow the lawn and paint the house, I have nothing Hurley nor will plan to buy anything Hurley in the future. Most people can disagree with me, though, I have no motivation to buy anything Hurley, maybe boardshorts, though with the boardies ranging up to $125, I’m out of the boardshort game at that point.

Not sure if you remember the Nike hotel in HB on PCH, though I believe that started it all of Nike entering the surf community (along with the Hurley purchase/acquisition of course). Nike needs this even to stay relevant. Sure it’s an expensive and complicated event to run and sponsor, though if you want to keep your brand relevenent and have core surf sales outside of the major department stores, you stick with this event.
“Now it’s time to export the magic created at the US Open and invest it into other aspects of our business, like a renewed athlete focus and new and exciting ways of connecting with millions of kids.” as Bob Hurley said in TIFFANY MONTGOMERY’s column on

From a business perspective, this must be a good move as Bob and Sandy have many business analysts and finance gurus at their disposal (mostly likely non-surfers). Keep in mind, the “millions of kids” he’s speaking of are not necessarily on the coasts and surfing each day, they are shopping at Macy’s in Kansas City. Though from a core-surf perspective, they are probably already too far gone to ever come back as a core surf brand that is not sold out, still relevant and not over priced. For Nike, I see this as the beginning of the end of their surf career and will mostly likely spin-off Hurley which will eventually go down with the likes of Volcom and to go way back, T&C Surf Designs, HIC and all the others people don’t wear anymore.