Updated: Jun 27, 2020
And so it was Hurley's turn, along with Rip Curl, Volcom, Billabong and Quiksilver, to depart these shores for the Undying Lands, or the racks of TK Maxx. Hurley's acquisition to Bluestar Alliance, which is exactly as hollow and corporate as the name suggests, signals the long time coming of the death of surfing. When Bob Hurley sold his baby to Nike back in 2001, it was at least taken on with the intention of making it bigger, to which Nike certainly achieved that goal. Up until recently, Hurley boasted one of the strongest rosters in all of surfing; John John Florence, Julian WIlson, Kolohe Andino, Carissa Moore and even Rob Machado not too long ago. Once these contracts expire, they will all be dropped quicker than the Phantom range into Walmart bargain bins. So what does this mean for the surf industry?
When you take a step back, and look at Hurley and the path it took, it comes as absolutely no surprise that it fell on its face, tripping over its own corporate greed. With the sheer amount of money that Nike could have pumped into Hurley; wetsuit innovation, event sponsorships, films, there shouldn't be any reason why Hurley couldn't have taken the surfing world by storm. So what did they actually bring to the table? Overpriced boardies and a killer roster just to sell said boardies.
Ever since Quiksilver started recklessly haemorrhaging money, which of course resulted in bankruptcy, the rest of the surfing world followed suit. The loss of one of the most refreshing and original surfers in Dane for Quik, which I myself proudly broke the news to Quiksilver New Zealand, much to their shock and anxiety, surely signalled the end of Quiksilver. Then RipCurl, one of the original 'Big 3', was sold to Kathmandu in late last year and of course the Billabong cluster fuck amalgamation with Quiksilver/Boardriders Inc. or whoever they say they are. What most of this alludes to, is that these original 'core' surf brands are now ran and operated by non-surfing organisations and CEOs. That is because there is no money in actually selling to surfers.
Surfers are cheap skates, the only real market for 'surf' clothing are the middle aged inlanders, the Hollister crew. WSL soon realised this and the subsequent hiring of Sophie Goldschmidt, a British former tennis pro, naturally, to become CEO. Despite having zero connection to surf, Sophie was tasked with 'bringing surfing to the masses'. The dilution of the World Tour is a relentless debate for another time, but just in case you couldn't possibly think things could get any lower, in walks ABC, hand in hand with the king himself; Kelly Slater. 'Ultimate Surfer' will provide a platform for 'up and coming' surfers to fight for their right for a spot on the tour. That's right, they kinda forgot about the Qualifying Series and will unashamedly flip off the guys and girls who have been battling it out most of their lives for some reality TV kook to jump ahead. All for that sweet exposure.
Not all is lost, and don't think for one second any of this will actually harm surfing, far from it. This death of the sport of surfing, that we have come to know and resent for many years, will now shift to a brighter future. The return of smaller, core brands will replace the stagnant and bloated status quo; John John will form a super brand with Nathan, Former will continue to grow, and Julian will join LuLuLemon flogging next year's trend of SeaLegs, ocean-friendly yoga pants for the modern man. Wave pools will spawn a new breed of sub-surfer who will all no doubt die terrible deaths at the hands of mother nature upon their first meeting with an actual wave, causing a worldwide ban on wave pools. See, everything is just going to turn out rosy; surfing is dead. Long live surfing.