One might argue that the biggest publicity for a surf brand is representation on the ASP World Championship Tour. Millions of people watch the live webcast, see the pictures that get published in magazines, and read surf articles online. If a surfer performs well, they will get media coverage, and wearing their brand’s logo sells. When Andy Irons won his third WCT title, he was wearing his signature Billabong “Rising Sun” board shorts. Those were the highest grossing shorts of that year. People like to wear what champions wear.
There are currently 13 brands backing the 36 riders on the WCT (including alternates). Thanks to the outflow of the Nike team, Hurley is now the most discussed name in professional surfing and has the most riders at the top. A perfect marketing plan with top names such as John John, Julian, and Ace Buchan, there is a large chance the next World Champion will be a Hurley rider.
Quiksilver and Rip Curl make do with nearly half as many riders. Both teams have a former world champion and the back up of potential followers. Their limited arsenal of top riders still gives them a large following and loads of publicity. Both companies are also two of the largest brands worn by the non-surfing community.
Oakley and Billabong follow in the rankings, respectively, with three and two riders each. Their teams consist of proven champions and repeating threats to the world championship. With Billabong having current world champion Joel Parkinson and Oakley supporting their WCT rookie, Sebastian Zietz, we should see these brands high up in the championship rankings coming season.
O’Neill, a well-established name in the history of surfing and a big contributor to surfing’s innovation, is the sick puppy of the litter. With only 2 riders, and after losing John John, they are struggling for global representation. If you look at any global top 10 list about surfing you will not see O’Neill. Their biggest name at the moment, Jordy Smith, has proven to be a possible world champion, but after losing some crucial points the previous season, he’s facing a tough challenge to show what he’s
worth this year.
Next up we have a series of brands with one rider each. These are well-known brands in the surf world but lack the publicity with non-surfing crowds. These include brands like Rusty, Volcom, Rhythm, and Reef. The only reason a non-surfer would know Reef is because it’s “a nice sandal company” or because of the Reef girls.
We also have some lesser-known brands. The least known would definitely have to be “To Write Love On Her Arms”, a non-profit organization aimed at recovering addicts. They have found a partner in CJ Hobgood.
Every now and then we have the solo rider. That one guy without a sponsor. Bobby Martinez competed on tour for a while without a major sponsor and this year it’s Raoni Monteiro’s turn. Usually these guys are just in between sponsors and are negotiating new deals, but there have been cases where a surfer would compete the whole tour without a major brand backing him and having to find funds elsewhere.
If I had to break this down to the bare essentials, I would summarize with these words: results get the sponsors’ coverage, which lead to sales, and results in the growth of the surf community.
Riders per brand:
John John Florence
Adriano de Souza
To Write Love On Her Arms
No clothing sponsor