Despite seemingly unprecedented success and record-setting numbers, Nike has chosen to discontinue its sponsorship of the U.S. Open of Surfing. In 2012, Huntington Beach played host to over 760,000 people, a record high, and even saw Nike-sponsored surfers, Julian Wilson and Lakey Peterson, win the event. Alongside the main event (surfing) there were skate competitions, and the sands at HB saw three free concerts. With Nike’s withdrawal, IMG will continue to hold the license to the event, although there is a momentary void as to which (if any) major sponsor will step up to the plate in Nike’s absence.
This is not to say Hurley and Nike plan to stop supporting surfing. They still sponsor six very influential young surfers, two major events, The Hurley Pro (a World Tour event) and The Nike Lowers Pro (a six-star prime), both taking place at America’s surf skate-park, Lower Trestles.
Moreover this means that the Women’s Tour will be cut from seven events to six if the ASP fails to find a replacement sponsor. Since the U.S. Open is the last of these events, its absence might actually reduce the Women’s Tour down to five months.
This will be a much larger dent than for the Men as the U.S. Open is only a prime event on their schedule. Nike’s drop of the U.S. Open comes on the heels of several very “transitional” (to be politically correct) years for the ASP. Quiksilver, Rip Curl, and Billabong have all dropped (or in Billabong’s case, backed off on) sponsorship for World Tour events in the last two years, and the Women no longer have a Triple Crown (or any Hawaii season at all). Through all this we saw Fiji’s (incredibly) triumphant return to the schedule, and a resurgence of beach breaks.
As of this moment there are no immediate frontrunners to replace Nike as the primary sponsor of the U.S. Open of Surfing.