It is well known practice in the industry that, when athletes are seen drinking “sports drinks” on camera (eg: post heat interviews) they are actually drinking from cans filled with water. In fact, Monster manufactures special cans for their athletes that only contain water, presumably so they don’t have to dump out the drink and refill it with H20 before their interviews. This, of course, raises the interesting question of how much sports drink our favorite athletes actually consume. To try to get some answers I emailed both Jamie O’Brien and Jordy Smith asking them how much, if any, Red Bull they actually drink. As this goes live, O’Brien has not responded. However, Smith’s Red Bull manager, Ryan Payne, sent me an email confirming that Jordy is indeed a Red Bull drinker. “When you see Jordy drinking from a Red Bull can, there is only Red Bull in there,” Payne said. “Sometimes before a heat, he’ll pour a mix of 50% water, and 50% Red Bull into a cup to give himself both hydration and energy.”
Payne went on to say that he had spoken to Smith who, according to Payne, had this to say. “I use Red Bull for training, competing, and when I need a pick me up. I find mixing it with water gives me the best results in terms of hydration and longer lasting energy.”
So the companies are dug in and waiting for the storm to pass, the athletes are being a bit shifty, and the rest of us are hoping for answers. The answer is NOT a witch-hunt against sports drinks. To single out beverages with caffeine and Taurine as the next great evil would be ridiculous and counterproductive in a culture that has historically indulged in copious drug use and continues to do so. However, drugs are a calculated risk for adults and only given to minors by degenerates. We need to push these companies to find out exactly what type of health risks, if any, their products might pose to people.
Outside of a general boycott, there are a couple of ways to do this. First of all, retail companies working in the surf world should refuse to collaborate with them. This would mean no more Monster surf comps, and no more clothing collaborations like the one Monster currently enjoys with DC. It would also mean that magazines would have to stop running Red Bull and Monster advertisements. Finally, on the level of the individual, more than a few of our favorite surf photogs would have to stop working as Red Bull content-pool providers. As someone who marginally works in the media, these last ideas feel a bit harsh, but when you consider that these companies might be poisoning the very surfers that we write about and photograph, it puts it all into perspective.
“These brands have built their multi-billon dollar empires off surfing and action sports,” Desai reminds us. “I don’t think we can say we are just small a community, the action sports community helped launch energy drinks into the global marketplace, and we continue to fuel their cool factor. Because of that, our community and industry should have a better understanding of what we are promoting and what message we are exporting to the rest of the world. We might not be the purchasing side of their business but surfing and action sports as a whole definitely holds a key role on being influential to global consumers and these brands know it.”
So let’s flex our muscles. Let’s make it clear to the guys at Red Bull, Monster, Rock Star, and whoever else that we are happy to buy their products and take their investments in the sport as soon as they can convince us that their beverages are safe for us – and for the next generation of surfers.