Surfers need sponsorships to make a living riding waves, but every now and then, those surfer-sponsor relationships can go awry. The cause of those breakups isn’t always clear and they’re often not the most cordial of splits, but over the years, there have been some that are more tumultuous than others. This month has seen two sponsorship breakups already, including the end of the Gudauskas brothers’ longtime association with Vans, which seemingly concluded in much more amicable fashion. So here, we look at examples where once harmonious relationships turned sour.

Roxy and Kelia Moniz 
Kelia Moniz’s honesty and openness on video after her recent Roxy breakup was a new benchmark in the genre of brand separations.“I’m not about to be strong-armed by some corporation that knows nothing about the sport and doesn’t give a shit about it,” she said.

Yes, Moniz provided one of the more jaw-dropping sponsorship breakups of recent times. Having been the face of Roxy for two decades, the brand’s buyout by Authentic Brands Group and its offer of a 90 percent pay cut, according to Moniz, was enough to send the two-time world champion over the edge.

In terms of a rant, Moniz’s wasn’t exactly the newsreader from the classic film Network screaming, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” But it was poignant overall when it comes to the genre of saying adios to partnerships. Moniz certainly wasn’t the first surfer — and won’t be the last — to go public after a brand bust-up. Below are six other notable examples where once harmonious relationships turned sour.

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RVCA and Billy Kemper
“It’s unfortunate that only a few of us were even offered a contract to stay with a brand that was built with team effort guided by the one and only @pmtenore. That being said, without him there’s no leadership and with no leader there’s no tribe.” And with a not-so-subtle video of him covering his RVCA stickers, Billy Kemper publicly expressed his displeasure with the recent purchase by Authentic Brands Group (see a connection here?) and the ousting of RVCA founder Pat Tenore, ending his affiliation with the company.

Mr. Wilson, pre-lawsuit.

Hurley and… Everyone
When Hurley was sold to Blue Star Alliance in 2019, it was perhaps the single biggest fire sale in pro surfing history. At the base of the pyre were John John Florence, Julian Wilson and Rob Machado. Florence reportedly quit his Hurley contract two years early, losing millions, rather than continuing to sport the logo. Wilson took the legal route and initiated a $US 1.5 million lawsuit for alleged wrongful termination of his contract. Machado, despite having a 20-year relationship, was publicly, at least, more sanguine, expressing his thanks to the founder Bob Hurley, while ignoring the new owners. It’s interesting to note that despite the changes from Hurley to Nike then to Blue Star, Carissa Moore, one of the GOATs, continues to sport the logo on her boards.

Monster and John and John Florence
John John Florence isn’t known for his grand, emotional, or public statements. However, he also isn’t afraid to go legal to air his grievances. In 2018 he took his sponsor Monster to court for remunerations caused by “embarrassment, humiliation, and emotional distress” as well as punitive damages, compensatory damages, treble damages, and interest at the legal rate.” Monster countered, denying all charges, and said Florence had engaged in inequitable behavior, including fraud, deceit, or bad faith. We will never know the result, or what John was so embarrassed about, as in 2019 both parties reached a settlement agreement for an unknown sum.

Quiksilver and Dane Reynolds
“But who is Quiksilver?” asked Dane Reynolds in his movie Chapter 11, with perhaps the world’s least philosophical question. The film largely chronicled the breakdown of his relationship with his long-time sponsor. Quiksilver filed for bankruptcy (hence the film’s title) in 2015, having its debt underwritten by Oaktree Capital Management, and Reynolds contract was one of the first on the hit list. “I really do appreciate my time there, and the projects we worked on, and the money they gave me, but everyone I feel is responsible has either been fired or laid off. So let’s band together and rage against the machine.” The bankruptcy case later showed that Reynolds had a base compensation of $291,666.67 per month, or $3.5 million per year, since 2011. No wonder he was raging.

See you in the streets, kelly slater

Kelly Slater left Quiksilver after two decades with the company.

Quiksilver and Kelly Slater 
On April 1, 2014, for the first time in 23 years, Kelly Slater appeared without the Quiksilver logo on his board or person. Such was the shock that many thought it a clever April Fool’s joke. The split came less than five years after Kelly had been awarded a three percent stake in the company as a bonus for his 10th World Title. Whether he walked or was pushed is only really known by those closest to Kelly, though most guessed it was the former. He announced that he had chosen to partner with the Kering Group, which also owned Gucci, Volcom, and Puma, and would go on to start Outerknown. The fact that Kelly’s exit came just a few months after ex-Disney and Nike exec Andrew Mooney had replaced long-time Quik CEO Bob McKnight fueled the rumors of a rift between Quik’s new boss and the GOAT.

Billabong and Jordy Smith
It was so long ago now that it’s hard to believe Jordy Smith spent ten years with Billabong from age 12 to 22. In 2007, however, when Smith wanted out of the contract, the relationship turned sour. His tactics were inflammatory; he tore the Bong stickers off his boards, self-financed his travel to events, and let the industry know he was looking for a new label. O’Neill would end up being more than just the fluff on the side (even after Nike had Tiger Woods call with a sales pitch) though only after Billabong initiated a suit against Smith citing a breach of the agreement.


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