Nike to sponsor ASP Prime Manly, AUS

Fans line Manly Beach for the Clean Water Classic in the 90s. Peter 'Joli' Wilson

The official line has been "no comment" from both Nike and the ASP, but a source within ASP Australia says that the 'official' announcement that Nike 6.0 will bring a major event to Manly is only days away. This 2012 ASP event in Sydney will fall between the Quiksilver Pro on the Gold Coast and the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach.

This will not be a World Tour event. ASP rules specify that a region can only have two World Championship events per season. With those two spots taken by Quiksilver and Rip Curl, the Nike 6.0 event will likely be a Prime event, run along the lines of the US Open at Huntington sponsored by Hurley, which is owned by Nike.

Earlier this year, Quiksilver announced the Quik Pro New York would have a $1 million purse. Nike's event, said to offer a similar pot, will be the richest surfing event in Australia's history.

In some ways Manly seems a strange venue and in others it's ideal for a high profile surf event, especially considering the recent trend of live events coming to densely populated areas. Manly is to the north side of the Sydney Harbour, what Bondi is to the south. Syndey, in New South Wales, is Australia's most populated city with 3.6 million people.

Manly was host to the very first world title event, won by Bernard 'Midget' Farrelly in 1964. It has seen classic events like the Coca-Cola Surfabouts won by the likes of Simon Anderson and Rabbit Bartholomew in the early 1980s, featuring legendary names such as Wayne Lynch and Larry Blair. Manly Beach was also home to the Coke contest of the early 90s when Tom Carroll, Martin Potter, Damien Hardman, Nicky Wood, Brad Gerlach and Barton Lynch were ruling the surfing world before Kelly Slater (with a full head of hair) had won a world title.

By Australian standards, Manly does not rate very well for surf during March and April. It can be fickle. Layne Beachley held a Women's World Tour event here in October, from 2006 to 2008, which struggled. But there were classic 80s and 90s moments from the Coca-Cola Surf Classic and Surfabout-era.

One possible catalyst for this event could be former World Champion Barton Lynch. Lynch is a brand Ambassador for Hurley and a former Manly local. Wayne 'Rabbit' Bartholemew, also a Hurley Ambassador, spent time at Nike's US headquarters earlier this year. Either is a candidate for contest director.

Nike 6.0 may have preferred to run a World Title event. The Drug Aware Pro at Margaret River in Western Australia has been pushing for an upgrade from Prime for years. The sponsorship dollars are there, but because of the two-contest per region rule, mandated by the ASP, it hasn't been allowed.

The mainland USA has three World Championship contests this year in the Quik Pro New York, the Trestles Hurley Pro and Rip Curl's Search in San Francisco. The ASP makes an exception for Rip Curl's Search because it has a 'floating' license. The ASP Hawaii is a separate region from the ASP North America, and when asked about Hawaii's Pipe Masters and the Search event making four Tour stops in the US, the ASP answered, "They're just different."

Nike 6.0, a division of the iconic athletics company based in Beaverton, Oregon, specified to the surf, snow, ski, BMX, wake, and moto markets, has become a major surf industry player in the last five years. The Nike 6.0 Lowers Pro in California is very successful. The brand boasts two Junior World Champions in Alejo Muniz and Laura Enever, and the current No. one woman in the world in Carissa Moore. Nike also supports Muniz, Michel Bourez, and Julian Wilson on the World Tour, and California star, Kolohe Andino.