The story of tweens signing contracts to ride surfboards isn't such a strange one these days. The major surf brands are all eager to entice the "what's next" kids into their perspective folds. It happens every year in Florida. It happens every week in California.
But it doesn't happen all that often on the "sandbahs of New Yawk." While the East Coast is hardly the stepchild it once was, the Northeast isn't exactly funneling kids into the ASP Top 100. Sure, New Jersey, Virginia, and North Carolina have that handful of pro talent, but anything north of there, the performance level drops with each millimeter of neoprene.
Take away all the talk of influences and industry support. Water below 48 degrees for half the year doesn't exactly motivate little kids to go out and learn alley-oops. Unless they have extremely supportive parents, what young whippernsapper can even afford a $450 winter suit? Sure, there's summer, but that's fleeting and often flat. Hence, why it's such an amazing accomplishment that 19-year-old Balaram Stack has already been on the Quiksilver Pro Team for so long.
Easily the most talented surfer to have ever come out of the Empire State, Stack is looking a big year of travel, comps, and a new World Tour event in his backyard. And he hasn't lost his East Coast pride.
ESPN: So what have you been up to this month?
Balaram Stack: I've been on the Gold Coast, hanging around for the Quiksilver Pro at Snapper.
Australia? The Northeast has had four days of surf in 2011 and record snowfall. Who told you that you could leave?
It's been really fun this winter. I love the snow. I also snowboard as much as possible when I'm home, although I did break my wrist, it's still the best thing ever, next to surfing.
Seems like you've been with Quik since you were a fetus. That's pretty common in California or Florida, but no one turns heads that early in the Northeast.
Yeah, Unsound Surf Shop played a pretty huge role in that. They were always hyping me up to the companies and hooking it up with some product here and there, but it didn't really start until Quik had a little day camp in Montauk when I was about 13, and we started talking to Jason Borte, Andy Ryan and Strider (Wasilewski.) Andy is from NY as well, and made a huge push for me. Love that guy -- he's still getting me tons of credit with Quik to this day.
What was the scene like on the Gold Coast?
Only three things really -- parties, surfing, and watching the best guys in the world rip Snapper. I mean, what more could you really ask for?
Is there a lot of talk about the tour coming to New York in September?
There's tons. I've been getting hit up with questions and interviews and all that, but I think the most common question is whether I'm getting the wildcard. I wish I could give them an answer, but all I can say at the moment is that I freaking hope so. That'd be a dream.
Your Mom's house was pretty crowded last year during the Nike 6.0 Pro Junior in Long Beach. How are all those people going to sleep on her floor this year?
Well hopefully, that's when the guys from Quik come in with a couple rooms at the Allegria Hotel. And if not that, I have a few friends who have some extra floor space as well.
Have you heard how the Unsound Qualifier will work?
I've heard ideas and possibilities but nothing that's definite yet.
What are your thoughts on this event? If surf fans get to see waves breaking just outside the greatest city in the world, it could be awesome.
I think it's the best thing ever in terms of surfing in NY. Sure, it will bring tons of people, but when tons of people come that means more opportunities for upcoming kids and surf shops in the state. And as for waves, last year that time was absolutely pumping. Let's hope to see that happen again this year. That will shut up all the doubters.
But if it's flat, that could be ugly ...
Yeah, Quik is putting on what sounds like the best contest ever for the surfers with provided accommodation and all types of goodies. I don't know the details yet, but sounds pretty amazing -- like a US Open, but better 'cuz it's New York, not H.B.
What are your plans this year for competition and travel?
It's my last year in the Junior Pros, so I'll be trying to focus on those quite a bit. In between those, I'll just be looking for swells to hit and some quality time at home, which doesn't happen to often, so I'll take any chance I get.