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Tuesday, September 25, 2012
U.S. Open of Surfing loses sponsors

By Robin Fleming
ESPN.com

The U.S. Open of Surfing attracts thousands of spectators to Huntington Beach, Calif., each summer to watch world-class surfing, skateboarding and BMX competitions.

The most attended surf event in the country lost its title sponsors this week.

While still packing up after last week's Hurley Pro surf contest, Hurley and Converse and their parent company Nike have announced that they are pulling out of sponsoring the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, Calif., to focus their attention on other initiatives. Hurley and Nike had sponsored the surfing portion of the competition, while Converse was the title sponsor of Coastal Carnage, an increasingly popular skateboarding competition at the U.S. Open.

A new title sponsor has not yet been announced.

"In many ways, we achieved the goals we set for ourselves at the U.S. Open. Now it's time to export the magic created at the U.S. Open and invest it into other aspects of our business, like a renewed athlete focus and new and exciting ways of connecting with millions of kids," Hurley founder and CEO Bob Hurley said in a statement to online industry news outlet shop-eat-surf.com. Hurley told ESPN.com that would be its official statement.

In addition to the surf contest, Nike and Hurley had pop-up retail shops, Converse presented its own skateboarding contest called the Con's Coastal Carnage, popular indie bands Best Coast and TV on the Radio closed out Friday and Saturday nights, and an outdoor skate and surf art show was on display, making the U.S. Open both a retail and marketing tour de force for Nike.

"We are looking forward to evolving the Nike Lowers Pro and putting efforts into expanding grassroots events like the Nike Block Series surf contest," Nike Global Action Sports VP Sandy Bodecker said to shop-eat-surf.com. "Nike will continue to be active in the sport by innovating and supporting surfing through our events, products and athletes."

In conjunction with event partner IMG and the city of Huntington Beach, in a very short time Nike, Hurley and Converse have turned the U.S. Open of Surfing into the best attended contest in terms of both athletes and spectators. Credited with bringing Kelly Slater back to "Surf City USA," the U.S. Open has quickly become one of the largest action sports and music festivals in the world.

The nine-day festival is an ASP Prime Event, which acts as a springboard to the ASP World Championship Tour. The U.S. Open brings close to a million spectators to the beach for the entire event, with an estimated 250,000 fans in attendance for both the semifinals on Saturday and the finals on Sunday, and it contributes almost $20 million to the local economy.

The iconic contest, which was originally called the West Coast Surfing Championship, was first held in the summer of 1959 and has had a variety of names prior to being christened the U.S. Open of Surfing in 1994.

Having had numerous title sponsors, including Ocean Pacific, Honda and O'Neill in years past, the contest is a prominent fixture of the local community but had waned in its ability to attract the top talent until Nike, Hurley, Converse and IMG stepped in.