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Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Tide goes out on Nike Surfing

By Jake Howard
ESPN.com

Julian Wilson
Julian Wilson and the U.S. Open of Surfing during happier times last summer.

Nike will announce Tuesday their intentions to scale back their surf program. After pulling out of the U.S. Open of Surfing as a title sponsor earlier in the year, their roster of athletes, including Julian Wilson, Kolohe Andino and Carissa Moore, will be rolled over onto Nike-owned Hurley's team.

Nike has yet to release an official statement, but multiple sources both in Hawaii and Beaverton, Oregon, have confirmed that the downsizing of the Nike Surfing brand will be completed by Dec. 31. Based on those same sources, Nike will now focus on being solely a footwear sponsor, meaning that the swoosh will not disappear from surfers' boards completely, but the brand's presence and visibility will be considerably diminished. They will lean on Nike SB, their successful skateboarding line, to provide said footwear. Nike will also be looking to dismantle their marketing program, including the ASP Prime Nike Lowers Pro scheduled for May, Surfline.com's "Wave of the Winter" contest that is currently taking place in Hawaii, as well as all of their endemic advertising.

Nike purchased Hurley in 2002. In 2005, they launched their own surf/action sports label, Nike 6.0. That was eventually superseded by individual sports categories, ala Nike Surfing. But after struggling to make inroads with their clothing line during a tough economic period that's seen the surf industry scale back, they've opted to streamline their operation and push Hurley as the face of surfing for Nike, Inc.

Meetings are scheduled Tuesday in Beaverton to determine what the next steps are and how the transition is going to take place, but like Laird Hamilton and the aqua sock a generation ago, it would appear that the largest sportswear company in the world has yet again failed to crack the surfing code. More as it becomes available.