Sponsors Pull Plug on U.S. Open of Surf Sponsorship

Surf festival hunts for new title sponsor
Staff Writer

It’s official—Hurley, Converse and their parent company, Nike, have pulled their sponsorship from the U.S. Open of Surfing, the annual nine-day surf festival in Huntington Beach, CA. There's been no news yet as to new potential investors for the most-attended surf event in the country, which has, in the last few years, brought around a million spectators to the shore.

So why’d Nike pull the plug? "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 shop-eat-surf.com, the website that broke the news.

"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 added. "Nike will continue to be active in the sport by innovating and supporting surfing through our events, products and athletes."

These statements seem vague, at best—and slightly confusing when you consider the exposure Nike gets with the event and the revenue that is certainly generated with event swag. But knowledge that the competition will need a new source of funding hasn't dampened stoke for the event—and event organizers maintain that they're going to just do the Open, Nike or not.

"We've got an event that has a rabid fan base, an amazing name recognition, and we get to continue what Nike and Hurley started, and with new partners to go in and dazzle again," James Leitz, senior vice president of IMG, the company that has owned and produced the U.S. Open since 2001, said to The Orange County Register. "I have to look at it that way. But I honestly believe it, too. I know things ebb and flow with sports, but this event is rocketing. We're figuring out how to host this behemoth."

And Steve Bone, CEO of Huntington Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau, pounded the message home.

"There always has been and there always will be a U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach. We will always be Surf City USA." 

We’ll let you know if any big-name title sponsors start cresting on the horizon. 

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