In the middle of the Hawaiian summer, a 1-Star WQS event puts the spotlight on the sorry lack of opportunities for Hawaii’s up-and-coming surfers.
by Andy Morris
It was where surfing was born, and it has been the centre of the surfing universe ever since. It make heroes out of nobodies and cuts down established shredders with its perfect ferociousness. Hawaii is a surfing icon. But why is it playing host this week to a 1-star WQS named Sponsor Me? Simple answer. The ASP sanctioned event is answering the call from Hawaii’s languishing state of pro surfing.
If we go back to the 70s, Hawaii hosted just under half of the World Tour’s events. Almost half of the world’s top rated surfers were Hawaiian. In 2009, just eight per cent of World Tour events call the island home, and Hawaiian surfers occupy just five spots amongst the top 100 WCT and QS ranks.
ASP World Tour Qualifying Series Tour Manager Al Hunt has seen a lot and reckons that right now, “Hawaii is in dire straights, it’s a serious worry”. Groms all over the islands who want the opportunity to prove themselves and move on to bigger and better things simply don’t have events to enter. In 1999, there were as many as ten entry-level pro tour events in Hawaii. Ten year’s later, there’s just Sponsor Me and one other.
The event waiting period started on August 15 and runs through to the end of this week, with the top placing surfers sharing the $10,000 prize purse and a crack at the Vans Triple Crown towards the end of the year. Up to 80 of the state’s top unsponsored surfers will be competing against more established sponsored guys like Mikala Jones, Love Hodel, Ian Walsh, Roy Powers, Kekoa Cazimero and Gavin Beschen to name a few.
Sponsor me Hawaii forms part of an initiative set up to search for undiscovered talent. This particular event has backing from Transworld surf, Surfing Live, Quiksilver and ASP Hawaii. The idea of Sponsor Me is to create contest opportunities for rising surfers, skaters and snowboarders. Their contests are supported by live webcasts via the Sponsor Me site and delivery to mobile devices. Sponsor Me competitions are held regionally, judged by the pros, and the winners go on to compete on a national level where fans have the opportunity to vote online and via SMS.
Pancho Sullivan is one high profile local backing the event, and says "any opportunity to compete here at home is super important and I'm going to jump all over it, especially at a world class venue like Ala Moana,” said Pancho.
"When I was coming up we had a full blown local tour here that helped Hawaii surfers get to and travel on the world tour and chase the ratings,” said Pancho, in a press release sent from Hawaii.
"Ala Moana is such a quality wave. Even when the surf is small it's better than 98 per cent of the events on the World Qualifying Series Tour. But unfortunately the break doesn't receive much attention. I don't think companies even realise the potential of staging events at Ala Moana in the summer. And I don't think the state of Hawaii understands the opportunities that surfing represents.” Pancho said.
Randy Rarick, long time promoter of events in the islands and responsible for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, said, "it might only be a small percentage of the total population that actively pursues (pro surfing), but it validates the overall lifestyle that the larger population seeks to be a part of. That's where we are missing the boat. The City County and the surf industry need to embrace these events.
"Hawaii needs to stand behind surfing because it is our gift to the world. It's our responsibility."
For more information visit www.sponsorme.tv