HONOLULU – August 13, 2009 – The name of the event couldn’t be more appropriate: Sponsor Me Hawaii.
The title of this $10,000 1-star World Qualifying Series rated competition speaks volumes for the languishing state of pro surfing in Hawaii that is desperately in need of sponsored events and opportunities for surfers here at home. Without more events like the Sponsor Me Hawaii, it is doubtful if Hawaii will return to the world stage in force any time soon.
The Sponsor Me Hawaii will run over the best two days of surf during the holding period of Saturday, August 15 through the 22nd. It will feature 80 of the state’s top surfers and will offer the top placing locals a crack at the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing this winter.
Hawaii has proudly lay claim to the sport of surfing and its biggest icons for centuries. Ironically, there has never been a worse time to be a pro surfer in Hawaii than today.
“Hawaii is in dire straights, it’s a serious worry,” says ASP World Qualifying Series Tour Manager Al Hunt, from Australia.
Hunt should know. He has worked with pro surfing since the world tour began in the mid-70s. At that time Hawaii lay claim to 44 per cent of the world tour’s events and almost 30 per cent of the world’s rated surfers. It’s been in steady decline ever since. Today, just eight per cent of world tour events are held here in Hawaii, and Hawaii surfers lay claim to a paltry five spots among the world’s top 100 ranks.
If Eddie Aikau were a pro surfer today, he would definitely ‘go’… somewhere else.
Hawaii’s surfers are as adrift in the Pacific as the Hawaiian Islands themselves. Just as the State of Hawaii has struggled with how to get behind its “gift to the world” – offering the Pro Bowl millions of dollars versus petty cash to world class surfing events like the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing – surfers themselves are wondering how they’ll make it to the world stage when they can’t find an event to enter here at home. The Sponsor Me Hawaii is one of only two entry level pro tour events on offer in Hawaii this year, compared with as many as 10 a decade ago.
“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,” says Pancho Sullivan, one of Hawaii’s pro surfing success stories and headliner of the Sponsor Me Hawaii field.
“I definitely want to support events like this in the hope that the sponsor will be happy with the recognition they get and continue to grow the event for the next generation.
“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.
“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 realize 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.
“Surfing garners so much attention for the state and local businesses who profit from tourism. Now is the time to be reinvesting. People come from all over the world to see and experience surfing here.”
Hawaii’s longest standing promoter of events and the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, Randy Rarick, speaks the same language:
“Pro surfing is to surfing, what surfing is to Hawaii,” says Rarick.
“It might only be a small percentage of the total population that actively pursues it, 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.”
Sponsor Me is creating contest opportunities for rising action sports athletes. Their contests are supported by live webcasts via the Sponsor Me site and delivery to mobile devices. Sponsor Me competitions will be held regionally, judged by the pros, and the winners will go on to compete on a national level where fans will have the opportunity to vote online and via SMS. For more information visit www.sponsorme.tv .
Sponsor Me has teamed up with Transworld Surf, Surfing Live, and ASP Hawaii to broadcast the entire event live. The event will be broadcast live over the internet by surf.transworld.net, the leader for online surfing culture.