Balaram Stack, New York's 22-year-old surfing icon who was once a fundamental cog in Quik's marketing machine, has reentered the market for a main sponsor. We caught up with him over a pizza pie that he claims is "nothing compared to Gino's back home," where he filled us in on his recent thoughts.
Did you see the knife coming?
There were a lot of cuts going on, but I didn't see any faults or reasons for them to cut me. They have no team riders on the East Coast now, so I don't know. But it sucks. It sucks to be with a company for your whole life, then you get a call and it's done just like that. It wasn't even a good send-off. There was no “See you later, you've been with us forever, it was a good run” or anything, it was just the call, done, over. My team manager, all he said was, "I don't even know really what to say or do, I'm hoping I still have a job too. Hopefully one day we can have a beer and laugh about it."
What will you take away from such a long relationship?
My whole surf career has been with Quiksilver; I've learned everything I know within the industry and professional surfing from them. Being on trips or at contests, all of it. When I first signed, it was like they were my family. They put me in the places I needed to be to be successful, whether it was contests or trips or anywhere in the world. I was able to see so many different places, people, and waves, so I definitely benefited from that.
Has this changed your outlook on a career as a pro at all?
Well, I won't generalize the surf industry around this one company, but it does seem to be struggling. Still, I want to pursue pro surfing as much as I always have. You know, I'd like to be a traveling pro for as long as I can, see the world, get good waves, do trips and contests here and there. I mean, I had always thought Quik was kind of a lifetime deal. I was with them for seven years. To have this happen is a shock, but I'm just going to try and make sure that the next sponsor that I do get is long-term.
Did this remind you that you're still an employee? Is that humbling?
The only time I ever consider surfing to be work is the promo stuff, but even that's pretty fun. It is a job, and you still have to do what your sponsors tell you to do. I definitely feel like I have to work harder than ever, but I enjoy every minute of it. Surfing only goes so far, you can only be a pro for so long.
You do still have other side-sponsors, but for the sake of this interview, we’ll call you "unemployed." What's your résumé look like for a potential sponsor?
New York is a huge part of it. There aren't many other guys coming from the East Coast, so that alone is an angle. There are a lot of things that factor in, but I had a good season in Hawaii, and put out a recent edit of what I've been doing. There are a lot of things to go with it. I just want to be at a company that's like family, where there's good opportunity and where they want me there as much as I do.
Does any of this affect your confidence and momentum?
Not at all. I'm still going to do what I do. I'm still going to try and chase the best waves and get the biggest barrels that I can. I mean, that's pretty much all I can do in this situation.