In the 2008 season, a third of the surfers on the ASP Women's World Tour lacked major sponsorships. Melanie Bartels was one such surfer, having struggled financially since losing her biggest sponsor in 2007. Last year, Melanie Bartels was only able to attend six of the eight ASP World Tour events because she lacked the sponsorship dollars to jet off to the far-flung and high-dollar Dream Tour locales. Still, she was able to reign in a respectable seventh-place finish in the final ranking.
Next year will be different, though. A princess granted her the funding for the entire season. Yes, you read that right. Hawaiian princess Abigail Kawananakoa wrote a Melanie a check to cover her travel expenses, in hopes that she'll bring the women's world title back to Hawaii—a feat that hasn't been done since 1981 when Margo Oberg held the torch—and more importantly, become the first women's world champ with Hawaiian lineage.
In an effort to help people with Hawaiian ancestry achieve their goals, the princess has sponsored various Hawaiians over the years and has chosen Melanie as a surfing ambassador for the Hawaiian people. Without getting into the sticky and controversial debate over Hawaiian sovereignty, as the niece of Queen Liliuokalani, Abigail Kawananakoa would be next line in the Royal Family. If Hawaii wasn't annexed to the United States and remained a sovereign nation, she would be Queen. Furthermore, she's heir to Campbell Estate—the largest and wealthiest landowners in Hawaii.
"I am so grateful—I am just going to work the hardest I ever have in my life to make the princess happy and make Hawaii proud of me!" says Melanie. "It means a lot to me to bring the championship back home to Hawaii. Surfing is an ancient Hawaiian sport and there hasn't been a Hawaiian champion for over 20 years. I think it would be great for the people of Hawaii and my fans around the world!"