This spring in Malibu, Calif., nearly a century of wave-riding mastery came together when surf style icon Gerry Lopez and standup paddling innovator Laird Hamilton sat down for the SUP magazine interview. The exchange ranged from the origins of standup paddle boarding to the spiritual force of the ocean and the future of the standup game. During two hours of unguarded, flowing conversation, these two old friends shared a journey deep into the essence of the waterman philosophy. That passion pours out into the following pages. Enjoy the ride. --JoeCarberry
Gerry: Before you and your mom came to Hawaii, I ran into her right across the street from the Hansen shop in Encinitas,California, and she told me, 'Oh, I gotta go do something, can you watch the baby?' That was the first time I met you.
Laird: My first time I remember you would have to be Pipeline. You were the king of Pipeline, and I was on the beach, and I knew who the king of Pipeline was. I was probably your biggest fan.
Gerry: And then all those guys used to come to see your dad and get boards. Like Juan Harlow and Angel and Cole.
Laird: Yeah, everybody. Big wave riders.
Gerry: So that must've had an influence on you, too.
Laird: I think that shaped me. Those were the guys I was trying to mimic as a little kid. But Pipeline, obviously, being there and being exposed to you and my dad--the most beautiful surfers to watch.
Gerry: So everyone knows your accomplishments in big waves but let's talk about standup. I think it's the most fun thing I've almost ever done. I try to think back: Was regular surfing as fun as this?
Laird: When you were like, 12, maybe.
Gerry: I have a story to tell you because I've always thought you were the guy that started standup paddling. I remember telling you over the years that when I was in high school, there used to be this guy [standup paddling] at Tongg's. Last month I was in Hawaii for the big swell, I asked George about it. And he goes, 'Oh yeah, Zap.' So we went over to [John Zapotacky's] house, right above Tongg's, Hibiscus Drive, right where I used to see him surfing when I was 13, 14 years old. Sweet, sweet man. Ninety-one years old. He came to Hawaii in 1940 from Philadelphia. He was in the Navy, mechanical engineer. He went to Waikiki and saw the guys surfing, and he got out there but he wasn't having a lot of success. Then one day he saw a Hawaiian guy catching waves standing up the whole time with a big paddle. He followed the guy in and said, 'Tell me about this.' Guy says, 'Yeah, get a paddle, get a big board.' That guy was Duke Kahanamoku.
Laird: That's what somebody said, that The Duke used to do it.
Gerry: The Duke.
Laird: Exactly. It's an ancient discipline.
Gerry: Tell me about your first inclination to do this. What prompted you?
Laird: I don't know if I was at Waikiki when I was 3and I saw somebody do it or what--if there was some seed like that. I do know it started with having my first daughter and wanting to tandem surf with her. I thought, 'If I'm gonna be surfing with the kid, I wanna get used to riding the board.' I'd kick out of a wave, and Maui's windy, so I'd just stand there on that big board and the wind would blow me back out. And [Dave] Kalama and I were out at Maalaea one day when it was one foot and I had the tandem board in the car and Dave had a couple outrigger paddles.
For the full interview, check out SUP Magazine
As reported on www.forbes.com by Kurt Badenhausen
Snowboarder Shaun White was down to his last chance after falling during his first two runs of the men's half-pipe competition at last month's Winter X Games. It was the culminating event in the four day contest that drew 68,000 fans to Aspen, Colo. Once again, White delivered. He ripped off a stellar final run that included back-to-back 1080s (three complete rotations in the air) to win the gold.
White's payday for winning one of his sport's biggest competitions: a paltry $30,000. By comparison, Geoff Ogilvy earned $1.1 million for winning golf's 2009 opening event, the Mercedes-Benz Championship.
But the snowboarding and skateboarding phenom crowned the Flying Tomato will get his money. We estimate that White earned $9 million in 2008 thanks to lucrative endorsement deals with Burton, Hewlett-Packard, Oakley, Red Bull and Target. His earnings are almost entirely from sponsors, as yearly prize money for skateboarders and snowboarders rarely tops $100,000. White's endorsement take is greater than any baseball or football player outside of quarterback Peyton Manning.
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White is the Tiger Woods of today's action sports stars. He wins more than anybody else, and his fame far eclipses that of his competition. Other action sports stars are starting to get noticed by a broader audience, and that has meant bigger paychecks, thanks to rich sponsorship deals.
With this in mind, we decided to take a look at who makes what in action sports. Through interviews with industry experts we estimated 2008 earnings for the top stars in the more traditional sports like snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing and BMX. We excluded Motocross racing, which straddles the line between action sports and motor sports and top riders like Chad Reed and James Stewart can make as much as $5 million racing around a dirt track.
The top 10 earners in 2008 were all male. Top female snowboarders like Torah Bright, Gretchen Bleiler and Hannah Teter make as much as $750,000 annually, but that fell short of our $1 million cut off.
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Shaun White is the top earner among the current crop of action sports stars, but the highest-paid guy in the game is still Tony Hawk, the godfather of action sports. Hawk retired from competitive skating in 1999 at the age of 31, but he has built a thriving business that earned him $12 million last year. Hawk dominated skateboard competitions through the 1980s and '90s, winning 71% of the events that he entered during his 17-year career. Despite his success, Hawk found that he could not support his family financially by just competing, so he launched his own skateboard company, Birdhouse Projects, in 1992.
Hawk parlayed his skating success into a business empire that includes his own Boom Boom Huckjam action sports tour, a clothing line available at Kohl's and Tony Hawk's Big Spin roller coasters at Six Flags. He also created a videogame with Activision, "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater," that launched in 1999. It is one of the best-selling videogame franchises of all time with $1.2 billion in sales since its launch. The latest version hits stores in October. Today, Tony Hawk Inc. employs 30 people at offices outside of San Diego. Last year, Tony Hawk branded product sales were $200 million.
Hawk is still a big name with teens, despite being retired for 10 years. TRU, a market research firm focused on the under-30 set, does an annual study on awareness and likability of celebrities. The top athlete in its 2008 report amongst teens was Hawk, ahead of the likes of LeBron James and Derek Jeter. That is why companies like Activision, Quiksilver, Sirius and T-Mobile are still quick to partner with him.
Corporate money has been pouring into action sports in recent years as the popularity of these sports has taken off with consumers. Participation in skateboarding increased 74% between 1998 and 2007 to 10.1 million participants, the fastest growth of any sport in the U.S. Snowboarding registered the third fastest growth over the same 10-year period, up 42% to 5.1 million participants according to the National Sporting Goods Association.
"These sports are so much fun for participants and accessibility is much better than 20 years ago," says Bob Klein, an action sports pioneer who built the first snowboard half pipe and later became an agent for boarders including Shaun Palmer and Danny Kass.
Walt Disney's ESPN has been hugely influential in expanding the reach of these sports through the X-Games. ESPN launched the first summer competition in 1995 that was billed as the Extreme Games, featuring sports like bungee jumping, eco-challenge, sky surfing and street luge, all events that no longer exist. The Winter X-Games joined the party in 1997.
NBC launched its own action sports competition in 2005, the Dew Tour. The tour features five-stops over four months with prize money totaling $2.5 million, the biggest purse in action sports. Big sponsors on last year's Dew Tour included Sony, Toyota and Wendy's International.
The latest big brand to enter the fray is Gatorade. The sports drink leader announced plans for its first big push into action sports earlier this year. The PepsiCo subsidiary signed three up-and-coming action sports athletes to endorsement deals including 14-year skateboarding phenom Chaz Ortiz.
Peter Carlisle, who heads the Olympics and Action Sports division of sports agency Octagon, says, "Action sports provide a unique platform to reach the masses and the younger demo that is particularly hard to reach through mass marketing."
Good news for today's action sports stars.