Department Store Uses Surfers To Board The Surf Gravy Train

Given the hand-wringing in the surf community about Abercrombie’s Hollister Co. and other national operations biting on surf, it’s a bit ironic that some pro surfers — who many believed would scoff at the idea of being associated with a large department store — seem to be giving the comers their stamps of approval.

In the April edition of Details magazine, for example, Conan Hayes and Shane Dorian are the stars of an eight-page Bloomingdale’s ad. (San Diegans Shayne and Shannon McIntyre are also featured. Shayne is sponsored by Quiksilveredition; Shannon rides for Roxy.) Bloomingdale’s, a division of Federated Department stores, operates 28 stores in eleven states, including New York, Florida Illinois, and California.

In the ad, the surfers are hawking garb from various high-end fashion houses like Marc Jacobs and Dolce & Gabbana. Their sponsors’ logos are present, but none of the surfers are wearing products from the footwear and clothing brands they endorse (and who pay them hefty salaries). They are posing in casual, surf-style clothes, however. The ad was photographed at Ke Iki Beach Bungalows on the North Shore.

Hayes got the most play. He appears on four different pages, rocking Dolce & Gabbana, Robert Graham, Two Flowers, and Ted Baker, among others labels. Hayes did not return phone calls for comment. On one page Dorian models in a pancho and a pair of dirty jeans from Cavalli. He also posed in gear from Age and Mason’s. Shayne McIntyre appears on three of the pages in Marc Jacobs and other brands.


For many of the shots, the stylist had the surfers hold their boards in awkward and unnatural ways (Perhaps to hide Hayes’ tattoos or provide better contrast?) Shayne is pictured with his blue, unwaxed board that he props up in the sand. Hayes is pictured holding his board behind him, upright, as if he were practicing to be pictured for the opening ceremony of the Eddie.

Some call the Bloomingdale’s ad another attempt by mainstream businesses to exploit surfing for their own benefit. “I wasn’t too enamored with the ad,” says Billabong International VP Of Marketing Graham Stapelberg. “The way they did it was pretty cheesy.”

And while the ad did bring the brands heaps of additional exposure (last year Details had a paid circulation of 407,778), it’s exposure brands say they don’t need (or will benefit from). “We don’t give a continental about that,” says Stapelberg. “We have our own distribution, and Bloomingdale’s is not one of them.”

Sanük President Jeff Kelley has mixed thoughts about the ad. “Every consumer who called me about it said, ‘You guys have gotta be stoked,'” says Kelley. “I guess it’s {the ad} a good thing.” Sanük sponsors Dorian, and the footwear brand’s logo is prominently displayed on his board. (Dorian isn’t wearing Sanük sandals, however.)


Most brands don’t prohibit athletes from participating in ads for non-endemic companies (so long as those ads aren’t promoting competing products), but they don’t encourage it, either. Many brands give their athletes a little leeway if it’s determined the additional exposure could benefit their career (and bring the companies more money). “Shane totally backs us,” Kelley says. “I think any exposure Shane gets is good, and the people whoneed to know already know he rides for us.”

Plus, some industry executives don’t think the Bloomingdale’s ad is that bad, anyway. “At least they used real, authentic surfers,” says one exec. “It’s good for surfing that these guys are rolling through New York.”

The surfer-model phenomena is nothing new (note the lucrative modeling contract Buzzy Kerbox had with Ralph Lauren that spanned the late 70s to early 80s), and it’s doubtful we’ve seen the end of it. Other pro surfers have participated in non-endemic ad campaigns, recently and rumor has it Christian Fletcher is the next Ralph Lauren surfer-model. There’s some irony for ya.