Over the last week, some of the best athletes in action sports came together to compete in surfing, snowboarding, and skateboarding. Transworld Business sat down with Ultimate Boarder mastermind Tim Hoover to find out what it takes to put on a competition of this magnitude.
TWSBiz: Where did you get the idea for this contest?
The original idea came from growing up in Goleta, California. My whole childhood was skating and surfing. When snowboarding came on to the scene, that became the next step. None of my friends were pro, outside of Tom Curren, who's on a whole other level. All of us were never the best at one, but we all enjoyed all three. A lot of my friends, specifically my friend Reuben had a company called Trilogy Arts, which was a surf, skate, snow mfg. co., and so that kind of triggered some thought, and I also grew up with a kid named Chuck Liddell, who became the ultimate fighting champion. My wife didn't like ultimate fighting, and didn't want my kids watching that, so she said to come up with something else to get involved in.
Eric McHenry slashes his way into first place in the surfing stage of the contest.
So I said, why is there not an ultimate boarder? So that's what really started it three years ago. I trademarked Ultimate Boarder in 2005, and you know really from the very beginning I viewed it as a brand, and my whole goal from its inception was to just do something with the core athletes from all three sports that would allow them to all come together. It was never really about winning or losing, it was more about the comradery. I think Todd Richards said it best in Squaw, "this is unlike any contest I've ever been in where everybody's cheering each other on."Todd Richards stepped out from behind the mic to win the snow stage with back-to-back nines at Squaw and a second place overall finish. Clint Allan and Andy Finch rounded out the podium
TWSBiz: He's definitely been involved in his fair share.
TH: Yeah, and that was cool to have Todd see that. He's really been a great ambassador for Ultimate Boarder. You've got all these guys just bro-ing down, it's really fun to watch.
TWSBiz: What's your background in?
TH: My background is in film. I'm a film school kid. I went to UC Santa Barbara with Jack Johnson. My whole background for the last 14 years has been in producing, writing, and directing for TV and commercials. My dream was to b e a filmmaker, but in Santa Barbara it's hard to make a living in film. So I figured I'd go back to my roots. I'm 36 and I started thinking: what are the things I really enjoyed as a kid, and how can I come up with a business with that and I just started thinking a lot. I spent my career as an ideas guy and here we are.
Traithlete Andy Finch twirling through the Tahoe skies.
TWSBiz: Can you walk me through the process of getting the contest off the ground on the back end?
TH: It was exactly a three-year journey. The first thing was coming up w/the name. I played around w/several: Lord of the Board, King of the Board. I just really felt that Ultimate was the best, so I stuck with that and ultimateboard.com was available. So, the first thing I did was to purchase the domain name, and then the second thing was to hire a patent/trademark attorney and got the trademark for the name. I had a lot of contacts in the entertainment industry so I started talking to those folks and they really saw this as a reality TV show.
I actually signed a $3.5 million contract with a company to come on as a title sponsor. I was in the process of developing the "Ultimate Boarder" as a reality show, where we would train the guys; have pro athletes training each of these guys in each discipline, and then they would go through and ultimately try and become the Ultimate Boarder.
Well, we started working with the TV execs and my agency at the time, CAA, but I just didn't like the direction it was going. It didn't feel relevant to what I felt these guys would really enjoy or want this event to be. I created it for the athletes and also to motivate and encourage this next generation of kids. Most of the young kids are the ones that are good at all three, and that's where my heart and my focus really was, you know, stoking out these kids and bringing up the next generation, essentially the triathlon of our generation. Kids, at least in Southern CA, don't run, bike and swim as much as they surf, skate, and snowboard.
Karen and Jeff Atlad and Tim and Kelly Hoover enjoying the post shred festivities.
TWSBiz: That's a big deal to walk away from that contract.
TH: Yeah, I handed them back the check and tore up the contract and I walked away from this whole deal. I actually left my agency, my attorney and walked away from everybody. I found a little office about 18 months ago and decided to do this on my own. When it all works out, even if I never make a dime off this thing, I know in my heart what I did was the right thing for all these guys cause they're all here just stoked out of their minds and just loving hanging out with each other.
So far the thing has gone incredible. It's been insane watching these guys. It's really fun and that was the goal, to create something really fun. But from a business perspective I plan to do this every year.
TWSBiz: When you went off on your own, what were some of the biggest things you did to hype it up and bring others on board?
TH: The first thing I did was I started calling friends like Tom Curren, Jim Rippey, Christian Hosoi, Don Bostick, Darren Brilhart. I focused on looking at who was running events that I enjoy. I had been up to the Cold Water Classic several times and I really like the way Brilo runs events. He's very professional and very thorough, so that was the key for me; getting those guys on board. Once I locked in Don Bostick and Darren, the rest was really about us collectively reaching out to athletes, and once we started reaching out to athletes, a bunch of other athletes just started calling me.
I also studied the Iron Man. The first Iron Man in Kona only had 15 guys participating. I honestly didn't know. I thought this might go off with ten dudes.
It was just a gradual process.
TWSBiz: You drew a lot from other sports for the ideas it sounds like. Like from Ultimate Fighting for the name, Iron Man, and Tour de France for the blue jersey?
TH: Yeah, those were all ideas I had from the beginning. I kept thinking more of a triathlon type model. I know I'm not the first person to think of this, but I just stuck with it and trusted my gut. I have a four and a three-year-old son, and another boy that will be born next month, and I just wanted to try and create something cool for my kids, so if they're not the best at one, they still can come to contests like this if they enjoy all three.
Hoover’s main goal was to create a contest that was fun for the athletes. Kyle Knox feeling the vibe.
TWSBiz: That's a great legacy. Is there anything you'd do different for next year?
TH: The only thing I'll do different next year is to try and find a sponsor. I don't think I can write the same check again next year. We're actually good for next year, but I'd like to find a company that wants to market to these kids and understands the vision and the vibe.
One of the things I've done from a business standpoint is I created a science advisory board. One of my sponsors, Redcord out of Norway, they created a core strength apparatus, and they've been out here all week helping the guys out.
If you think of Iron Man, that's where I'm headed. That's my goal, my vision, to be the triathlon of our generation. It's really that simple for me. These are the best athletes in the world in my way of thinking. Unless, unfortunately if you're in a wheelchair or whatever, anybody can swim, run, or bike, but not even close in our population can people surf, skate and snowboard. In my mind these are truly the Iron Men of our generation and that, for me, is what Ultimate Boarder is all about.
Mitch Allan striking his best Iron Man pose.