Back in the late 80s, the ASP tour’s arrival in my town marked the highlight of my summer. Not only could I surf with all the superstar 80s pros, but there were usually tons of promotions in conjunction with the tour. The glare was strong from all the Oakley Blades lining up to look at Tom Curren and get his autograph. Flurries of fluorescent stickers covered car windows. It was fun.
Then the ASP restructured, and with it went our beloved tour stop. Since then little remains but the annual biplane, flying letters in the sky to announce the annual Memorial Day shop sales–now the official start of summer for me.
Of course, Huntington Beach, California has its two events–the U.S. Open and the Op Pro. Local shops Huntington Surf And Sport and Jack’s get the people lined up for surf stars, they inaugurate surfers into the walk of fame, and for three weeks everything’s groovy. But that’s in their corner of the world.
Are surfing promotions a relic of the past? Are there still creative retailers who are keeping the glory alive?
Goods For Grades
According to Patti McGriff, manager of Hansen’s in Encinitas, California, their main promotion is called Goods For Grades. In this program kids bring in report cards and receive vouchers for the As and Bs received in their classes. Their grades are kept on file after being brought in twice a year. Vouchers are two dollars per A, one dollar per B, and can be used toward the purchase of anything in the store. Although it costs the shop around 30,000 dollars a year to reward the roughly 1,000 kids on file, McGriff says it’s highly successful judging from all the thank-you notes they receive from teachers.
Hansen’s also sponsors a local videomaker named Jesse Schluntz. His latest video, TearDevils 3, featured a lot of local riders in addition to displaying the Hansen’s logo. “It’s a big advertisement for us because they’re riding our stuff,” says McGriff. The tickets for the premiere were sold at the shop, prompting kids to come in three or four days earlier to buy them.
In Ocean City, Maryland, Malibu’s Surf Shop Owner Lee Gerachis says two manufacturer-sponsored promotional tours pull into town during the summer on their way up the coast. The first is the very popular Redsand/Brother B’s Burger Tour.
“The Burger Tour,” according to Redsand Rep Brendan Hanley (a.k.a. Brother B), “is our way of saying thanks for the support from everyone in the shop.” However, once all the vintage lounge furniture from Hanley’s house is set up and the two gas grills are running, the atmosphere resembles a circus show complete with crowds. Hanley resorts to using megaphones while organizing games and cooking food for the gathered crowds. The three-day, thirteen-stop marathon includes highlights such as hot-dog eating contests–last year’s champ temporarily consumed fifteen.
The second tour is a surfboard-shaping tour done by Local Motion. With the help of a portable trailer doubling as a fully operational shaping room, Local Motion shapers Pat Rawson and Ricky Carroll are able to demonstrate shaping techniques. Begun three years ago, the tour covers fourteen shops in two weeks from New Hampshire to South Carolina. To finish the boards, Local Motion has their artist do the painting and D-Sea International sets up a tent to laminate with their Suncure resins. At the end of the demonstration, Carroll takes the drums, Rawson plays keyboard, and tour driver Mark Baker plays the guitar as they make some music and team riders sign autographs.
The Right Tune
At Blue Liquid in Los Fresnos, Texas, Owner Mike Kiff puts on a sports and music festival four times a year. According to Kiff, bands donate time and sponsors send stuff he uses for giveaways. The festival (held in May, June, July, and August) gives Kiff a great way to show products and promote his shop.
Every Saturday at their Pearl Ridge and Ala Moana flagship stores, Hawaiian Island Creations puts on Hukilau Jams. Manager Sheryl Kochi says this promotion brings bands into their stores and the crowds come out to watch them.
Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach, Florida, has a built-in stage complete with a sound system bands can plug right into. According to Marketing Director Heather Lewis, Ron Jon also puts on a Family Fun Day July 4. All day long the store creates activities such as games for families and a fireworks show that evening.
Ten years ago the city couldn’t afford fireworks, so Ron Jon took over where the city left off with surf vendors partnering in. Ron Jon is proof that although promotions aren’t as glamorous as the past, they do still happen and they’ve become more community-involved.