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History: Jordy Smith Turned Down $5.3 mil!

Michael Ciaramella

by Michael Ciaramella

"No, thanks," Jordy said to Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan!

Almost ten years ago, a twenty-year-old Jordy Smith became presumably the first person, male or female, to tell Tiger Woods ‘no’.

In what context could such a situation transpire?, you should be asking.

The year was 2008 and Jordan Michael Smith, a South-African native, was surfing’s brightest co-star (see: Dane Reynolds). From what I remember, Jordy’s longtime sponsorship with Billabong ended on sketchy terms (perhaps even with a lawsuit?), making him surfing’s hottest commodity leading up to his rookie year on Tour.

A bidding war ensued, wherein the likes of Quiksilver, Hot Tuna, O’Neill and other top brands attempted to seduce the young Saffa. To memory, Jordy enjoyed the cat-and-mouse affair, once stating something along the lines of, “I like to keep the companies on their toes. Some days I’ll wear Quiksilver boardies, an O’Neill T-shirt and a Ripcurl hat,” (Somehow I can’t find the actual quote on the web). Oh to feel young and wanted!

But it wasn’t just surf brands after the big man. At the time, athletic kingpin Nike was keen on permeating a then-promising surf industry and, naturally, ruling the market space. This meant purchasing the sponsorship rights of surfing’s top talents.

I’ll let the Sydney Morning Herald, in an article dating back to March 2, 2008, take it from here:

Jordy Smith took a phone call from Tiger Woods. He received an email from Michael Jordan. He was sent the shoe that Ronaldo used to kick a goal in a World Cup final. Nike offered him $5.3 million a year … but he knocked them all back.

[Jordy] was flown to Nike’s US headquarters in a private jet to meet the company’s co-founder, Phil Knight. A set of Woods’s clubs turned up in the post. They spoke on the phone for 45 minutes, and the message from the greatest golfer on the planet was simple: jump on board the good ship Nike.

“He gave me advice on how he went about it when he was my age, and told me about the company he was with,” Smith said. “It was kind of baffling in the beginning. You don’t know what to say because he’s such a high-profile guy, but you just cruise with it.”

Also,

Smith was a marketing dream for the swoosh. His first name is Jordan, his second Michael. Nike planned to run a worldwide advertising campaign with the slogan of “Air Jordy”. It was a play on the famous “Air Jordan” that helped make the American basketballer a household name across the planet. It was a perfect fit. When Smith gets air on a wave, he gets big air.

(One of my favorite paragraphs in all of surf writing. Anyways, continue.)

But then he signed with Californian company O’Neill, basically because it was a traditional surfing brand. It was still a seven-figure deal, making him one of the top five highest earners on the tour before he had even entered it. But he had to be content with about $3 million less a year. He’ll survive.

And do you remember all this fun stuff? I don’t. I must give thanks to the commenter Eugene Du Plessis, not only for cluing me into a pivotal moment in surfing history, but also for shining a light on a host of current events.

This story, interestingly, lends itself to a myriad of present-day BeachGrit themes. Let me explain.

1. Jordy chose O’Neill: On top of the fact that we’re mourning the death of industry legend Jack O’Neill (or at least enjoying his incredible tribute reel!), it’s intriguing that Jordy chose O’Neill over Nike (and its 3 million extra dollars) simply because the former is a “traditional surfing brand”.

Like, who even really cares, right? Money is time and to make 5 mil for rocking a little swoosh on your nose is… certainly palatable.

Or maybe, in surfing’s golden era, everyone made enough money to hold personal and moral standards about which companies they endorsed. It’s either that or Jordy feared that a Nike sponsorship would hinder his shoe collection capabilities. Regardless of the reason, it would be fair to say that Jordy made the right call, considering Nike’s rise and splat in the surf world.

That is, until…

2. Nike is coming back: Or so Chas says. Apparently they’re selling Hurley and attempting to join our penniless cult once more. Assuming this is true, how much do you think they’d offer Jordy Smith today? Would they even want the man who, nearly ten years ago, declared he’d like to win a world title within his first three years on tour, and now, at age 30, has exactly zero?

That is, until…

3. Jordy will win the title: Or so says Chas. I’m starting to realize that much of this article is contingent on the rumors and opinions of a forty-year-old professional receding hairline, which, in hindsight, is maybe not the smartest decision.

But honestly, if they’re looking to hop back inside this sinking surf industry vessel, I suppose neither is Nike.

Biz: Billabong’s massive debt problem!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Have you ever wanted to rule the stockmarket, buying while others flee? Here's your chance!

Three years ago, the US hedge funds Oaktree (and Centerbridge Partners) threw troubled surf co Billabong a lifeline with a $A386 million debt and equity package.

Billabong wore a $A265 million loan and the hedge funds took 38 percent of the company.

A couple of years later Quiksilver got, essentially, the same deal except Oaktree, using the the miracle of Chapter 11  to shrink Quik’s debt from almost a billion dollars to three hundred mill, privatised the iconic brand.

Did you ever think, during those glory days of Kelly Slater winning world title after world title, the Indies Trader mapping reefs around the world, Dane Reynolds hand-drawing mountain logos on his board and Craig Anderson inflating his little hams with Quiksilver denim, and Billabong churning out millionaires by the score in the once-depressed seaside town of Burleigh Heads, that the companies would, one day, be owned by multi-billion dollar American financiers?s

Anyway, as reported by the Australian Financial Review a few days ago and pointed out by an alert reader (GBP), the deal is coming back to haunt Billabong.

See, Oaktree and Centerbridge’s loan to Billabong comes with an 11.9 percent interest rate. Costs ’em thirty mill a year to service.

A few months ago, Billabong sold its profitable girl’s label Tiger Lily for sixty-mill to help bring down the massive debt.

Recently, shares hit a four-year low valuing the company at $145 million.

Of course, canny investors know to buy when others flee and to sell when the crowd flocks.

Is now the time to buy?

 

Breaking: The Inertia dumps Sunny story!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Gone! Without trace!

 

If you swung by The Inertia  this morning, you saw that the voice of the thinking surfer™ decided early Sunday would be a wonderful time to post a photoshopped image of Sunny Garcia in a decrepit prison under the titillating ‘Pop quiz, hot shot: Which surfer tried to sell $500,000 worth of heroin to an undercover cop? Hint: NOT Sunny Garcia.’ which linked to a story titled 5 Surfers Who Have Gotten in Serious Trouble With the Law.

The five surfers were Sunny Garcia, Miki Dora, Chris Ward, Rick Rasmussen and Mitch Coleborn and the piece detailed their various travails while also calling the World Surf League’s commissioner Jessi-Miley Dyer and Jack Freestone boring.

It was truly odd. Not attached to any current event or… anything at all. And I have no idea what the connection between the five surfers is, why they were chosen and why Sunday morning was the time to highlight their past indiscretions but what do you expect from the website that also brings you such hits as What Traveling with Surfing Entrepreneurs Taught me about Business and Friendships and This Girl Belly-Flopped an 83-Foot Cliff and Ended up in the Hospital.

In any case, Sunny Garcia took umbrage at the tone of the piece, informing The Inertia via Facebook “I’m sure you won’t like the talk we are going to have over this.”

And then, miracle of miracles, The Inertia disappeared both the Facebook post and the story.

Gone! Without a trace!

Hallelujah! The prisoners were set free!

Oh The Inertia… oh hapless, doddering The Inertia. Thank you for your benevolence. Your open hands and open hearts.

Miracles really do happen.

They really really do, don’t they Zach Weisberg.

Sunny to The Inertia: “Fuck you guys!”

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Venice-adjacent website puts Sunny Garcia in a photoshopped jail!

Sometimes haplessness is an endearing trait, don’t you think? Like when your can’t-get-anything-right-uncle crashes his mom’s minivan and loses his job selling Van Life magazine door to door. Or when he tells everyone that what surfing needs is a “definitive online community” with a straight face.

Or when he decides to join Tinder.

Oh its hilarious but also heart-warming. He just can’t get anything right!

And ain’t Venice-adjacent’s The Inertia just like this uncle? The very definition of “hapless” and in its own way so lovable.

Today’s episode is titled, “We decided to superimpose Sunny Garcia’s face into a shitty prison picture underneath the caption: ‘Pop quiz, hot shot: Which surfer tried to sell $500,000 worth of heroin to an undercover cop? Hint: NOT Sunny Garcia.’ on Facebook that linked to a story titled 5 Surfers Who’ve Gotten in Serious Trouble With the Law that included Sunny Garcia while somehow also making fun of WSL women’s commissioner Jessi-Miley-Dyer.”

There have been, of course, many surfers in history who have fallen afoul of the law. I have no idea what the five chosen by The Inertia (Sunny Garcia, Miki Dora, Chris Ward, Rick Rasmussen and Mitch Coleborn) have in common, how their various brushes with the police relate to each other or why they were picked but why does the hapless uncle do anything at all?

We will never know! He so crazy!

And what did Sunny Garcia have to say on Facebook?

Hey The Inertia like how you put my photo next to witch surfer got caught selling Heroin and just wanted to say Fuck you guys I’m sure you won’t like the talk we are going to have over this.

Who, do you think, at The Inertia office will answer the phone when Sunny calls? Do you think Zach Weisberg will or do you think he’ll pass the duty on to an intern or do you think there will be mandatory “NO ANSWERING PHONES ANYBODY! SERIOUSLY GUYS!” taped on the wall all week long?

Stay tuned for next week’s episode of your favorite program tentatively titled “We decided to try an alaia at Venice Beach and accidentally decapitated a small dog whose owner is suing us for negligence. NO ANSWERING PHONES ANYBODY! SERIOUSLY GUYS!”

Watch: A Touching Jack O’neill Tribute!

Michael Ciaramella

by Michael Ciaramella

And kudos to O'Neill (the company) for this masterpiece!

As every BeachGrit reader should know, Jack O’Neill, founder of the O’Neill wetsuits franchise, died recently.

While sad, the man was 94 years old and had lived an incredible life. There was really nothing left for him to do in this world.

Today I stumbled upon a tribute video for Ol’ Man Jack. While usually touching, the typical tribute video tends to be corny and in that way not-very-Beachgrit. This one is different.

And, wow — right? O’Neill (the company) put some serious thought, effort, and probably money into this seven-minute spectacle. I found it informative and engaging. Would even watch it again.

I admittedly knew very little about Jack before watching this clip, but it inspired me to do further research on the man.

Where, you ask?

The only place with historically salient information on every prominent surf figure not named Reno Abellira. Matt Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing!

My favorite stanza: [O’Neill] never brought attention to himself, and on the rare event when he spoke to the surf press he modestly attributed his success to little more than good timing. Industry insiders, however, regard O’Neill as perhaps the coolest and shrewdest surf businessman alive—the “rubber baron,” as surf journalist Ben Marcus later called him.

Read the rest here (for a measly $3 fee)!

Or just watch the video and bask in the wonderful life Jack O’Neill.