Bobby Martinez's Rebel Cry

Can the enfant terrible's harsh words and crisp moves reform the corporatized surf scene dominated by Orange County's action-sports industry?

This was the world Martinez was taking on. As he explains it, "There are people I can't stand. The reason why I don't like [them] is because they'll smile to your face and talk shit behind your back."

To Martinez, OC's corporate culture was anathema to the sport. The corporate dominance of Quiksilver, Oakley and their fellow titans is such that in November 2010, the Nielsen Sports Group, which ran the surfing industry's annual Action Sports Retail (ASR) trade show, suspended it because the mom-and-pop participants hawking surf goods had been pushed out.

Andy Tompkins, formerly Nielsen's vice president, says the industry's target market is the anti-establishment ages of 12 to 18. That demographic might seem a perfect fit for Martinez, but, Tompkins explains, a board of directors at a big firm that backs surfing might care more about family values. It can be safer to go "with the Kelly Slater types who haven't had many issues—or at least not publicly."

"You were who they wanted to put out in the world," says Martinez's friend Pascal Stansfield, who started his Malibu company Freedom Artists in 2007 in reaction to surfing's corporatization. Surfers are "not just a product," he says. "The more you embrace individual character, the more marketable [you are] to everybody who buys clothes."

Says Martinez, "[Sponsors] want you to do dumb shit you would never do because they're paying you. . . . They say, 'It's a family' and you should go and support them. But at the end of the day, they will cut you in a heartbeat, quicker than they signed you."

"The real power of the control of the surfing industry . . . will always rest in the hands of the manufacturers," adds Paskowitz.

Asked how pervasive the influence of surf companies is within the sport, Erik Joule, former vice president of merchandising and design at Quiksilver, now with Levi Strauss & Co., says, "Huge—they have the dollars."

Forget the four-tier model in U.S. major-league sports—an overseeing body, owners, players and outside sponsors who pay to advertise their brand—contests that make up the World Tour are not financed by "owners," but rather by sponsors. The advertisers also directly influence the sport by sitting on the ASP's board, as do the surfers.

The ASP is "not toothless," says Scott Hulet, who edits the San Clemente-based The Surfer's Journal, which as a subscriber-based magazine is not as impacted by advertisers as are Surfer, Surfing, TransWorld Surf and other major surf-lifestyle publications. "But the events themselves around the world are under the ownership and direction of the surf-clothing companies and wetsuit manufacturers who also sponsor the athletes in those events. . . . That seems like a relationship fraught with hazard. By the same token, anything that allows a talented, young, world-class surfer the ability to fly around the world and basically play in the water is a win for that surfer."

But surfing itself doesn't draw a huge mainstream audience. The spots with the best waves—the ones that create a spectacle of danger, athleticism and grace—are often located far from the world's media capitals. The smaller waves near big cities rarely guarantee the same excitement or quality of surfing, so Quiksilver's Long Beach, New York, locale was designed to turn on thousands of new fans.

The One World Ranking and the new mid-season tour rotation were meant to showcase younger surfers and bring more hype to an art that's about man-upon-wave, not the traditional sports conflict the advertisers flock to, that of man-vs.-man. For many surfers, it's a deeply metaphysical act that connects man to water.

"Had it not been for these Orange County apparel companies, there really wouldn't be professional surfers," says Taylor. "So it's kind of a Catch-22. . . . They own the tour; they rule it. On the other hand, if it weren't for them, there would really be no tour."

But Garcia, the Tour's mercurial 2000 Champion, knows the danger of having surfers sit on a board across the table from the companies that sponsor them and pay their mortgages. He was sponsored by Billabong when he was younger, but during his later tenure as a surfers' rep on the ASP board, he, like Martinez, did not have a big-five sponsor. Instead, No Fear, a company owned by his friends, sprang to back Garcia's name. The surfer was thus free to voice criticisms that others on the board were reluctant to express.

"At one time, there was a lot of criticism of professional surfing," says Jim Evans, an art director who began his career with classic illustrations for Surfer and Surfing. But those days are gone. "Professional surfers are supposed to keep their mouths shut and be cool athletes."

* * *

On Nov. 2, on a San Francisco beach, the ASP crowned its 2011 champion: Kelly Slater.

Slater, 39, had accomplished a staggering feat for any sport, finishing at the top for 11 full years. It was huge news. The press releases went out, Quiksilver ran its congratulatory ad for its No. 1 surfer, and the blogosphere celebrated.

The thing was, Slater hadn't yet clinched it. The ASP had made a mistake: Slater needed to win one more heat.

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26 comments
jonny cobra
jonny cobra

bobby kept it real and said what he felt , fuck the ASP , they dont know how to judge a pissing contest

Jimmy
Jimmy

I know this term gets thrown around a lot against the media ... but I have to say, this article is biased.

I mean, how can you not mention the benefits of the mid year rotation - like the appearance of Gabriel Medina and John John Florence. And the maths of the One World Ranking vs teh World TItle race weren't that hard to understand! It was extremely simple!

Of course most surfers want just one cut at the end of each year, it suits their selfish goal of wanting to stay at the top as long as possible.

The top half of the World Tour competitors didn't need to compete in the lower tier events, because they were doing well enough. Only the lower ranked surfers had to, and that is fair enough, those on the edge of qualification should always be competing for spots.

Rik Cederstrom
Rik Cederstrom

Slater also counted the points when the Waimea Eddie Invitational was messed up. He is an articulate and extremely intelligient competitor.Long time ago, there was something called "Soul Surfing". I travelled, found a great wave far from the scene and raised my family there. When I returned to the North Shore scene, I discovered that you were in/cool or nobody. Money talks loudly, it's who you know. Companies acted as though soul surfing was an extinct historical anomaly. The independents with attitude all went to "skateboarding"? What's up with THAT??Martinez is a soul surfing. Good on him mate!

Alex
Alex

I agree with the comment below. The fact that Bobby spoke out does show he cares. It was his life & livelihood. Since the ASP has confessed so many changes they ought to show the corporate world how surfing industry corporations are different, i.e., at their core, still a band of brothers from the beach. One way it could do this is by taking Bobby on their board of advisors. The contest thing needs to convey the charisma that every surfer feels when they paddle out. Bobby would go.

Tibby Rothman
Tibby Rothman

Hey, this is Tibby Rothman the writer of the OC Weekly and LA Weekly's Bobby Martinez story. Thanks to everyone for dropping by with their comments--no matter what their POV is on the piece. Many of the notes, ideas and perspectives are very interesting, and I'm super glad people have been posting up their thoughts. Have a great day, peeps.

Sophie
Sophie

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Sophie
Sophie

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Antman
Antman

the problem is is the tour is stuck in the past its not progressing with how fast surfing is the judging system is old and dumb.Bobby is not a puppet and cant just sit there and ignore the hopeless tour bullshit,he just wants to surf and kick arse but the tour is stuck in the past.

The Roller
The Roller

Bob Mart, repackaged and refitted with the latest branded clothing line to flog.

If Bobo was currently right and well in his world, would not every surfer on tour have hired him by now to re-negotiate their contracts?

Here's an idea, if the contest hating kooks really wanted to see the ASP fail quickly, install Bobo Mart as the ASP CEO.

Dml1017
Dml1017

I think I am fortunate to have surfed here in Hawaii since my dad floated me out on his wooden hollowed board. I got to see the evolvement of surfboards, fins and leashes. Which is a far cry from drilling my glassed in fin and tying a cord to it. I was asked by a tourist recently as to what I didn't like about surfing. Commercializm...that is killing the sport. Let Bobby M surf.....he is the 99‰. Nuff said, Aloha

Yourmom
Yourmom

bobo's gripe is with the industry and it may be fair but he also sounds like a complete and utter retard. bitch ass move to quit the tour though.

Kaiser Souza
Kaiser Souza

Yawn. Bobby wasn't cutting it and was too dumb to figure out he only had to surf J-Bay and Tahiti to qualify. Good riddance, we got way better surfers out of the exchange. Surfers who actually give a shit and are thankful that they are paid to be flown around the world to surf. What's he still crying about?

Shot 23
Shot 23

Have been interested in this story for a while, but who exactly are you saying he's rebelling against? The tour? The industry? If so, I would like to have heard more from Dave Prodan or Renato Hickel or even some of the other surfers on tour instead of ones who are past their expiration date. Also, in terms of the industry, I would have liked to have heard from people at his former sponsors like Oakley or Reef or O'Neill to hear what they have to say about it. Tibby basically rounded up like-minded individuals here whether it was Sunny or Bobby's friends or sponsors at FTW or Channel Islands and pretended like she was presenting a balanced story. It just seems really one-sided.

Also, I'm an occasional follower of the world tour and I thought the midyear rotation worked great. We got Miguel Pupo and Gabriel Medina and John John Florence out of it. Gabriel won two events and John John won the Triple Crown. I'm actually disappointed that they got rid of it for this year. Anyways, just wanted to hear a bit more fact and a bit less opinion.

mike mcgill
mike mcgill

bobby's a wash out. everyone in his life told him he would be the champ and when it turned out that that wasn't the reality he started blaming everyone from the sponsors to the tour to even kelly himself.

Terry_Hacket81
Terry_Hacket81

This is the most agenda-driven piece I have ever read. You can't find a single surfer currently on tour to speak about Bobby and resort to quoting his sponsor? Pathetic.

Blasphemy Rottmouth
Blasphemy Rottmouth

Bravo!

Standing ovation from the dunce section of SURFING.

I've been telling people in "The Surf Industry" for months that they were clearly missing the mark on Bobby's "Victory Speech" in New York. The tennis reference alone has much deeper roots that start with the Bronzed Aussies that created "competitive surfing."

It will go down in surfing lore as the Gettysburg Address regarding competitive professional surfing. The line's drawn. What is SURFING? Is it a sport? Does it NEED to be a sport.

I believe Bobby's speech is more significant than all 11 of Slater's titles at this point. Slater is the best natural surfer the planet has ever seen, yet (similar to Michael Jordan) he's done nothing outside the water to use his monumental power to develop something that appeals to 99% of the everyday surfers out there. Let's forget non-surfing audiences. If This Bogus Tour could attract even a quarter of the world's everyday surfers to watch, they'd be melting internet servers around the clock.

Instead, the Surfing Industry is led by the third and fourth generations of inbred hillbillies who are "connected to the family of surfing" - yet have IQ's a that Down Syndrome patient's scoff at.

Bobby has seen the light. Jamie O'Brien, Bruce Irons and many other have seen the light. It may have taken a while (Bruce and Bobby obviously had successful stints on tour - Jamie never bought in), but they saw.

Speaking of the Irons' family. You may want to follow up with Bobby regarding his thoughts on Andy Irons and his treatment by The Industry. THAT... may lead to the BIG BANG surfing is waiting for.

Movie scripts are nearly finished regarding THAT story.

Thanks again, Tibby.

You kicked the shit out of any living "Surf Journalist" in one resounding bullet to their temples.

Many Thanks.

Yours in our beloved Jesus Christ and Loving Savior,

Blasphemy Rottmouth

Radman
Radman

I think the mid year rotation/cut to the top 34 worked. This article fails to address how it really worked, but then, the ASP has never done a good job at explaining how the One World Rankings and mid-season cut really worked.

And re: Bobby's analogy that "imagine if a hard-court tennis player who failed on Europe's clay was banned from the US Open?". Well, Bobby and Tibby - that is exactly how tennis works! If you can't defend your points over the last 12 months, you don't make the main draw for grand slams. Usually around the top 110 in the world gain direct entry from their rankings/points from the week before the slam, but there are wildcard and qualifying playoff spots for the rest. A totally fair and transparent system. And the players who are on "the bubble" have to do well in lower tier events to get their points up ... just like in surfing.

But Bobby just didn't want to compete. He could have easily stayed in the top 34 and then even requalified if he wanted to. You make no mention of CJ Hobgood who was dropped from the tour at the same time as Bobby, yet after competing in only 3 events (including a low-tier contest he won) he made it straight back.

awasht
awasht

If only Bobby had put it as eloquently as you have during his outbursts. Maybe he wouldn't have been dismissed so quickly.

He was actually in the perfect position to 'rally the troops' but I fear he's lost his credibility.

I know he's walked away from the tour, but there is no doubt in my mind that he still cares.

It's articles like this that will help restore his image, and hopefully make some positive changes to the surfing world.

Blasphemy Rottmouth
Blasphemy Rottmouth

Have you voiced this concern over the 99.99% of propoganda released by Surf Writers over the last three decades? What Tibby did was unearth voices of dissent. Something squelched like a robber's fart in the Smithsonian by The Industry for eons.

You pee on this article?

Really?

Where have you been the last 30 years? All the Mags are beholden to the Corporations that run surfing and therefore propogate their agenda, and a lone person OUTSIDE The Industry tells the actual story of a single surfer dispatched by Their Syatem and YOU cry foul?

You fail statistics young lad.

The up and coming generation are just more cow-towing to 80 pages of rules that no one else lives by when SURFING. Therefore the disconnect. No one else CARES!

Wake up, child!

See the light.

Imagine SURFING. Is that what you see on tour? If so, you are months and years late. What you are wtinessing is ancient history. Already documented on YouTube or Vimeo.

Gird your loins brothers! This article was a watershed momement.

Not the ASP: FINE!
Not the ASP: FINE!

Try finding a pro ¡surfer ALLOWED to comment on Bobby. If they don't want to be FINED they're not allowed to comment on him, what he said, or the changes taking place. Pro ¡surfing is run by fascists. Ask one of they fascists why the pro ¡surfers don't talk about the most discussed post heat interview of the year.

Markedly
Markedly

Great article, go Bobby!

The Roller
The Roller

Yea, real watershed.... How many people do you think never heard of the brand Bobo is currently flogging?

Good jobbie, Bobo. Capitalizing on it all. Ceasing the moment.... Making bank while the sun shines on your dome.

True blue American all the way!

Shot 23
Shot 23

You're upset that one side is inhibiting the truth. I'm upset that ANYONE is inhibiting the truth. The problem we have in today's corporate-ized and #occupy society is that there is not even a modicum of truth in any journalistic piece (the above, absolutely included). You either have bias and propaganda from one direction or bias and propaganda from the other direction. Now, it's likely that one side began the propaganda war and it's also likely that the finger can be aimed at the corporatocracy. However, that doesn't mean that the "media" should further corrupt itself in pursuit of "balancing out the system". The media should be out to find the truth regardless of the circumstances. However, this article's most cited sources are:

- Bobby Martinez (has an axe to grind)- Bryan Taylor (Bobby's Manager)- Bobby Vaughn (Bobby's sponsor)- Travis Lee (Bobby's sponsor)- Paskowitz (Industry outsider with an axe to grind)- Tarik Khasshogi (Bobby's friend)

I simply wanted to see further comments from Prodan or Hickel or, AT A MINIMUM, comments from Bobby's former sponsors at Oakley, Reef and O'Neill (instead of Bryan Taylor's recount of what happened).

Again, I'm not saying that Bobby and his points are without merit and it's sad that an agenda-driven piece like this cannot seem to get to the root of the truth. However, this article either does Bobby and his opinions a disservice or Bobby and his opinions are (as displayed above) unintelligible and disorganized.

Not the ASP: FINE!
Not the ASP: FINE!

The journalist has been good enough to list the names of the people you want to hear from. Look them up, give them a call. If you're feeling generous - feel free to let us know what transpires.

Strange thing about media operating around an enclave like the ¡surfing industry: they're not going to be let in.

Strange thing about the ¡surf med¡a: they're not going to let dissenting opinions in.

But you, dear citizen of the modern world, (if you really want to know) can make a phone call to find out - if you're really a part of the citizenry not a member of the ¡surf world - you'll have more of a chance that they'll talk to you than a journalist like Tibby holding them accountable for comments.

The industry loves nothing more than spreading gossip and innuendo, because gossip and innuendo can't be held to account.

"I NEVER knew Andy used drugs" - Brodie Carr, often, to many many people that wouldn't hold him accountable, including the ¡surf media. The only true part of that statement is that he said it. The rest is a lie, and he knows it.

Shot 23
Shot 23

Now that's a bit myopic, isn't it? Here I am 'thinking' that this article is bullshit. And here you are telling me to what? Stop 'thinking' that? To take this story as gospel of what actually occurred? You're the one that needs to start thinking there big fella. I think that the mags are full of bullshit. I think this is bullshit too. The difference between you and I is that you choose to exchange one lie for another. I don't.

Blasphemy Rottmouth
Blasphemy Rottmouth

Show me a single piece of journalism written by anyone that is completely unbiased and without objectivity. ONE. I bet my life savings you can't because it's not possible. Every journalist knows this. It's taught in journalism school for christ's sake.

This article was about telling Bobby Martinez side of the story.

Agenda driven? Of course. Axe to grind? Who doesn't? Will this win a Pulitzer? No.

I champion this article because it told Bobby's story. Not The Industry's story.

You want to hear from The Industry? "I simply wanted to see further comments from Prodan or Hickel or, AT A MINIMUM, comments from Bobby's former sponsors at Oakley, Reef and O'Neill (instead of Bryan Taylor's recount of what happened)."

Go buy a surf magazine or read all the surf blogs out there on the internet. Every single one gave the opinions and thoughts you are asking for. So, meld the two in your head and decide for yourself what's going on.

Media 2.0.

It requires YOU to think for a change.

You are a classic example of old Media 1.0 asking to be spoonfed everything so you never have to think for yourself.

 
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