The Branding of Professional Surfers

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As in any professional sport, the athletes naturally brand themselves — whether they like it, plan it, or hate it, there are certain qualities that come to define athletes.

A simple example to start.  Kobe Bryant, for the entirety of his career, outside of Los Angeles was the villain.  An unapologetic psychopath.  A silent, deadly assassin.  Hated but respected.

In this article, I am going to explore the current branding of several professional surfers, providing critiques, suggestions, and observations.  I apologize if I offend anyone, and I’m sure I will.

  1. Connor Coffin: Pensive Heartthrob Screen Shot 2018-02-15 at 11.57.42 AM.pngAs wholesome as they come, Connor Coffin reminds me of warm banana bread fresh out of the oven.  A talented musician it would seem as evidenced through the many photographs of him with a guitar, Connor has effectively branded himself as the antithesis to the Noa Deanes and Creed McTaggarts of the surfing world.  It’s not a bad play, but it’s not one that I particularly care for.  Connor is so skilled at this imagery that he makes Jack Johnson look like Ozzy Osbourne.  Although, I must admit, I’ve never heard Coffin play or sing or any of that — this is strictly a branding exercise.  I once dubbed him the Golden Nugget of Glory, California’s last hope.  I no longer feel he embodies this title, for he has transformed.  No longer gold or a nugget, Connor Coffin has become the Pensive Heartthrob, California’s favorite jam puppy and, perhaps, last hope.  That being said, those who brand themselves in this very warm light, usually have a dark side.  One day, and I hope it’s soon, Connor’s dark side will reveal itself.   Until then, however,  I’ll still root for Connor and his demons.  Coffin will always have a place in our hearts here at Surf Heater.

 

2. Gabriel Medina: Evil Overlord

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Gabriel, simply put, must embrace his role and his brand, which has quite organically sprouted into the villain of the WSL.  Gabriel is the Jafar of the League and it would behoove him, and us all, to grab his serpent staff and accept the\ role with open arms.  Every great story pins good versus evil, and in surfing it should be no different.

Not everyone can play the villain, so young Medina should take this role as a compliment, and run with it.  Become the Jafar you were meant to be, Gabriel.  Fear not, for you will no power like you never have before.  Embrace the dark side!  Screen Shot 2018-02-15 at 12.07.53 PMPerhaps, Gabriel can recruit his stepfather Charlie to sit on his shoulder like Jafar’s trusty, loud-mouthed sidekick parrot, Iago.  Actually, as it is now, that’s not so far from reality.

3. Julian Wilson: Prince Charming

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I mean, look at this man.  If he doesn’t scream Prince Charming then slap my ass and call me Nancy, because I’m going out tonight!

Every villain must, must, must have an adversarial prince with whom to go to battle against.  Julian fits this mold and he does it with ease.  Ever since he willingly paddled quite literally into the jaws of a Great White Shark to help Mick Fanning escape imminent danger, he has been the Surfing World’s Prince Charming.  Now, if we could only get him a few more wins and lodged like broccoli between buck teeth in the running for a World Title.  The stage with its bright lights will soon be set.  The marquee matchup: Good vs. Evil.  Let us drink.  Let us dine.  Let us sing.  Onward.

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Coming up next: the Aging Master, Boy Wonder, and a String Cheese Spirit Guide…

 

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Single Fin Wavestorm The Perfect Storm

Product Review: I Turned My Wavestorm Into A Single Fin

I’m in love with soft top surfboards. I started surfing them in the 90’s with an old, heavy waterlogged Doyle and spent most of my teens and early 20’s running a surf camp on INT soft tops (see below) and spending more time on the softies than hard boards.

Taylor Lobdell Soft Top Surfing in Newport Beach.

 

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Surf Camp Days 2004

Lately, I’ve been recovering from some surgeries and mostly surfing a Wavestorm up in San Francisco. It’s a surprisingly good Ocean Beach board. No joke. Paddles fast, you can hunt down waves and get in them super early.

Last month, I surfed with my cousin down at Pleasure Point. As we were suiting up, I noticed he had installed an obnoxiously pink single fin to his Wavestorm. I gave it a whirl in solid 6 to 10 foot Pleasure. I honestly couldn’t feel much of a difference because the waves were so good, but I was intrigued.

I looked around online and found “The Perfect Storm” single fin which promised to “Turbocharge your Foamie.” I ordered one off Amazon and about 2 days later (thanks Prime) a small cardboard box showed up at my doorstep.

Side note: I recently pre-ordered some bonzer type fins from Fang Surf. They are small little “side bite fins” that supposedly let you have an “almost finless feel”. I will review as soon as they arrive. Ok..back to the review.

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Installation is super easy, and you can actually do it on the beach because all the tools, including a pink screwdriver are included. You basically punch an extra hole through the “deck pad” of the Wavestorm and screw it in. There are plugs for the two side fins so they don’t take on water.

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My first real session was in 2 to 3′ playful and glassy Ocean Beach. As I was paddling out, I saw a little wedgy peak on offer so I swung and went. I faded the take off and did a quick shimmy to the front half of the board. I crouched low and the board stayed in the pocket for a good 4 seconds! It was an effortless trim. Usually, with a thruster set up, it’s a chore to set a really good line and hold it in the critical part of the wave.

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Photo by Perfect Storm Fins

I caught a couple more waves. My best one was a backside left where I was fairly deep but it was a solid little chest high runner. I set a line, and again just stuck to the wave. I felt like I could really push off my bottom turns as well. I’ve surfed with the single fin for about 2 weeks now and really don’t think I will go back to the thruster set up.

The highlight of the whole experience was this week at Ocean Beach. It was a dreamy day. About head high with crossed up low tide barrels. I pull in one, in full trim and going fast. I pull out and no other than pro surfer Ace Buchan is “Yewing” as I pull out. Stoked.

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Downsides? Honestly, the pinkness of the fin screams kook. But you don’t really paddle out on a Wavestorm trying to be serious anyway, so it sort of works. I could see it being a good gift for a younger Wavestormer who wants their board to stick out from the rest, even if they don’t have the skills to really notice the performance. Another downside is that the size of the fin makes it hard to ride the board all the way to shore without possibly breaking off on the sand/reef/etc.

Purists will say these Chinese made boards have no soul. They are killing the industry. I get it. I’m not saying for everyone to grab Wavestorms, tell your local shaper to suck it and join the soft top revolution, but it is a nice addition to your quiver for when the waves are too small, too big or you just want to pack closeouts and not worry about shrapnel from a 6 foot piece of fiber glass.

In conclusion, the Perfect Storm single fin is an insanely fun addition to an already fun board. Would recommend to anyone. See you out there.

 

Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast: Power Rankings

With Snapper just around the corner, we’re here to evaluate the top 34 surfers with our pre-season power rankings.

#33 Tomas Hermes – Brazil – Rookie

The 30 year old WQS journeyman finally qualified after a strong second place finish at the US Open and a semi-final finish in Haleiwa. His stature (5’5”) and style remind us of a regular footed Tom Carroll with a penchant for big finishing moves. If he can link together a couple big turns and throw down some airs at Snapper, he could have a good start to the season.

#34 Michael Rodriques – Brazil – Rookie 

An explosive air game and powerful hooks define Michael’s surfing. The relatively unknown rookie qualified with a strong showing through Europe and hopes to make a splash at Snapper. If he can overcome the rookie nerves and surf with confidence, he may turn some heads with a solid result on the Gold Coast.