In 2013, Quiksilver sent a handful of surfers out to sea; in response to financial losses, the industry stalwart scaled back athlete programs across its brands. The cutbacks, along with economic downturn overall, spoke to an uncertain future.
But this year things may be back to business as usual, for at least some surfers. Most significant so far are brands' embrace of fresh faces as their ambassadors.
The latest example is SoBe, a PepsiCo producer of tea, sports, and energy drinks. The company has announced a partnership with Sebastian "Seabass" Zietz (HAW), enlisting him for their Go Flavorfully campaign.
"Seabass possesses a unique combination of talent and charisma that is not only a natural extension of this campaign, but also reflective of the brand's proud heritage in surfing," said SoBe's Director of Marketing, Linda Lagos, in an official statement.
SoBe and Zietz aren't the only ones inking deals. Others in 2014 have included Alana Blanchard (HAW), who again signed with Rip Curl, Filipe Toledo (BRA), with Sharp Eye Surfboards, and rookie Mitch Crews (AUS), who teamed up with Reef.
"To be able to associate myself with a brand that has such a free spirit, relaxed, surf lifestyle is great to be part of," Crews said of his signing.
At the year's start, Adriano De Souza (BRA) signed a three-year contract with Hawaiian Dreams (HD), a major Brazilian clothing line, while Alejo Muniz (BRA) scored sponsorship from Dragon, joining the current Dragon posse of Mick Fanning (AUS), Owen Wright (AUS), Adrian Buchan (AUS), and big-wave charger Shane Dorian (HAW).
While surfer sponsorship is hardly new, the deals with newly minted World Tour surfers are unusual. Of the athletes named above, two are ASP World Championship Tour rookies, and another is the youngest on the WCT -- at 18 years old, Toledo is the baby of the bunch. So brands may be going younger, but so far this year they're not losing interest in the surf world.
A previous version of this story erroneously reported that Quiksilver ended its contract with Freddy Patacchia Jr. (HAW) in 2013. Patacchia is still sponsored by the brand. The ASP apologizes for the error.