It started as a cryptic listing on the 2011 ASP World Tour Schedule: September 4-14, an event "TBA on the East Coast of the US." The world was abuzz about a new elite event in New York and the East Coast was pretty much electrified. The World Tour hadn't come to the East Coast since the Aloe Up Cup in New Smyrna, Florida in 1989. The last time it had been in the Northeast was for the Garden State Pro, Seaside Heights, New Jersey in 1988.
Actually, it had started months earlier at a meeting in Europe after the 2010 Quik Pro France when the head honchos at Quik sat down with Kelly Slater to discuss dropping millions of dollars for small surf and big exposure. In actuality, Slater's idea had been to hold a mobile event like no one had ever seen -- establishing several potential East Coast breaks, waiting for the short term forecast and then descending on the best choice between Florida, North Carolina, New York, or New Jersey. Logistics proved that to be a bit too ambitious.
2011 Quiksilver Pro New York
Quik ran the numbers and pulled the trigger for Long Beach, New York, 29 miles from downtown Manhattan. They picked the most consistent week of the year, backed by a decade of Surfline data. Quik and the ASP took some heat, especially as it came when Billabong and Rip Curl announcing events in Rio and San Francisco respectively -- cultural meccas instead of wave destinations. And when you look at the price of things in New York, it was a gamble.
But Quik scored. Standing atop the broadcast tower next to emcee Dave Stansfield's voice blaring out the speakers, CEO Bob McKnight smiled down. After a hiccup with Hurricane Irene the weekend before the event, some stroke of luck put Hurricane Katia on an ideal path for Long Beach. The event ran the first three days of the waiting period, the last two being overhead, and the final being the session of the year for Long Island.
The gamble turned up aces. Then last Friday, Quiksilver announced they were pulling the plug on New York for 2012.
City Hall didn't even find out until it was in the news. Does this have something to do with Long Beach?
"It's a great question, but it came down to economic realities," says Quiksilver's VP of Marketing, Mike Matey, "The Quiksilver Pro New York was an expensive project from the get-go, and Hurricane Irene created additional complexities that are still being assessed."
It should be noted that just days before the event, the city decided to cancel the New York Pro, as it was cleaning up after a direct hit from Hurricane Irene. At the eleventh hour, it was agreed that the peripheral action sports and music festival at the elaborate Quiksilver City would be shined, but the contest could still run. City officials seemed rather pleased during the event at what a little Kelly Slater magic can do for your town.
According to Long Beach Public Information Officer, Mary Giambalvo, Quiksilver did not have a three-year contract with the city, despite what had previously been reported.
But the folks at City Hall say they were looking forward to the event's return.
"Its very disappointing. It's obviously not indicative of the fact that there's something wrong with Long Beach. It may very well be the case of financial difficulties that that company is having," says Long Beach City Manager Charles Theofan, "We considered it an incredible success. It was very exciting to have millions of people come down to the beach. The Allegria Hotel was full that whole month and their employees were here for weeks eating at the local restaurants."
Quik had record breaking live crowds, sunshine, Slater busting no-handed threes en route to the final, more press than Charlie Sheen, hurricane groundswell, and the perfect storyline. That's not even including the river of humanity that flowed into a Quiksilver retail store right on the beach.
"Revenue was not the objective of the event. It was a marketing initiative from the beginning, and we really felt that we raised the profile of surfing both on the East Coast and globally," says Matey.
Fortunately, thousands of East Coast fans got to see Slater in a live final before his potential retirement. But he New York surf community isn't thrilled about the recent news. According to Unsound Surf co-owner, Mike Nelson, the whole town is generally bummed out. Not only did the locals relish having stars play on their courts (tennis references notwithstanding) but for many, it meant extra income after Labor Day.
"There's no question it was economically positive for the city," said Thoefan.
But even marketing magic can't spur surf apparel sales back to their 2004-2007 glory. And nothing is cheap in the city that doesn't sleep.
"We were aware of the realities of putting on an event of this magnitude in New York and feel that we succeeded in our goal of increasing awareness for Quiksilver, the surf industry and the many amazing athletes who are dedicated to the sport and lifestyle," added Matey, "We chose not to put it on this year, but we're still open to considering 2013 thanks to the warm reception we received on the East Coast."