[ An opinion piece originally written in March of 2010 but sadly still relevant one year later. ]
Melanie Bartels in Huntington Beach, California. Photo: Chris Grant / JettyGirl.com
I’m a big fan of pro surfing, always have been. I know it’s not always cool to like the professional aspect of surfing but since I enjoy watching other paid athletes competing in their chosen fields, it’s a natural fit for me to sit on the sand and view the best of the best pushing the limits in surf contests as well.
Enter the 2010 ASP Women’s World Tour which kicked off a week or so ago at the Roxy Pro held at Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast…
This isn’t a contest review so let’s just fast forward to the Finals where Hawaii’s Melanie Bartels met up with World Champ Stephanie Gilmore. Despite the exciting lead-up to the Final, the waves were lackluster at best and Stephanie Gilmore started off where she left off last year, atop the winner’s podium with a well-deserved victory.
Surfing aside, what caught my eye (and ear) most about the day was a live interview with Melanie Bartels as she left the water after the Semifinals. Following the joyous acknowledgement of making the Final and after graciously thanking her shaper and accessory sponsor, Mel looked into the camera and speaking directly to the “Surf Industry” (i.e. the surf apparel industry) asked something to the effect of, “Can someone sponsor me please?”
There was a bit of uncomfortable silence, some half-laughter and a quick conversation change by the commentators but the question was hung out there and now deserves an answer.
The ball is now in your court “Surf Industry.” How will you answer Mel’s inquiry? I ask as well …how is one of the most talented females to ever ride a surfboard not sponsored by one of you? Is she not blonde enough, too Hawaiian for your taste or does she simply not kiss enough corporate behinds? If she donned a tiny bikini and extended out her bottom turns, would that help her case?
One of the world’s most progressive female surfers is sponsorless and that is simply absurd.
One final note: The 2011 ASP Women’s World Tour is set to kick-off in less than three weeks. As of this moment nearly 30% of the female surfers on the World Tour don’t have a major sponsor.