He’s only eleven, but sometimes it seems like he’s been surfing forever.
The competitive surfing community here in Hawaii is pretty intense. Some of the best young surfers in the world are here, and every contest is super competitive. I genuinely respect every little grommet that has the guts to get into the game.
I have never gotten into the topic of sponsorship here. Frankly, I wasn’t sure how to talk about it before, because Luke didn’t have a big sponsor and I didn’t really know what to say.
So now let’s try! As far as the young surfing community goes, a “sponsor” most typically refers to a brand or company that gets behind a surfer, gives them their sticker to place on a surfboard, and then provides them with free gear, clothes, or other stuff in exchange for representing the company. Obviously sponsorship has its perks: Every little thing helps. Gear and clothes are expensive. The more you can get covered by sponsors, the better. (A few young surfers are even making paychecks at Luke’s age, but that usually comes a little later. Nuts, right?)
The “Psychology of the sticker.”
The cool thing about sponsorship is that it definitely boosts a kid’s confidence. They call it the “Psychology of the sticker.” A stamp of approval. Something happens in a kid when they know that a company is standing behind them.
How you get sponsored:
A sponsorship relationship can begin in a few different ways. Sometimes a young surfer just stands out to a company, who recognizes their talent and offers sponsorship. Some of the young surfers also have connections to people in the surf industry–a friend or relative that has some pull, and helps get their foot in the door with a sponsorship. Also, some parents are really good at marketing their kids. They create videos, send them to companies, make phone calls, and work hard to get their kids hooked up.
Where we stand:
As parents, Dave and I have wrestled with this stuff. Of course we’d love to have Luke sponsored. We think he’s a great surfer, and he often places in contests above kids who have multiple sponsors. But we also haven’t felt comfortable pushing hard to get Luke noticed. It’s not that we think it’s wrong, (in fact, it’s a lot of work, and I admire parents who invest the time,) we just didn’t know what to do. After a lot of thought and discussion, we decided that we would wait for sponsors to come naturally. In their own time. If they are meant to be.
Dave’s motto has been: “Let your surfing do the talking.” And “Leave no doubt.”
Sponsor-less and Sticker-less:
So Luke has worked hard, and competed well– and he’s pretty consistently been one of the only kids in the finals with no stickers on his board.
In some ways, it has been a cool experience, the whole thing of being sponsor-less and sticker-less. Dave has joked that Luke is sponsored by “D.A.D.”
More importantly though, Dave and I have always taught our boys about how our self-worth should never be based on the things we do or our accomplishments. As good as those things are, our VALUE comes from the fact that God created us and loves us unconditionally. We stress that idea all of the time, so the sticker-less surfboard has really helped drive that point home. We tell Luke that it really doesn’t matter. He surfs for God. He already has great value.
And then we smile and tell him to go beat all the kids with the stickers. (Sorry, we can’t help it.)
But of course: We have continued to hope that Luke might get a big sponsor.
You might remember last fall, when Luke had an epic first place finish in a Maui contest, Mokulele Airlines brought him onto their team. (Free inner-island flights–awesome!) Next a company called Freak Traction offered to provide Luke with some gear: Traction pads, board leashes, and a sticker on his board. Surface Sun Systems then began to supply Luke with some really high quality suncare products. We were stoked.
But the “Big company” sponsor still hadn’t come. And we wondered what it would take. We talked about how it would happen. IF it would happen. We used to wonder when we might get “that magic phone call.”
The Magic Phone Call:
About two weeks ago, on a Tuesday afternoon, while the boys were finishing their homeschooling, and Levi and I sat on the couch reading a Highlights magazine, my phone rang. Someone named Reef McIntosh was on the other line, and when he asked if I knew who he was, my brain did that thing where you know you should remember someone, but instead you just freeze. So, I said “yeah, of course,” and put on my coolest voice while we chit-chatted a bit, all the while thinking “WHO IS Reef McIntosh?” Finally he mentioned something about being a pro surfer, and then said the word Quiksilver and I might have wet my pants just a little and almost dropped the phone. Reef McIntosh is a famous professional surfer! A Pipeline charger. Someone Dave and the boys watch on t.v. and in videos. I knew that!! I nearly lost my cool. Next Reef said he was helping Quiksilver with some of their grom sponsorship.
Then he asked about Luke.
I told him about Luke. (not sure what I said.)
He said he was impressed with Luke’s instagram account, and had heard good things about him. Then he said he was interested in getting him on the Quicksilver Team, but he’d have to talk to other people. He’d keep in touch over the next few weeks.
I asked if I could tell Luke, and he said yes.
We hung up.
I called Dave first because I knew that the only person even more excited than Luke would be Dave. But before I was even done talking to Dave, Reef called back. Apparently he had made a few quick calls himself.
He asked if we could meet him the next morning at the Quiksilver house at Pipeline.
I said HECK YEAH.
We met Reef. And his sweet wife and his dog Foxy.
(He’s a really nice guy. Super chill like you imagine a pro surfer would be.)
And the rest is history.
Luke is officially a team rider for Quiksilver! We are so happy.
And I am so happy with how it all happened.
Luke has already done one big shopping trip at the Quicksilver store (He is supposed to only wear Quicksilver now.) There is a sticker on his board. His confidence has been boosted a thousand-fold.
WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER:
The very next contest after the sponsor thing happened was exciting. Luke took first. Like a “leave no doubt” first. The psychology of the sticker was working.
This last Friday was the big day: HSA State contest. Kids from all of the islands competing at Ala Moana Bowls. And for this one–Luke still has another year in his age division, which means he is up against some kids a full year older than he is. (which can make a big difference at this age.)
But whether it was the sticker on the board, or just Luke’s time to shine (and God smiling down on it all,) Luke had the best day of his life. He had to get through FOUR heats to even make the finals, and he won the first three back to back. Getting into the finals looked impossible, but he did it. Luke placed fourth overall, which gives him a direct invite to the USA Championships in San Clemente in June. We’re just a bit thrilled.
Thank you friends for tracking along, and sorry this was long. My heart is full, and I am reminded again that hard work and patience eventually do pay off. Of course there are more ups and downs ahead, but an occasional breakthrough? It’s really nice.
PS I’ve had a few people email recently about their own kid’s sports issues: Asking advice on parenting through tough times, how to motivate kids without pushing them, and so on. I’ll try to focus in on some sports and parenting topics in my next Ask Monica segment, so feel free to add your questions here or in an email. 🙂