If you’re looking for a microcosm of the greater financial crisis at work in our little surf world, look no further than Huntington Beach’s Shaun Ward. Ward, who stormed through his Round 5 heat today into the quarter finals at the Vans Pier Classic presented by Jack’s, walked up the beach after nearly doubling his next closest opponent’s heat score, under his arm a board with a stark white, stickerless front half. As in, he has no sponsors. Did we mention he won this event last year?
“I had the best year of my life last year,” says Ward. “I won two WQSes, I got shots in the mags—I thought I did well for my sponsors.” After things didn’t work out with his longtime backer No Fear, he says all his other sponsors, except Jack’s Surfboards, dropped him as well. That was in October.
Ward’s not alone, there are plenty of other pros with fewer stickers on their boards than even six months ago, from World Tour stars like Bobby Martinez down to regional guys. But it’s not necessarily all doom and gloom. Tough times can inspire people to summon even greater things than they thought themselves capable of. All over America people have lost their jobs, but the hard times are motivating their entrepreneurial spirits, and they’re starting businesses and taking their fate into their own hands. It’s the American spirit; bootstrapping, persevering, and ultimately succeeding.
And even in the surf world there are some recent hard-luck-to-high-times stories that are no doubt on Ward’s mind. Take Australian ace Bede Durbidge, who was dropped by his sponsor, and went on to better his World Tour ranking the next three years, rolling right up to runner up in the world last year. Or Nathaniel Curran, who was also dropped and went on the next year to win the WQS, make the World Tour, and realize a life-long dream. Now, Ward may not be the next Bede, but then again Bede thrived on doubters, and ended up making them eat their words.
If Ward’s going to do that, the first step will be making a big push on the WQS. And that will start tomorrow morning at his home break of Huntington Beach Pier, where he’ll be battling it out in the quarter finals. Though he may not have backing from a big sponsor, don’t feel too bad for him because he may actually have something more impressive: a bikini-clad cheering squad. Throughout his Round 5 heat he had a group of very hot girls cheering him on, which never hurts, especially at HB.
Others that flared up in the main event today were Dillon Perillo, John John Florence, Cody Thompson, and Mike Losness, among others. But you get the sense that Shaun Ward is hungry to repeat last year’s win. “I’m putting everything I have into every heat, and treating a two star like a six star,” he says. “If I win an event I might be able to make my rent for the next six months. So is it important? Yeah, it’s important.”—Casey Koteen
Full day’s results for Van’s Pier Classic and Ezekiel Pro Junior below.
Tomorrow’s action will crown both Vans Pier Classic and Ezekiel Pro Junior, champions by day’s end. Watch all of the LIVE action via vans.com.
Vans Pier Classic pres. by Jack’s Surfboards Round of 32 Results:
Heat 1: Dillon Perillo (USA) 16.75, Eric Geiselman (USA) 13.25, Tommy O’Brien (USA) 9.60, Ryan Briggs (USA) 6.65
Heat 2: Michael Dunphy (USA) 12.00, Noi Kaulukukui (USA) 11.75, Dane Johnson (USA) 7.75, Matt Johnson (USA) 7.60
Heat 3: Matt Keenan (USA) 12.00, Matt King (USA) 11.75, Nick Rupp (USA) 8.00, Bruno Rodrigues (USA) 7.25
Heat 4: Andrew Doheny (USA) 10.75, Jason Shibata (HAW) 10.60, Luke Davis (USA) 10.15, Liam McNamara (HAW) 0.00
Heat 5: John John Florence (HAW) 15.50, Dege O’Connell (HAW) 11.10, Sean Marceron (USA) 10.20, Micah Byrne (USA) 9.50
Heat 6: Cody Thompson (USA) 14.10, Nathan Carroll (HAW) 13.75, Dane Ward (USA) 13.50, Tom Rezvan (USA) 9.10
Heat 7: Shaun Ward (USA) 14.50, Hank Gaskell (USA) 7.60, Peter Mel (USA) 7.50, Bud Freitas (USA) 4.60
Heat 8: Mike Losness (USA) 14.75, Travis Beckmann (USA) 11.65, Justin McBride (USA) 9.60, Keli Everett (HAW) 6.10
Ezekiel Pro Junior pres. by Jack’s Surfboards Round of 32 Results:
Heat 1: Doug Van Mierlo (USA) 13.80, Hunter Heverly (USA) 12.65, Oliver Kurtz (USA) 12.20, Cody Thompson (USA) 6.55
Heat 2: Brent Reilly (USA) 15.65, Phillip Goold (USA) 15.15, Alex Smith (HAW) 8.30, Taylor Brothers (USA) 7.75
Heat 3: Christian Saenz (USA) 14.50, Luke Davis (USA) 10.75, Tyler Newton (HAW) 9.90, Quinn McCrystal (USA) 8.75
Heat 4: Spencer Regan (USA) 16.15, Dane Zaun (USA) 11.75, Kyle Kennelly (USA) 2.50, Cory Arrambide (USA) 1.40
Ezekiel Pro Junior pres. by Jack’s Surfboards Round of 48 Results:
Heat 1: Oliver Kurtz (USA) 12.60, Alex Smith (HAW) 11.00, Victor Done (USA) 10.35, Taylor Thorne (USA) 7.00
Heat 2: Taylor Brothers (USA) 9.75, Doug Van Mierlo (USA) 9.15, Nick Suhadolnik (USA) 7.95, Ford Archbold (USA) 6.10
Heat 3: Tyler Newton (HAW) 15.85, Dane Zaun (USA) 10.50, Sean Poynter (USA) 6.00, Shaw Kobayashi (USA) 2.65
Heat 4: Spencer Regan (USA) 14.90, Christian Saenz (USA) 12.90, Eli Viszolay (USA) 12.10, Nathan Florence (HAW) 5.15
Heat 5: Rob Kelly (USA) 12.00, Conrad Carr (USA) 10.90, Makai McNamara (HAW) 10.25, Colton Larsen (USA) 8.50
Heat 6: Gabe Garcia (USA) 13.05, Jared Thorne (USA) 10.55, Derek Peters (USA) 9.85, Brett Barley (USA) 9.75
Heat 7: Dege O’Connell (HAW) 16.05, Matt Meola (HAW) 14.75, Colin Dwyer (USA) 14.60, Mike McCabe (USA) 12.75
Heat 8: Chase Brady (USA) 13.00, Riley Metcalf (USA) 8.75, Tanner Deprin (USA) 8.00, John John Florence (HAW) 5.90
Ezekiel Pro Junior pres. by Jack’s Surfboards Round of 64 Results:
Heat 5: Colton Larson (USA) 13.75, Derek Peters (USA) 10.15, Keto Burns (USA) 7.00, Icaro Ronchi (BRA) 4.00
Heat 6: Jared Thorne (USA) 15.60, Conrad Carr (USA) 11.50, Adam Lambert (USA) 10.00, Tyler Stanaland (USA) 5.50
Heat 7: Matt Meola (HAW) 9.25, Tanner Deprin (USA) 8.25, Brad Hagglund (USA) 7.90, Jeffrey Lukasik (USA) 7.00
Heat 8: Chase Brady (USA) 10.40, Colin Dwyer (USA) 8.15, Billy Olsen (USA) 5.75, Zack Humphreys (USA) 4.30