Surfing and advertisements have been linked from the very start.
Surfing was used by Hawaii’s governors to sell the island as a tourist destination the start of the 20th century.
“Surfing has been used to sell everything from land in california to fizzy drinks and washing powder”
It was used to sell land in California in the 1940s and everything from beer, perfume, fizzy drinks, washing powder and phones from the 1960s on.
The results haven’t always been good, as you’d expect when big corporations try to bend surfing’s attractions into some digestible mainstream appeal.
However these ones below really stand out not only for being quite bad ads, but also for their crimes against surfing…
Laird Hamilton American Express
Laird Hamilton was probably the first surfer to really crack the mainstream and as a result is a serial offender when starring in some very bad ads.
His American Express ad, apart from netting him a wad of cash and featuring an endless stream of surfing platitudes (“I live my life on the edge, My visions are endless etc, It takes every piece of who I am to do this”) also sees him at one point dragging a large log attached by a belt through soft sand.
His 2003 print ads for Davidoff (tagline “The Power Of Cool”) are also fairly cringeworthy, while a quick scan of any print ads for Oxbow in the decade he was sponsored by them should be push all our lives to the edge… and then make us jump off.
Roxy Pro Biarritz Ad
It must have seen like a good idea at the time. For the 2013 Roxy Pro Biarritz, the company produced a teaser that starred a faceless Stephanie Gilmore in a clip that was aimed to be both sexy (it starts with the camera panning slowly up the topless woman’s legs) and aspirational.
“It aimed to be both sexy and aspirational. It turned out to be neither…”
It turned out to be neither, failing to titillate its male audience and offending large swathes of female surfing fans.
The fallout was extraordinary with the company forced to issue a public apology as an online shit storm raged about the teaser’s sexist nature.
It did raise awareness (two million plus hits on YouTube alone), but not in the way it was intended. In a final rub of salt into the wounds for Roxy, a flat spell caused the cancellation of the event.
Chanel No 5
The latest foray into surfing by Chanel (Danny Fuller starred in their Allure Homme Sport eau extreme shot by Katherine Bigalow) is directed by Baz Luhrmann of Moulin Rouge fame and stars the Brazilian supermodel Gisele.
The plot is confusing, but she seems to be a single parent who divides her time between surfing the beachies of Montauk and offshore reefs like Cloudbreak. This is perhaps why her lover dumps her while she is out surfing.
In the end, she ditches her child to go meet him at a concert where they fall back in love. And the point? Of course there is no point, it is simply utter shite that degrades surfing and all those who watch it.
Guinness Surf with Horses
The 1998 ad simply known as “The Surfer” is famous in advertising circles, both for its surreal concept and state of the art CGI footage. In 2002, it was voted the “best ad of all time” in a poll conducted by The Sunday Times.
“It’s enough to drive a man to drink…”
Part of the ‘Good Things Come To Those Who Wait’ campaign, the ad uses the metaphor of Hawaiian surfers waiting for the ultimate wave to reflect anticipation for the perfect pint of Guinness.
Just what that has to do with loads of horse going over the falls, Polynesian dudes wearing funny little shorts and man-wrestles at the high tide mark is anyone’s guess. It’s enough to drive a man to drink.
It’s impossible to single out an individual advertisement for Hollister, such is the across-the-board level of depravity and crimes against surfing.
Hollister was created when John Hollister, Sr. emigrated from New York to the Dutch East Indies and established the company bearing his name upon returning to the United States and settling in California in 1922. An alternative history sees the company being formed in 2000 by Abercrombie & Fitch. You can decide which is real.
An A&F spokesperson has said, “It’s more about the lifestyle and inspiration, rather than the actual activity of surfing.” That helps a little when you see a midwestern American model holding a mini-mal with the inscription “Hollister, since 1922” as you know neither he, or the board, has ever been anywhere near the actual activity of surfing.
The ad below also features a dune buggy tearing up fragile beach ecosystems, heavy petting and some of the worst surfing ever filmed. Cool!