Eli Hanneman is the most promising under-18 surfer in the world right now.
That is not an opinion, but a fact. We can see this on Instagram, in events like Stab High, and we can also back it up with Eli’s winning of the 2019 Stab Junior Surfer of the Year, as selected by 50 prominent voices in surfing (including John Florence).
For these reasons, it came as a slight shock when Eli was not re-signed by Hurley at the end of last calendar year. Of course, that shock was quickly forgotten when the world’s best surfer, 2x World Champion John Florence, also peeled back his logos.
However, it’s been revealed that Eli Hanneman re-signed with the recently-acquired Hurley earlier today. It’s a three-year deal, and while we don’t have the official numbers, we’ve been informed that it’s a “very healthy sum”.
Now, let’s reverse-engineer this decision by surfing’s most contentious brand.
At the beginning of 2020, Bluestar/Hurley chose not to re-sign any of its completed surf contracts and forced the settlement of those with more years in their deal through aggressive legal posturing*. This rubbed a lot of surfers and industry folk the wrong way, leading to certain retail partners promising to cancel orders if Hurley didn’t show some signs of “investment into surf”.
After the cull—and especially after saving the $4M per year guaranteed to John Florence (though the settlement reportedly cost them $2M)—Hurley’s marketing budget became much less constrained, leaving them in a position to make new sponsorship acquisitions (so long as the new owners deemed them fiscally prudent).
Today’s news about Eli leads us to believe that Bluestar/Hurley see the Hawaiian as a surfer who represents great value to their brand. Considering that the youth demographic is a major part of Hurley’s new brand strategy, and Eli is the best youth surfer in the world, this makes logical sense. The fact that their re-signing of Eli might also quell criticism from certain surf community members (and, of course, retailers) is a major plus.
Next we have Carissa Moore, who has also recently re-signed with Hurley.
Over the past few weeks, you might have seen photos of Carissa without the )( on her board, leading us to believe that Hurley had parted ways with its only remaining World Champ.
As it turns out, neither Hurley nor Carissa ever planned on terminating the relationship—rather, they were working through the logistics of her next contract. Carissa’s refusal to display Hurley logos throughout this period was her way of putting the brand in a proverbial headlock. She presumably caressed them into submission.
Lastly we have Kai Lenny, whose contract isn’t up until the end of this year.
According to inside sources, Hurley is doubling-down on the Millennial Laird, who they want to be the new face of the brand. If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Kai epitomizes Hurley, which is all about about innovation, performance, and spreading aloha rather than a divisive opinon.
In other words, it’s business as usual.
*Eli Hanneman was one of the surfers whose contract had ended in 2019, so there was no “forcing out” in his case.
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