Large crowds turned out on Labor Day for the start of the Quiksilver Pro New York in Long Beach, and the town welcomed the event, the surfers and Quiksilver with open arms.
Quiksilver brought a touch of Hawaii to the big city with an opening ceremony featuring blessings from Titus Kinimaka and Mel Pu'u and short speeches by some of the surfers competing, including Kelly Slater.
While the most prominent surfers in the world were at the opening ceremony, the biggest cheers came for young local surfer Balaram Stack, who is competing in a wild card spot. You definitely got the feeling that Long Beach has a real sense of community and pride, and the boardwalk at the beach seems to be a real gathering place for the town.
Dave Juan, co-owner of Unsound Surf Shop in Long Beach, said the contest is a dream come true. He and his partner, Mike Nelson, held the Unsound Pro here for about 13 years and tried unsuccessfully to get other surf companies involved, Dave said.
To have the Quiksilver Pro in Long Beach is amazing, and he credited Quiksilver for “having the balls to do this in New York.”
“We finally have some respect for our waves. We are honored by this,” he said. “To see all these happy faces – this is great. We are part of the Quiksilver family now.”
The town seemed to embrace the event, with small business owners creating their own signs on storefronts welcoming Quiksilver and the tour surfers, and locals and visitors alike mobbing the 11,000-square-foot Quiksilver store on the sand.
I spoke with a few locals who said the contest was the biggest thing that had ever happened in Long Beach, a working class beach town on Long Island. Those I spoke to were not pleased that the city cancelled the festival part of the event, which was supposed to include performances by dozens of bands during the week, skate and BMX demonstrations, and more.
The city said it did not have the resources to deal with that event and the aftermath of Hurricane Irene as well.
On Monday, crowds stood for hours watching surfers in the Expression Sessions, and waited to snap photos of athletes and get autographs.
I saw several Quiksilver executives at the event, including CEO Bob McKnight, Pierre Agnes, President of Europe, Craig Stevenson, Americas President, and Anton Nistl, DC Shoes Americas President.
The company is hosting retailers from around the world throughout the week. Quiksilver has rented some houses around town, which are holding barbecues and informal parties at night, and the Allegria hotel is filled with media, surfers, and executives, with parties there as well.
Quiksilver said nearly 500 media representatives from around the world are attending, and from a wide range of publications, including surf, lifestyle, fashion and business.
See Page 2 for more about the booming retail store