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“The governing body of world professional surfing is investigating a Surfing New Zealand promotion involving two leading international surfers.

The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) told Sunday News it regarded The Corona Surf Trips, held last month at Whangamata and Gisborne and featuring current world title leader Joel Parkinson and former world champ Mark Occhilupo, as an ”exhibition”.

ASP boss Brodie Carr said his organisation was ”investigating further”.

The ASP will want to know why Surfing New Zealand (SNZ) did not seek official approval for the promotion and whether it should have paid a sanction fee.

”The exhibition was not sanctioned by ASP. We are currently reviewing the event and deciding upon actions from there,” Carr told Sunday News in a written statement.

Sanction fees as high as $US50,000 are payable to the ASP when using its contracted athletes for exhibitions or non-World Championship Tour events.

SNZ has paid ASP $US50,000 sanction fees in the past to gain the services of other world-ranked surfing stars such as Hawaiians Andy Irons and Sunny Garcia to compete in exhibitions.

SNZ executive officer Greg Townsend contradicted Carr by saying he had kept the ASP in the loop and the organisation had no problem with the Corona promotion.

”Surfing New Zealand has a range of dealings with the ASP and right now we are planning one international ASP-sanctioned surfing event in New Zealand for 2010,” Townsend said.

”They have not bought this issue up with us in the various discussions we have had since this promotion.

”We enjoy a very positive relationship with the ASP.”

The ASP will only be worried about Parkinson’s participation in the SNZ promotion as Occhilupo is now retired from the pro tour. The ASP rulebook allows for surfers to be stripped of their world championship points if they appear in a non-sanctioned contest or exhibition.

That would be a calamity for Parkinson, who is heading towards the first world title of his already spectacular career. However, it is unlikely the ASP would take such drastic action against a headline star. Investigations are more likely to centre on whether SNZ should have paid a sanction fee.

A possible defence for SNZ will be the claim that Parkinson was merely ”free surfing” with Occhilupo in Whangamata and Gisborne and therefore approval wasn’t required or a sanction fee due.

Unlike the previous Vodafone Surf Sessions at Piha a few years ago, where SNZ did pay a sanction fee, there was no ”judging or competitive” element to the promotion.

However, the strong promotional element of the exhibition, the commercial attachment of Corona and the branding worn by the surfers while in the water, could undermine that argument.

ASP sponsors pay significant sponsorship fees to appear on the competition ”rash-singlets or vests” of its contracted male and female athletes during world tour events.

”If the ASP allows what Surfing New Zealand did to become the norm, the ASP’s top surfers will be doing them willy-nilly all around the world and getting direct payment,” an international surfing observer told Sunday News.

”Very soon, the ASP’s sponsors like LG and others will be quitting sponsorship of world tour events to do the same as the Kiwi promotion because it’s a lot cheaper.”

Strong crowds, driven by significant pre-publicity, attended both exhibitions in Whangamata and Gisborne. The promotion also resulted in ”internal discussions” within Billabong International – sponsor of the two Australians, and one of the ”Big Three” of world surfing along with Rip Curl and Quiksilver.

Billabong’s concern lay with the surfers wearing Corona-branded clothing and caps while in New Zealand. This conflicts with their master contract.
Billabong said it had dealt with the situation, did not wish to comment further and that there was no lingering issue with SNZ.

Meanwhile, the Auckland City Council’s recently formed Events Committee is set to gain a win shortly when it is announced the International Surfing Association’s amateur World Junior Games will be held at Piha in 2010.

The ACC identified the event as an opportunity, sought commercial backing from Sky City and then approached SNZ to commence talks with the ISA.


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