We’ve looked at the passable, now we check the lamentable.
In an unusual twist Chuck Norris had just added himself to the Surf Commercial Pantheon. Of course you’ll remember our piece a few months ago bylined “the sordid and highly entertaining history of surfing and mainstream advertising.” That was a look at the rare instances where surfing and mainstream advertising joined forces for good, and not evil. Now sure Chuck’s addition is a bit light on actual surfing (bar a three-second clip of a Ford tackling Nazare), however the fact that it contains humor and Chuck Norris means it easily gains its place in the pantheon.
However, this a rare occurrence. The majority usually have the foul stench that emerges whenever a corporation tries to co-opt surfing. Yet there are some that really stand out for their shithousery. Not just as terrible ads, but also for their crimes against surfing. Here we take a look at some of the standouts.
Gabriel Medina Gillette Body
This all starts off as blandly acceptable. Bit of action footage, a bit of product guff, a bit... meh. But then out comes the razor and in a deeply upsetting insert we see Gaby shaving his underarm hair. It’s an image that once seen, can never be unseen. Why Gaby, why? Oh, for the money, that’s why.
Roxy Pro Biarritz Ad
It must have seemed 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 before a slow motion shower scene) and aspirational. It turned out to be neither, failing to titillate its male audience, offending large swathes of female surfing fans and causing an online shit storm about the teaser’s sexist nature.
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, 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. It eventually ends with the tow guy laughing patronisingly at all those poor fuckers (ie us) that have to work for a living.
Chanel No 5
Chanel has done surfing before (Danny Fuller starred in their Allure Homme Sport Eau Extreme shot by Katherine Bigalow) but this effort directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Gisele plunged to new depths. 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.
Garnier Surf Hair
“Look at that epic windblown hair. Who cares if you don’t surf, you can tell people that you do because you look the part.” And so Garnier Fructis Style Surf Hair starts off their ad imploring people to lie about their association with the sport of surfing. It only gets worse as our model dude is transformed from inner city loser into a cool ocean loving dude after a hair transformation that sees him come out with, “epic, windblown, surfer hair, all day long.” I’m not sure whether it’s the deceitful nature of the advertisement or my own impending baldness that rankles, but this just makes me feel very, very, sad indeed.
“Can Kolohe Andino really pay for pizza in one of the heaviest waves in the world?” asks narrator Morgan Freeman in the Visa Checkout Ad? Well, no. For starters if you have ever been to Teahupoo you will know that the mobile phone reception is either terrible or nonexistent. The pizzas would also have to come from Papeete, a good hour drive away. Yes, this whole advertisement is riddled with inaccuracies and flaws to the point where I will go on record and say that I don’t think Kolohe actually ordered a pizza whilst in the tube as depicted. This is clearly bullshit.
Any advert that can star Alana Blanchard in a bikini and still be this crap surely has to win some award. “Alana this is no easy mission” says one of Alana’s wetsuit clad co-stars. As Alana paddles into the distance, another actress says, “Paddle around that bend where you will find a hostile compound of enemy haters.” We think this must be a metaphorical reference to all those who had the misfortune to watch this tripe.