Earlier this season Rip Curl announced its historic partnership with Surf Canada (CSA), becoming the official wetsuit & apparel partner of Surf Canada and title sponsor for Surf Canada Nationals. By doing so, Rip Curl has put their annual Rip Curl Pro Tofino on hold as they focus their attention to the Canadian Nationals this coming May 10-14 on Wickaninnish beach towards the Canadian Olympic possibilities. We sent Nick Russell, Vice President Sales and Marketing at Rip Curl Canada a short interview covering everything you need to know regarding the merger, team Rip Curl, and the upcoming Canadian Nationals.

1. First off, congrats on the merger with CSA. It must be a massive jump for Rip Curl, switching from 12+ years of the stew/pro, to the primary sponsor of the Canadian Nationals towards the Olympics.

Thanks, we are excited about the partnership with the CSA however it’s a little bittersweet putting the Rip Curl Pro on hold after such a long & successful run.

We feel that supporting the National program was the best way we could continue our support of Canadian Surfing in the short term.

2. Last year was the first time the Nationals split from the Rip Curl Pro. Now that everything is merged again, what was the reason for the split? It seems like it would have been a lot easier to have tweaked the Pro to suit everyone’s needs.

You are asking the tough questions, Kyler! Yes, Rip Curl had funded and run the Nationals for several years. After Surfing’s inclusion in the Olympics, there were specific requirements that the CSA needed to address and hence the split. There were varying opinions on the best way to move forward, one of which was to tweak the Rip Curl Pro as you suggested. There were many discussions and a little bit of angst involved in the split, but one thing I do know is that the CSA, it’s president and board of directors are acting with Canadian surfing’s best interests at heart.

3. Compared to the Pro, what can we expect from this year’s nationals?

To crown National Champions. The purpose of this event is fundamentally different from the Rip Curl Pro. You need to be a Canadian citizen to compete at Nationals whereas the Pro had two distinct objectives.

Firstly, the Pro element – attracting the best surfers from Canada and abroad. For Canadian surfing to progress, the top surfers needed to be pushed; if you remember back to the first years of the Pro, you could pencil Pete, Noah and Sepp straight into the final. As the years progressed, and we actively marketed for international surfers to attend, we saw the overall standard increase, and from round one onwards the heats were stacked. It is a bit of a bummer that this is lost, for the short term anyway. Chrissy and the girls at Queen of the Peak do a fantastic job celebrating women’s surfing, but there is currently nothing for the men.

Secondly, being inclusive. With nine separate divisions ranging from 10 & under through to over 50’s, male and female, shortboard and longboard, Pro and amateur – the Rip Curl Pro catered to everyone.

4. Switching to team Rip Curl, Mathea Olin was a massive addition to the roster. Being one of Canada’s hopefuls towards the Olympics, was she on the radar for a while? As well she is entered into the Bells trails, was this hard to swindle her into the event?

When you start winning events and National titles at such a young age, you indeed end up on our radar pretty quickly. We joke internally that we have been supporting Mathea for years, but just through event prize money, so it’s nice to have a Rip Curl sticker on the nose of her board.

Mathea has been a fantastic addition to the team, not only is she an elite surfer, but she is equally a tremendous young lady. I firmly believe that Mathea’s talent, determination and the support network around her will see her reach her goal of qualifying for the world tour in the not too distant future.

Regarding getting her a spot in the trials, it was not hard at all. Mathea won Canada’s first ever medals at an International surfing event at the 2017 Pan Ams; she had strong performances at both QS events she has entered. It took a heat full of current and former CT surfers to stop Mathea’s run at her first 6 star in Mexico last year – Mathea has 100% earnt her spot in the trials, how cool would it be to see the first Canadian compete in a world tour event!

Mathea will also compete in the International Rip Curl Gromsearch final in Costa Rica in May.

5. Over the years the Rip Curl Pro supported more than just the surfers and held many events celebrating the cinematographers and photographers who push the sport. Are there going to be any special events on or off the beach this year?

For sure, we always saw the Rip Curl Pro as the annual gathering of the surfing community, so our objective was to celebrate all things surfing, the Photo Showdown and the Filmmaker challenge achieved that goal. As a previous winner of the Photo Showdown Kyler, I’m sure you agree this is an excellent celebration of Canadian Surf culture.

This year, on Friday night at the Tofino Resort and Marina, we will be running an event to award the Canadian Surf Photo of the Year. We feel this is an excellent evolution of the Photographer showdown and continues our support of Canadian surfing out of the water.

6. With Rip Curl switching over to the Nationals, would you ever consider a fun competition such as a longboard or air comp?

Not sure on that, at this point, our focus is the Rip Curl Nationals and executing that as well as possible. Moving forward there is a couple of different idea’s, but we can talk about that when the time is right.

7. What is the next step you would like to see in Canadian surfing.

I would love to see the first Canadian compete in a world tour event, that would be a massive milestone for Canadian surfing.

8. Any last words or shout outs?

Absolutely, a massive shout out to everyone who made the Rip Curl Pro Tofino what it was.

Firstly, the surfers, we saw a dramatic increase in the calibre of surfing in the event over the years, you need to look at the round one heats for the past couple of years – any of them could have been the final ten years ago.

We always had fantastic support from sponsors and great media partners. Monster Energy was the presenting sponsor for ten years, without their support and the support of others, there is no way the event would have run the length of time that it did.

The District of Tofino and Tourism Tofino for their ongoing support. Long Beach Lodge and Pacific Sands for the impressive accommodation, and to the ever-reliable Adam Buskard for whom there was no challenge or task too big.

Also, of course, the Rip Curl crew that contributed to the event over the years – Drew, Myrosha, Eric and more recently Matt Myers.

Lastly, to you guys at SBC Surf for your continued support and the opportunity to have this chat.