Meet The Female Executives Who Bring Vans US Open Of Surfing, World’s Largest Action Sports Festival, To Life

 Meet The Female Executives Who Bring Vans US Open Of Surfing, World’s Largest Action Sports Festival, To Life

Regardless of its title, the Vans US Open of Browsing is greater than a surf competitors. The competition, which runs for 9 days in 2022, consists of skateboarding and BMX competitions as properly. And since 1959, when the primary West Coast Browsing Championship was held, the US Open of Browsing has grown to turn out to be the world’s largest motion sports activities competition.

The World Surf League (WSL) has sanctioned the occasion since 2015; earlier than that, when the WSL was nonetheless often called the Affiliation of Browsing Execs (ASP), it started working with IMG, US Open of Browsing proprietor and operator, since 2001. Vans got here on because the title sponsor in 2013.

Right now, feminine executives at every of these firms type the spine of the occasion. Along with Huntington Seashore, the house of the US Open for six a long time, these stakeholders—Cherie Cohen, world chief income officer & advisor at WSL; Jen Lau, vp of motion sports activities occasions at IMG and Carly Gomez, VP of selling, Americas at Vans—oversee an motion sports activities powerhouse that generated $55.3 million in financial affect in 2018, the final time numbers have been launched. (Earlier than that, direct complete spending generated by the US Open was $21.5 million in 2010.)

It’s no secret that motion sports activities have traditionally been male dominated. Key trade stakeholders have made strides in recent times to counteract that reality—the WSL introduced prize cash equality in 2018; browsing, skateboarding and freestyle BMX debuted with equal numbers of women and men within the Tokyo Olympics in 2021; and X Video games and Vans Park Sequence have supplied equal prize cash to women and men for years.

Regardless of the equitable earnings for feminine athletes, nonetheless, motion sports activities nonetheless retains a heavy male presence—from brokers to executives to model house owners, even to the members of the media who cowl it. So the truth that the three pillars supporting the Vans US Open of Browsing are all high-level government girls isn’t any small feat—and so they credit score one another with the occasion’s success.

“Working in an trade that was traditionally male dominated, I simply need to cease and acknowledge this second the place we have now three unimaginable feminine executives bringing this wonderful platform to life for all surfers, skaters and BMXers,” Gomez mentioned. “Placing on the Vans US Open of Browsing requires grit, affect, empathy and candor, and I’ve appreciated how every of us has leaned into these virtues to create a robust partnership for us and our groups. I’m honored to guide alongside Jen and Cherie as we host this occasion for all.”

IMG’s Lau connects the dots between Gomez, representing the title sponsor in Vans, and the WSL, helmed by Cohen as chief income officer.

The WSL, because the governing physique of professional browsing, is answerable for all points of professional browsing at this occasion—which is a part of the qualification course of for the World Surf League—in addition to all key industrial relationships and the worldwide broadcast.

Because the title sponsor, Vans designs the scope of the occasion, together with the theme—this yr, that’s sustainability, which is mirrored in every part from operations to advertising activations and even storytelling by the published—web site activations, retail expertise and group engagement items.

“Our sustainability objectives have been prime of thoughts as we deliberate each side of this occasion,” Gomez mentioned, citing partnerships with OC Coastkeeper and the Surfrider Basis. “We need to be certain that we depart the placement higher than we discovered it, and to make sure that is the case, we have now a seashore clean-up deliberate for August 11.”

The glue that binds the WSL and Vans is IMG, which ensures that each companions’ visions are executed whereas additionally dealing with authorized, finance, price range, metropolis zoning and allowing. “This can be a 365-day-a-year venture,” Lau mentioned. “We begin actually after the occasion ends this yr planning for 2023.”

In its fashionable type, the US Open of Browsing is anchored by browsing, skateboarding, and BMX competitions, in addition to activations on the competition aspect that embrace on-site surfboard shaping, surf clinics, public skate and BMX classes, and product demos and samples from trade manufacturers.

The browsing element is the biggest—in truth, the US Open is the largest browsing competitors on the earth.

Throughout Covid, the WSL fully reformatted and restructured its professional system right into a three-tier format. There are three disciplines in professional browsing: shortboarding consists of the Males’s and Girls’s Championship Excursions (CT) and the Qualifying Sequence (QS), which incorporates the newly shaped Challenger Sequence (CS) occasions, of which the US Open of Browsing is one.

There are additionally the Longboard Championships, the Huge Wave Tour and the XXL Huge Wave Awards.

The US Open of Browsing encompasses a Males’s CS and a Girls’s CS occasion, starting with a Spherical of 96 within the former and a Spherical 64 within the latter and crowning a champion within the last. A win is price 10,000 factors towards the CT rankings.

The occasion additionally options the Males’s and Girls’s Duct Tape Invitational, a longboard competitors that includes a subject of 20 males and 20 girls that’s the second cease on the 2022 Longboard Tour.

The Vans Showdown skateboarding contest is much less about competitors and extra about tradition—actually, it’s referred to as a “pointless contest.” Skaters, together with Group Vans professional riders, are awarded for model and distinctive strategy versus conventional scored contest runs in a jam session and a money for tips contest.

The US Open can also be dwelling to one of the progressive freestyle BMX competitions on the earth. On the Tokyo Video games in 2021, freestyle BMX joined its racing counterpart on the Olympic program, with 9 athletes from eight nations competing within the males’s and ladies’s fields.

The Tokyo Video games marked an enormous step ahead for girls’s freestyle BMX, which has only a few pro-level competitions for girls. Freestyle BMX doesn’t have a medal occasion at X Video games (males compete in BMX grime, BMX park and BMX road, in addition to a BMX greatest trick contest). X Video games used to have a girls’s demo, organized by veteran of the game Nina Buitrago, however that’s been off the schedule in recent times.

The Vans US Open encompasses a males’s and a girls’s BMX competitors, the Vans BMX Waffle Cup. The last was held on August 1, with Kevin Peraza taking the lads’s title and Perris Benegas, the ladies’s.

Benegas, 27, was certainly one of two girls who competed in freestyle BMX on the Olympics, ending simply off the rostrum in fourth.

“One thing we’ve championed from the very get-go is equitable competitors,” mentioned Lau. “From prize purse parity on the WSL and dealing with them in our surf competitors through the years to equality for the ladies with the Vans Duct Tape Invitational and the identical for skate and BMX. That chance for equitable place and alternative for competitors has been actually essential for us.”

And the US Open of Browsing is simply as a lot about offering a possibility for spectators to truly decide up and check out a brand new sport as it’s to show them to their favourite professional athletes.

“We’re setting the inspiration for a progress trajectory,” Lau mentioned. “To broaden on why the US Open of Browsing is essential, it’s not simply concerning the competitors stage however the alternative for the followers to take part. It may be by surf camp or to session in that skate park in BMX and skateboarding. So not solely is it offering that platform for athletes we could already be accustomed to, however we’re even opening up these venues and offering entry for a basic public. I grew up taking part in conventional staff sports activities; now you see this new era choosing up a skateboard simply as shortly.”

A few of these spectators could not go on to compete within the Olympics down the street—however they might as an alternative find yourself in an government function like Cohen, Lau or Gomez.

When Lau received her begin in motion sports activities at IMG greater than 20 years in the past, she was the one girl within the house—now, she says it’s wonderful to see the evolution and what number of girls occupy the model house.

“Wanting on the US Open of Browsing and my different two companions which might be girls, it truly is about these alternatives and setting the tone. We scan present the youthful era of females that there’s a spot for them,” Lau mentioned. “That’s one thing motion sports activities was capable of provide me, that chance inside IMG which is predominantly male dominated with the opposite sports activities we characterize. I used to be capable of develop and develop the US Open of Browsing. My friends and the opposite two stakeholders as females is nice story for me to inform. I like exposing individuals to what it’s that they do, letting the females of our trade know there’s a place for them and their concepts might be heard.”

With browsing, skateboarding and freestyle BMX all on this system for the Paris 2024 Olympics—and Los Angeles 2028 on the horizon—the Vans US Open of Browsing will proceed to progress motion sports activities.

“We’re very excited to be a qualifying physique once more for the 2024 Olympics in France,” Cohen mentioned. “The Tokyo Olympics have been our first Video games, which have been very profitable each from a publicity and consciousness standpoint. Our athletes gained an amazing quantity of publicity popping out of the Video games, then got here again to the CT in January and raised the profile of our sport.”

To wit, Carissa Moore and Italo Ferreira gained the primary Olympic gold medals in browsing in July 2021. Then, in September, Moore claimed her fifth WSL CT title. Moore was additionally the one surfer of the 40 who competed within the Video games of Native Hawaiian ancestry, shining a light-weight on how browsing can nonetheless make waves on the subject of range and alternative.

“We’re very excited to even have a couple of initiatives on the bottom [at US Open of Surfing] that may assist us invite new younger, various athletes to the game, just like the Rising Tides program” Cohen mentioned. The program is a grassroots motion geared toward inspiring younger opponents. “Vans has these initiatives as properly that we’re glad to assist.”

There’s no query the US Open of Browsing—and now, its feeder initiatives—is the breeding floor for the way forward for browsing. Take Kanoa Igarashi, who primarily grew up at this occasion. In 2016, he was the youngest rookie on the CT; final yr, he represented Japan within the Olympics.

Cohen, who was previously senior vp, portfolio gross sales and consumer partnerships at NBCUniversal and senior director, multi-media gross sales at ESPN, says she was excited to work for the WSL for 3 causes. She believed within the momentum and potential of the game, she favored that the WSL is without doubt one of the few world leagues that operates a males’s and a girls’s skilled tour—with equal pay—so she may work on each males’s and ladies’s sports activities and he or she is worked up concerning the alternative to develop a pipeline of younger, various athteles.

“We pay our girls equally within the jersey and within the workplace—I’m an instance of that,” Cohen mentioned. “Now we have a number of girls on the C stage. I believe it’s additionally about protection—you’ll see so much about media protection and the shortage of media protection that has held again girls’s sports activities. We’ve moved to a mannequin the place all our occasions are built-in, which permits us to supply equal protection and be very fluid between males’s and ladies’s protection of the game.”

Cohen cites what she calls the “bedrocks” to constructing a longstanding profession: equal pay, equal protection and an funding in creating the subsequent era of athletes.

“If we are able to get these issues actually proper, then I believe we’ll see all the issues across the sport—viewership, sponsorship, and extra participation—improve,” she mentioned.

The Vans US Open of Browsing is free to attend and runs by August 7, with the Girls’s and Males’s CS finals, the Vans Duct Tape Invitational finals and the Vans Showdown last. The full schedule might be discovered on Vans US Open of Browsing’s web site.

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