“Oakley’s Support of Surf Shop Challenge for Core Stores Endures” via SES by Tiffany Montgomery

“Oakley’s Support of Surf Shop Challenge for Core Stores Endures” via SES by Tiffany Montgomery

Catalyst OakleySurfShopChallenge

The Oakley Surf Shop Challenge just wrapped up another successful finals event in Nicaragua. The finalists included Catalyst, Surf Ride, Pacific Wave, Sunrise, Secret Spot and HIC, with Catalyst taking home the big win.

We asked Marty Mathiesen, Oakley’s Sales Manager for the Surf Channel, some questions about the event and why Oakley continues to support it even with the major changes at Oakley over the past few years.

Needless to say, the surf shops that participate love the event. HIC Owner Leigh Tonai gave a special toast in honor of Oakley during the closing dinner.

“I’ve been on the retail and wholesale side of the surf business for over 35 years. The nature of retail is it’s difficult to pay your staff living wages, heck most owners can’t pay themselves a living wage,” Leigh said.

“I’m stoked to see the level of support Oakley is giving to the core shops, the shops who consider selling surfboards as part of their DNA, through the surf shop challenge.

“The regional contest is a great give back to the core shops but the nationals takes that to a new universe,” Leigh said. “Oakley put on a first class event. Investing in great judges, awesome accommodations and most of all a place that has consistent and challenging waves but nothing that’s going to kill you.

“I was impressed with the level of surfing and competition. Congrats to Catalyst and all the competitors. It’s an awesome experience and could only be done with a big investment from Oakley.”

Q&A with Marty Mathiesen

Despite all the changes at Oakley, the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge remains intact. Can you tell us why Oakley continues to support the event and why it is important?

OakleySurfShopChallenge martyMathiesen

Marty Mathiesen: Regardless of the changes at Oakley, Oakley is committed to the core, grassroots effort in surfing. The specialty surf shop is the backbone of the industry, and this event is a 100% give back to the kids working behind the counter selling not just Oakley, but all surf-related products across all brands.

Without authentic shop employees working hard on the sales floor, I don’t have a career, nor do the professional team riders.

We need to recognize and encourage authenticity, while providing an opportunity for these employees to experience life-changing surf opportunities. Being able to surf and compete next to your surf heroes like Nate Yoemans and Joel Centeio is beyond a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And doing so in perfect four-to-six foot barrels in Nicaragua, along with getting sponsor prizes, professional video clips and photos, is really a dream surf trip for even the best of the best. Everybody goes home with stories and memories that last forever.

How has the event changed over the years? Any new tweaks/changes this year?

OakelySurfShop AustinSmith Ford pacwave

Marty Mathiesen: The four-person tag team format is a proven formula that works. Each team includes two shop employees and two shop team riders/pros. The six regional winners from around the country make up the finalists who go to Nicaragua. Darren Brilhart runs point as contest director for all events and is the best in the business. We use WSL-level judges and announcers, and the addition of electronic live scoring via the internet has provided a connection back home for the shops to stay involved by “watching” their team compete.

Nixon stepped up this year as a co-sponsor and provided the Base Tide Pro-Formance Award at each stop for the highest single score/maneuver. All the co-sponsors – Surfer, Merge 4, Body Glove, Futures, Flexfit, Yeti, Mark & Dave’s Nicaragua, and Reef – stepped up with amazing prizes for each competitor at each stop. So regardless of how you finished, everybody walked away with a great experience.

How many surf shop folks overall went to Nicaragua this year? How long did they stay and what was involved?


Marty Mathiesen: We had just over 50 people down there. The six winning teams were accompanied by their Oakley sales rep. Several shop owners decided to join their teams, and we had the Surfer event staff, judges, photographer, videographer, and co-sponsors.

Each team is put up in a beachfront house with chefs providing meals for four nights and five days. Mark and Dave’s (surf resort) hosts our welcoming dinner and closing party, and takes care of everybody on the ground in Nicaragua. They run a first class operation and go to great lengths to ensure everybody’s safety, despite the recent government trouble in Nicaragua.

Merv Kuahiwinui OakleySurfShopChallenge

We select the best day to compete for the National Championship and the winning team receives a full-page ad in Surfer, $5,000, and bragging rights for America’s Most Core Surf Shop. We also hold a Nicaraguan Invitational heat where six of Nicaragua’s best local surfers compete, complete with a beautiful trophy and cash for the winners – a highlight for all the teams, as the local talent is emerging quickly!

The event concludes with a closing party, some “special” awards – wave hog, best tan, best wipeout, best tube, etc.

This year, one of the shop employees from HIC, Merv Kuahiwinui, entertained the teams with an impromptu ukulele concert that was worthy of any American Idol contestant.

What’s next for Oakley Surf Shop Challenge?

Marty Mathiesen: We want to keep it going even stronger. Close to 75 teams participated this year, and a first-time regional winner, Catalyst, won the National Championship! It’s great to see new teams, and new participants.

We’ve talked about how to incorporate international participants from Canada, Europe, Australia, and Japan to make a global movement, but at this time we simply want to give back to the core and keep the kids in the shop stoked to be a surfer, working in a surf shop, and selling core surf products.

Surfing is alive and well, and it’s great to be a surfer.



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