Laird Hamilton And Puma Ocean Racing Search for Monster Waves

Puma Ocean Racing has announced a partnership with the ultimate waterman – Laird Hamilton. Given the Volvo Ocean Race strapline of ‘Life at the Extreme’, it’s hard to think of a better brand ambassador for the new Puma boat, Mar Mostro.

Hamilton is no stranger to sailing. He was one of the innovators of windsurfing and back in the day when windsurfing videos were sold on VHS to fans who couldn’t get enough of their sport on TV, footage of Laird sailing, and jumping a speedboard in the Neil Pryde video ‘Rigmarole’ inspired a generation of extreme sailors. Later, Hamilton invented ‘tow-in’ surfing, which allowed monster waves to be ridden.

Laird Hamilton’s personal facebook page has over 41,000 fans, which is more than the Volvo Ocean Race itself (though the page has no mention of the Puma tie up – yet). If done properly, the partnership promises to bring a new element to the race, but initial reaction (on Twitter at least) to the deal was luke-warm.

The exciting bit of the association between Puma Ocean Racing Team and Laird Hamilton, for surfers at least, is ‘monster waves’. The Volvo 70 that will be raced by Puma is named Mar Mostro (the monster of the sea) and the livery features vivid giant octopus and other creatures.

Laird and the PUMA Ocean Racing Crew will commence a search for the world’s monster waves during the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012. Skipper Ken Read and the crew will help track the world’s biggest rogue waves, which Hamilton will attempt to conquer. Using the weather and navigational teams onshore and onboard PUMA’s Mar Mostro, the crew will track wave patterns while sailing through the remotest reaches of the world’s oceans. As monster waves are found, Hamilton will fly in, prepared to surf them.

There is a further tie-up. The search to ride the world’s wildest waves will be helped by the design of a new “concept” surfboard. Juan Kouyoumdjian (Juan K), the designer of PUMA’s Mar Mostro Volvo 70, as well as the boat designer for two previous winning Volvo Open 70 boats, ABM-AMRO ONE and Ericsson 4, will collaborate with Hamilton on the surfboard development.

Laird Hamilton said:

“It’s been a life-long goal to push the boundaries and find these rogue waves at sea to ride. “When PUMA and the PUMA Ocean Racing crew approached me with ideas for how we might collectively make this happen during the Volvo Ocean Race, I was thrilled. We’re bringing the ultimate innovation to action water sports. It’s going to be a game-changer.”

That news alone would have been enough to get people talking, but the ‘riding giants’ message got a little lost yesterday in a series of announcements that talked about Laird as the ‘honorary’ 12th member of the PUMA Ocean Race crew and the development of a new stand up paddle (SUP) board.

Buried towards the bottom of a very long press release, Hamilton’s duties as honorary 12th crew member include him serving as a fitness and nutrition coach for the PUMA Ocean Racing team. This includes applying his proprietary regimen to get ‘the boys’ ready to face mother nature’s fury at sea. The nutrition and fitness regime specifics probably deserve a separate story….

Antonio Bertone, Chief Marketing Officer for PUMA AG said

“PUMA has a history of unexpected collaborations that change the playing field of the sports we engage in. The introduction of Laird Hamilton as the honorary 12th crew member on our PUMA Ocean Racing team represents an epic clash of prowess on the ocean. We’re bringing together the world’s most elite sailors with their counterpart in the surf and paddleboard sector to serve as a key fixture of our Volvo Ocean Race campaign.”

Which brings us to the stand up paddleboard (SUP) part of the release. Unlike big-wave surfing, which is the preserve of only the most experienced and fit surfers, SUP is a sport that is more gentle, more mass-market if you will. The difference between tow-in surfing and SUP is like the Volvo Ocean Race being compared to a Carribean cruise. But it’s hard to summon big waves to Newport R.I. harbour, so the photos of the day were of Laird on the new carbon fiber SUP board with a similar livery to Mar Mostro.

The SUP gives PUMA a consumer watersports product to sell.

Look in the merchandising brochure for :

Limited edition carbon fiber stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) will take inspiration from the Mar Mostro Volvo 70 hull design, both ergonomically and through the use of the same ultra-lightweight carbon fiber materials. Made in the United States, the boards feature the bright red tentacle design, matching PUMA’s Mar Mostro. This marks the first time that boat hull design innovation will be applied to paddleboards.

It’s great too see PUMA pushing the boundaries and bringing its sports marketing expertise to sailing. The ‘out of the box’ thinking that they applied to the last Volvo Ocean Race campaign made other sponsors have to think harder about how they would get attention. With Laird Hamilton on board, PUMA have the opportunity to expose the Volvo Ocean Race to a new audience, but the message needs to be more targeted and more integrated.

As sailing journalists, we know all about the story, but as fans of Laird, we haven’t heard anything yet.

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