In December of 2011, Paige Hareb, the first female surfer from New Zealand to qualify for the World Tour, lost her primary sponsor after competing for four years at the elite level. The following year, she posted her best result ever, finishing in the top 10, all on her own dime. But what happened next took many by surprise. To continue traveling on Tour, Paige opened up a Sportfunder page (think KickStarter for athletes) in hopes that her fans could effectively crowd source the cost of her travels so she could continue to compete on the World Tour. Recently, we talked to Paige about the economic realities of chasing the Tour without a sponsor and her decision to turn to the masses for help.
Can you run us through what you’re trying to accomplish?
Yeah, after being dropped by my ex-main sponsor, Billabong, I haven’t managed to pick up a new main sponsor and am struggling just to have enough money to get from event to event. I need money just for accommodation, flights, and rental cars. For the last few years on Tour it’s been costing me about NZ$60,000 [about $49,500 USD], so it’s pretty hard to do the whole tour with no main sponsor. A local guy where I live in Taranaki came up with the idea after seeing the website KickStarter. He’s made this new website, SportFunder.com, and it works exactly the same as KickStarter, but it’s purely for sporting teams and individual athletes looking for funding. If you go on to my sport funder page you’ll see I have a goal to get NZ$30,000 in 60 days. Anyone can donate as little as 10 dollars or as high as they want. It’s a good way for my fans to really support me and of course for me to interact with them more.
So prior to losing your sponsor, last year you still put up one of your best years ever on the World Tour.
Yeah, 2012 was one of my favorite years out of the last four years I’ve been on Tour. Even though I was stressing more about money, I had nothing to lose so had a lot of fun with my surfing and that paid off with me equaling my best result by getting third in my home event and getting some other results on the World Tour and the qualifying series. I also managed to be a bit of a tourist too, going to new places like Miami, New York, Costa Rica, Switzerland, and river surfing in Munich, Germany. I finished the season in the top 10 so didn’t have to waste my money and go back to Europe to try and re-qualify through the qualifying series so that was a good relief.
So what happened with the sponsor?
I lost funding in December 2011 even though I had re-qualified for the Tour, so that sucked. Especially after I had had another offer from another company and decided to stay loyal. I was pretty disappointed when it all happened, but I guess things happen for a reason and I can’t complain about my non-funded 2012 year and I know 2013 will be even better for me.
It must be very frustrating to have such a strong showing on Tour, only to scramble to pull together enough money to continue to compete. Can you talk about that?
Yeah of course. To be consistently on the World Tour and to be the first and only New Zealander to qualify and to be dropped for no reason at all…I thought it was pretty tough and of course I was frustrated at the time. Especially to look around at other girls that haven’t even made the World Tour before and are on good contracts. It sucks and I know I can offer brands out there a lot. Other than that I can’t complain too much because I still get to travel the world, meet cool people, and surf.
But to keep competing on the World Tour, you had to get funding somehow. You mentioned that someone from your hometown helped come up with the idea.
Yeah, it came from a local guy in New Zealand named Craig Williamson who does a lot for Surfing in Taranaki. I was unsure in the beginning just because I didn’t really know how it would go. But I’m already up to 10 percent of my goal and getting a lot of support and donations from all around the world. It’s nice to know you have fans and support.
So the reaction has been pretty positive so far?
It’s been pretty good. I’m sort of one of the first guinea pigs doing it so I think people are only just starting to realize it and get into it, but I’m sure I will reach my goal. Slowly but surely.
To help Paige reach her goal, click here.