"Rockin' Fig" Rick Fignetti and the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing: an Un-love Story
Over the years, you've heard him on KROQ, read his local newspaper columns and walked past his Main Street shop, so it was really no surprise that one of last weekend's Surfers' Hall of Fame inductees in Huntington Beach was Rick Fignetti.
Surfing Walk of Fame Rick "Rockin' Fig" Fignetti at the mic.
No, the surprise came weeks earlier, when it was revealed "Rockin' Fig" would no longer be the voice of the U.S. Open of Surfing. And now we learn the bad mojo Fignetti now feels from the international event extended all last weekend, which kicked off with his induction ceremony and ended with the now-infamous "white riot." Karma may be a Fig.
We'd read about the Open dumping Fignetti for what would have been his 20th year as the announcer, but our enlightenment about the entire front and back stories came courtesy of his "significant other," Andrea Roberson. She'd seen photographer John Gilhooley's great slideshow on the "After The Open" fundraiser, which included a caption indicating Vans, the first-year in-the-title sponsor of the U.S. Open, and Simple Mobile were co-sponsors of ATO.
Roberson, the founder and event director of ATO, wrote on our Facebook page that while the coverage left her "extremely flattered," she wanted it made clear that Vans and Simple Mobile "were NOT affiliated in any way, shape or form, as a sponsor or otherwise! In fact, quite the contrary!"
She writes she approached the "top brass" at Vans about sponsorship, "but they didn't want to promote any sort of 'party atmosphere' therefore refusing my proposal!"
[We'll pause a moment to consider the "party atmosphere" line in light of the party atmosphere on the sand and surrounding the pier area that's been blamed for the rioting that followed."
"I put this event together without the support of Vans," Roberson continued, "and worked my tail off to make it a success!"
She goes on to credit U.S. Open fans with making Vans see the errors of its ways in dropping Fignetti as the surfing event's "voice"--or, as she playfully put it, "the shit hit the Vans!" An attempt at making amends had Vans declaring Saturday, July 27, was "Rockin' Fig Day" at the Open. But Roberson claims the skateboard shoe company failed to inform Fig about this beforehand.
"This was a weak suck attempt to pacify the public and came off as a patronizing attempt of a kumbaya [moment] by allowing Fig to call one 15-minute heat on live webcast THEN a presentation to Fig of TWENTY PAIRS OF VANS SNEAKERS! One for every year he announced! Seriously? To which Fig quietly replied, 'I don't usually wear shoes, just slippers like these!' Ha! Classic diss to Vans!"
Now, is it just me, or does someone sound pissed off? As much as Roberson pleaded with us to "retract" having implied Vans was associated with ATO, she ends by acknowledging something that took an even greater hit ... uh ... after the Open:
"[T]heir reputation as the sponsor to which the HB riots will always & forever be linked in infamy!"