Nike's New Wave: Surf, Style & Sound - Rolling Stone
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Nike’s New Wave: Surf, Style & Sound

kelly slater surfing us open nike

Kelly Slater

Photo courtesy of Nike 6.0

The past few weeks have been a creative whirlwind for the Nike empire. They just wrapped up collaborative action sports initiatives on two coasts — one at the US Open of Surfing at Huntington Beach, California, and another just days ago at Brooklyn’s own mighty Rockaway Beach. Integrated into the genre-expanding adventure was an innovative of fusion of style, sound, skate — but of course, most prominently: surf. Especially in Huntington Beach, where “surf” isn’t just a verb, but a lifestyle and vocation. The entire community is built around the premise of surfing as salvation: the Beach Boys famously wrote songs about this place, as did Jan & Dean (in fact, long-time resident Jan helped it become recognized as “Surf City USA,” a name the locals obviously relish).

For the Nike US Open of Surfing, a new generation of spirited rock bands played free shows to those who ventured onto the beach between surf and skate events. The afternoon and evening shoreside entertainment consisted of a motley assortment of guitar bands. The Sounds managed to excite a primarily adolescent audience into a tizzy not seen since the punk-pop glories of 2003’s Living In America. The suitably named Surfer Blood played a late afternoon set, their sunstroked shoegaze lulling the crowd into a dopey-grinned state of appeasement. One block over, spunky New Jersey upstarts The Static Jacks got a skater-heavy crowd pogoing. But the unquestionable sonic highlight was brought by none other than MGMT, who teased the crowd by refusing to ply them with an easy fix (re: the hits). Instead, they pummeled through a challenging set, filled primarily with the careening psych-pop of last year’s Congratulations. Not the most obvious beach material in the world, but the crowd, who were enjoying the show for free, hung on expectantly, waiting for the band’s default anthem, “Electric Feel” to kick in.  When it finally did, they erupted. Their set climaxed in a fit of epic disorientation that saw frontman Andrew VanWyngarden commanding the crowd to take off their left shoes. Hundreds did as they were told — and threw them at him, apropos to everything and nothing all at once. Exhilarating.

Surf legend Kelly Slater naturally stood out among the bronzed and blonde denizens of the beach, as did 18 year-old Australian surfer Lauren Enever, who, despite finishing fifth in her quarter final, was in high spirits. She was a fixture at the concerts, dancing on chairs at one point for the Sounds. “I love this chick!” she told Rolling Stone later, referring to Sounds’ frontwoman Maja Ivarsson. “I love a good powerful frontwoman.”

Enever’s own obvious strength has an alluring sleekness and grace to it that makes her an ideal face for her sport — and, lately, to fashion. She has already been shot alongside athletic icons Maria Sharapova and Sofia Boutella by Annie Leibovitz for Nike’s recent “Make Yourself” ad campaigns, which hit magazines this month.  “It was pretty rad, she hadn’t done a shoot like it ever before — and of course, neither had I!” said Enever.”The idea of high fashion is a pretty new frontier for me. But I do love to shop, and enjoy the work of certain Australian designers.”

Her personal style is a little less lofty and grounded by her sporty lifestyle. “I grew up as a tomboy, I really considered myself one of the boys growing up in Australia. I’m getting into the idea of serious fashion now, though. I have a lot to learn.”

Despite her relative neophyte status on the fashion front, Enever’s style mindset is actually very contemporary. Luxe, inventively designed sportswear has become a popular commodity, thanks in part to high-caliber collaborations such as Alexander McQueen for Puma and Stella McCartney for Adidas. Nike, positioning themselves as innovators at the threshhold design and science, have responded to the trend with high-tech, high-end new offerings of their own. The soon-to-be-ubiquitous “Legacy” bikini, which Enever has been sporting, is one such example: it features bonded seams and a subtle, but pivotal fabric twist in the center gore, allowing a level of movement and flexibility rare in most women’s performance wear.

For Enever, those little upgrades can make all the difference in the world. “Surfing can be sexy and dangerous.” she explains. “But it can be made comfortable and feminine for us, too — feeling your suit is working with you, and not against you can mean the difference between winning and losing a competition.”

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