Shaun White–Photo Courtesy of Red Bull Photofiles

If a trick’s so new that a sporting event judge has never seen it before, how does a judge judge it? Especially an Olympics judge? Such is the challenge for the Vancouver Games 2010 when it comes to figuring out exactly what Shaun White, former snowboarding gold medalist, is up to. In an excellent story in the Wall Street Journal about the upcoming Olympics, it talks about how Canadian snowboarder Marcello Centurione, a judge, has been shadowing Shaun White to his secret Superpipe at Silverton Mountain in Colorado to figure out his tricks in order to get a handle on how to judge him. Also known as the “Johnny Moseley Effect,” after the mogul skier threw-out a new trick called the “Dinner Roll” in the Salt Lake City 2002 Games, it appears that Shaun White (and a few others in the “new” sport of snowboarding) has caused a bit of a conundrum for the Olympics.

See, the difference with snowboarding in the Olympics versus other sports is that other sports such as skating, gymnastics, freestyle skiing, are calculated in advance: the athletes in these sports have to reveal their tricks and only get to pick from a handful (pre-chosen from Olympic judges, unfortunately). With snowboarding, riders don’t have to reveal their tricks before they perform, which gives judges less than 2 seconds in some cases, to judge them on something some may have never seen before -and most likely have never done before.

The Olympics admit that the snowboarding halfpipe event will be one of the most difficult challenges for judging because riders like Shaun White will undoubtedly pull off new maneuvers. This year, Shaun pulled 6 newbie tricks in an event in New Zealand, which was taped and of course circulated among other snowboarders hoping to copy or add their own version to Shaun’s new tricks.

The bummer however is that new tricks aren’t always scored super high simply because a judge may not get it. For example, Johnny Moseley’s “Dinner Roll” at the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympics ruled, but it was new, and the judges scored his competitors higher for tricks they knew, instead of Johnny’s Roll, which he cleanly stomped (and landed him a spot on the “Tonight Show” rather than the gold medalist who no one can remember now anyway).

The Tony Hawk Show
This was no Boom-Boom Huck Jam. The day I leave Paris is the day Tony Hawk and entourage showed up for the amazing Tony Hawk Show, November 20-21 at the Grand Palais. The event went off. Not only did Tony pull a 900 and Lyn-Z Adams-Hawkins pull a 540, but there was a full-on parade of pro action sports athletes including Kelly Slater, Lisa Anderson, Torah Bright, Travis Rice, and Andy MacDonald.

The event included a live concert by Dead by Sunrise, Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington’s new band, and a DJ set by Mix Master Mike (DJ from the Beastie Boys). The idea, sponsored by Quiksilver and Sony Ericsson, was to celebrate skateboarding and street culture. Obviously Paris, known for producing some top street artists and unique concept stores, is keen on both subcultures and made for a perfect location for a splashy reminder of what’s so cool about street culture lifestyles.

Billabong has a Swell Idea
Billabong announced that it was buying the boardsports retailer in a move to tap into the whole online retailing scene. According to Paul Naude, President of Billabong USA, “We look forward to growing the Swell business and further developing it as a showcase online platform for the U.S. boardsports industry. The internet plays a significant role in the recreational habits of the youth market so it is important for our Group to ensure we provide them with a premium brand experience when shopping online.”

Barrel ride for Joel Centerio at Haleiwa during Reef Hawaiian Pro–Photo by Bernie Baker

Volcom’s ASP Event
Volcom meanwhile, announced their first-ever ASP-sanctioned surfing event, the Volcom Pipeline Pro from January 23-February 5, 2010 for $120,000 purse. Not to be confused with the Vans Triple Crown Billabong Pipeline Pro which takes place next month in the same location, the Volcom event is one way for the brand to capitalize on surfing in one of the best locations in the world -Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu–during big-wave season, but yet not during the whole Vans Triple Crown thing.

The good news is that the Volcom Pipeline offers up another 5-star World Qualifying Series event to pro surfers, and an opportunity for local pros in Hawaii to achieve their competitive goals, which ironically has been tough due to the economy and other factors.

According to Dave Riddle, Volcom surf team manager in Hawaii, “It%uFFFDs going to be great for Hawaii%uFFFDs WQS surfers. To compete on the World Qualifying Series as a Hawaii surfer costs between $40,000 to $60,000 dollars per guy. Without the opportunity to compete in events like this, if you%uFFFDre not highly sponsored then you%uFFFDre not going to be able to do it. It%uFFFDs brutal. I%uFFFDm really excited to see the event in our backyard.”

The $120,000 Volcom Pipeline Pro offers a first place purse of $16,000 as well as valuable ratings points that will give Hawaii surfers a foothold in the pursuit for World Tour qualification and a spot in the 2010 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

Speaking of surfing, the Vans Triple Crown’s first jewel in the series, the Reef Hawaiian Pro wrapped up with Joel Centeio winning for the men, and a purse of $20,000. Check our stories for more on the Vans Triple Crown, including the women’s events, and the launch of the new iPhone app, and more.

Zumiez Results
Zumiez, the action sports based retailer, announced their 3rd quarter results with net sales up .8% to $113.2 million from $112.2 million, but a same-store sales decrease of 8% for the 3rd quarter for 2009 compared with 2008.

According to Rick Brooks, Chief Executive Officer of Zumiez Inc., “I want to credit our entire team for our better than expected third quarter performance. By carefully managing our inventory, working closely with our branded and private label vendors to design programs that would deliver improved merchandise margins, and finding ways to inspire consumers who visited our stores, we were able to exceed our initial third quarter expectations and saw a meaningful improvement in our same store sales trends relative to the first half of fiscal 2009. Our results are particularly encouraging given that overall traffic and spending patterns continued to be volatile and the difficult macroeconomic environment continues. Although still challenging, we are also pleased to have seen some improved trends in certain of our larger, Western markets, most notably California. Looking ahead, we believe we have a good plan in place for the Holiday season.”

New Moon merch at Hot Topic–tapping into youth culture%uFFFDs inner vampire

HotTopic Looks for New Moon Bump
Finally in our wrap-up, news from the popular music-inspired/pop culture retailer Hot Topic. Although it’s not really an action sports related store, there is crossover and its timely, what with New Moon hitting the box offices, so we’ve added it to our report. In their 3rd quarter results, their net income decreased 3.9% from $189.6 million to $197.3 million, which comparable store sales down 5% for the 3rd quarter in 2009.

Hot Topic is always a good retailer/brand to watch in terms of trends in youth culture because it taps into the music side of the demographic usually from a Goth-punk angle. They were one of the first retailers to recognize the power of band merch. Hot Topic has 680 stores and 156 Torrid stores. They also have a popular online music site called Shockhound.

With the release of “New Moon” last weekend, Hot Topic hopes to score big as one of the key locations to get vampire and movie-related merch, including T-shirts, posters, accessories, jewelry, and bags. Hot Topic was the first store to tap into the potential of “Twilight” when it first came out, and now features an entire “New Moon” collection, ranging from Cullen Crest thermals to New Moon music boxes, Jacob metal jewelry, Edward Without You hoodies, Bella Don’t Make Me Choose, and Jacob I’m Here for You T-shirts.