First, comes Forbes with its list of the highest-paid action sports stars. Huh? A couple years ago mentioning Forbes and action sports in the same sentence would be unthinkable.
Shaun White may be the Tiger Woods of today’s action sports stars but others are starting to get noticed by a broader audience, and that means bigger paychecks, thanks to rich sponsorship deals.
Not surprisingly, the top 10 action sports earners in 2008 were all male. White may be the top earner among the current crop of action sports stars, but the highest-paid guy is still Tony Hawk, the godfather of action sports. Hawk retired from competitive skatingboarding in 1999 at the age of 31, but he has built a thriving business that earned him $12 million last year.
Top 10 Acton Sports Earners
1. Tony Hawk (skateboard) – $12 million
2. Shaun White (snowboard) – $9 million
3. Ryan Sheckler (skateboard) – $5 million
4. Travis Pastrana (tie) (moto) – $3 million
4. Kelly Slater (tie) (surf) – $3 million
6. Laird Hamilton (surf) – $2.5 million
7. Paul Rodriguez (skateboard) – $2 million
8. Danny Kass (tie) (snowboard) – $1 million
8. Dave Mirra (tie) (moto) – $1 million
8. Travis Rice (tie) (moto) – $1 million
Top female snowboarders like Torah Bright, Gretchen Bleiler and Hannah Teter make as much as $750,000 annually, but fell short Forbes’ $1 million cut off.
One thing is certain. Because these athletes stuck to what the love no matter what anybody said to deter them from their passion, some are actually making big bucks. Now if only we could create more parity between the guys and the girls. X Games finally leveled the prize money but sponsors need to show the girls some love as well.
The other interesting article I came across today was an LA Times piece about drug testing action sports athletes. A stepped-up effort by the global drug police runs counter to snowboarding’s long-cherished lifestyle and culture and with the Winter Olympics just a year away, the IOC’s anti-doping officials are tracking down riders for random tests.
Says 2002 halfpipe gold medalist Kelly Clark, “We’re not at the gym, we’re on the mountain eight hours a day. It’s very challenging for us because the rules are not adapted to our culture.”
The drug-testing protocol applies to all potential Olympic athletes, not just snowboarders. But other athletes are accustomed to being tested regularly because they compete in sanctioned events such as the World Cup and world championships.
None of the top U.S. halfpipe riders compete regularly on the World Cup and only some compete on the FIS-sanctioned Grand Prix circuit. Comps like X Games and Dew Tour aren’t FIS events and aren’t subject to drug testing.
Snowboarders, with their deep-seeded anti-establishment roots, never were comfortable with authority but as the sport evolves and becomes more mainstream, it comes under more scrutiny. Looks like there are always trade-offs. The question is, will riders adapt?