Photo: Erik R. Trinidad

Tony Hawk, the pro skateboarder whose name is synonymous with the sport he’s excelled in, kicked off the Quiksilver Pro New York surf competition at New York City’s Pier 54 on Friday. While he is an occasional surfer himself, he stuck to his roots — and commercial brand — by skating on a halfpipe instead, during the eponymous Tony Hawk Vert Jam on the Hudson River near New York’s fashionable Meatpacking District. While his name was attached to the event, the real sponsor was Quiksilver — the trendy surf, snow, and skate outfitter — whose presence in the Big Apple may come to a surprise to some, particularly when being the sponsor of the Quiksilver’s surf competition next week in nearby Long Beach, Long Island — an event that almost didn’t happen.

Photo: Erik R. Trinidad

“We had this giant festival planned,” explained Quiksilver CEO Bob McKnight at a press conference at The Standard hotel before the skating exhibition, “With music and moto exhibition and skate exhibition, and kind of a festival site at Long Beach, and it was all built two weeks ago, all ready to go, and then just about the time we put the last box of product in the merchandising tent, the city manager walked out and said, ‘Tear it apart, take it down.’ We were like, ‘You got to be kidding me.’ And they were not kidding. Hurricane Irene was headed straight for Long Beach, sort of like ground zero for Irene, and so we took the whole thing down.”

Irene, which had been downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it hit the New York metropolitan area, was not as devastating as people anticipated. However, it put a huge damper on the Quiksilver event, flooding the Allegria hotel — the base of operations for the event — and taking out electrical power to tens of thousands of residents. For the past week, it was up in the air if the festival would be canceled, but in the end, Quiksilver and the city of Long Beach came to a satisfying middle ground.

“Finally the city council said, ‘If you’re ready to put this thing on, we’re ready to have it, but it can only be a surf event,’” McKnight continued. “No music, no skate, no moto because it would be kind of gross if you’re doing this big thing and still people don’t have electricity, and the city’s been ravaged, and that doesn’t look very good and we agree.”

While surfing is the only thing that remains of the two-week Quiksilver Pro New York event — a welcome compromise for wild card competitors since the grand prize is $1,000,000 — the other sports of the festival was only represented by Tony Hawk’s kickoff Vert Jam. Joining him were fellow pro skaters Kevin Staab, Mitchie Brusco, Sandro Dias, Neal Hendrix, Elliott Sloan, and Jesse Fritsch,who all took to the halfpipe to shred for a pier full of fans and spectators. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, people were pleased with the best that Quiksilver could do, given the circumstances.