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Code Red

by Craig Jarvis / 13.06.2012

It has become so commonplace to rag on the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) these days that it has become, like, so lame. What good does it do calling the few people who run the sport of surfing bad names on social media platforms over and over again, while continually pointing out their massively obvious flaws and faults? Is it going to help in any way?

The real negative creep started with the death of Andy Irons in November of 2010. Drug related – his death opened up a can of worms that the ASP and the surf industry really didn’t want to be opened at the time, or at any time, ever. And the organisation kind of went into a tailspin from there.

Last year went on to be world surfing’s annus horribilis with everything that could go wrong obeying Murphy’s Law explicitly and going totally Pete Tong on us.

Bobby Martinez had his live, entertaining and very public meltdown at the Quiksilver Pro New York whilst talking to Todd Kline and left the tour at the same time as getting banned. Whilst it was great fun to watch, it did reflect on something seriously wrong within surfing and the new rating systems being implemented. They did revert back to the old systems soon afterwards, but Bobby was long gone by then.

Then we had the ‘Titlegate’ affair, with Kelly Slater being awarded his 11th crown while Owen Wright still had a (very slim) shot at the title. Oh, the online haters had a field day with this one, and it went on and on, until Slater won his crown legitimately a few days later. Brodie Carr, ASP CEO, took full responsibility and resigned from his position, a position that has yet to be replaced, but by now people were seriously raising eyebrows at the people in charge of professional surfing.

The armchair critics and haters only gained momentum during the year as the tour panned out, and it became apparent that more events were going to be run in metro beach breaks, venues that would attract large crowds, at the expense of the Dream Tour locations. Gone was G-land, Bali, Tavaura. It was all Rio, NYC and San Fran. The metro events might have panned out quite well, but most people were concerned about the trend. Imagine Muizenberg instead of J-Bay, just because you could get more people on the beach and more retail outlets set up in the carpark…

This year is still early, we’re only 4 events down, but the ASP is already somewhat beleaguered. A recent researched article published in The Australian rubbished the web statistics stated after a recent WCT event with live webcast. Huge web stats are the reason why the WCT events are all webcast live. It is the sponsors’ vindication of massive spend on webcasting technology and crew. It is how we watch surfing contests these days and it’s how we live vicariously in Tahiti, in Hawaii and in Fiji. But how many people worldwide are watching them in reality? Apparently not as many as we have been led to believe.

Talking of which, the recent Volcom Fiji Pro also had a bizarre turn of events last week. A massive swell had been forecast for a week. It arrived, and the world turned on their computers to watch. The wave called Cloudbreak was big and grinding, and only two heats were sent out before contest director Matt Wilson called the event off, calling it ‘too dangerous.’ There was a lot of confusion from the viewing public, which led to some unbridled anger and endless vexatious comments online. People were incensed. All was brought into perspective however, as the world’s best big wave surfers charged into the 20-foot sets, providing the biggest surf spectacle of the year so far. Still, haters hated, and ASP fans wailed and gnashed and tore their little tufts of hipster designer stubble out of their chins in chagrin. They wanted to see pro surfers pushed to the very limits of their spirit, and instead saw experienced big wave veterans relishing in the conditions. A very different viewing encounter.

“It was the right call at the time,” said Slater, as big devil wind chops ran up the 20-foot faces and made it very difficult to surf.

In comparison to other sports, however, surfing is not as tragic as it is sometimes made out to be. There are, for example, always drug scandals surrounding the Tour De France and there will be doping scandals at the Olympic Games. There is sex and drugs in cricket, as well as match-fixing and criminality, as we all know. Rugby is sometimes totally marred by kak referees, sex tape rumours and bizarre comments from bizarre coaches. There is worse than this. There is shit everywhere. There is the Jerry Sandusky football coach rape scandal, where he abused young boys in his care in America. Professional sport can be a fucked up place at times.

In comparison, the world of professional surfing is fairly ordinary, merely marred with a recent string of human errors and some serious hyperbole. That’s about it.

As surfers and fans that enjoy competitive surfing, the ASP is still the body in charge of the sport. And their World Championship Tour (WCT) is still the place where we want our surfers to be. It’s the reason we have club contests, amateur contests, junior contests, and ASP six star events in our country – simply to get our surfers onto the WCT.

I know most surf fans are probably not ready for this, but maybe we should actually support the ASP, the sport of surfing and surfers in our country more than what we do. What do you think?

What we need to do is embrace the ASP, as well as support our surfers and the sport of surfing through thick and thin. After all, it is all we have.

Follow Craig Jarvis on Twitter @Red_Elvis

All images © Volcom Fiji Pro.

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