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The Big Shake-Up

by Craig Jarvis / 20.07.2012

From all accounts, next year could be a very different year for professional surfing. As you know, surfers like a little bit of gossip and right now, there are three big rumours currently dominating the talk at the watercooler. And all of them point towards some pretty radical shifts for pro surfing.

First up, it seems that there might be less events on the schedule next year. Some companies might not be renewing their event licenses and might even be pulling out of WCT events. It takes a lot of bread to run a WCT event – between US$2,5mil and US$3mil, so if you’re a surf company with a shaky balance sheet at the moment – and which surf co. isn’t – then losing the expense of an event might just possibly be a way of correcting the ledger with little fuss. Although that phrase ‘little fuss’ might also need to be relooked as well, if one takes into account the upheaval that erupted over the downgrading of the Billabong Pro J-Bay this year, as well as the lack of webcast on the opening day of surf. ASP Media Director Dave Prodan, who is obviously the go-to person in these situations, does not put much faith in the tittle-tattle of events being dropped. “We’re looking at a full schedule in 2013,” said Dave. “And there is a possibility of additional events.”

Then the market in unsubstantiated hearsay goes through the roof on whispers of a massive ASP takeover – the ‘Rebel Tour’ situ that has been gaining some press. Some say that there is a fully-fledged ‘rebel tour’ or alternative tour in the making, while others agree to the more friendly option that there is an umbrella sponsor lurking. While a legit umbrella sponsor might look appealing on the outside, any large sponsor that enters professional sport does come with a number of problems and alternate visions that might in no way sit true with the sport’s needed direction. Or what the ASP think is the sports needed direction, (there is a difference). If this is the case then there is going to be a new professional surfing world just around the corner. ASP media director Dave Prodan doesn’t seem to think any of this is real though: “This is speculative at best,” he quaffed at our repetition of the rumour. “There’s no way we could or would comment on the motivations of organizations outside of the ASP.”

Still, if this does play out, one has to wonder how stable the players in the CEO-lacking ASP will be in their current positions.

The final rumour is more along the lines of a change in media. As it stands right now, the surf brands own their own media rights for events, and set up their own media teams and systems per event. This manifests in different webcast systems, teams and commentators and new computer settings for every event. So there’s definitely room to improve and standardize the broadcasts. And there just might be a media company out there who has rightfully recognized the value of professional surfing media, and wants to do a real job with it. Word on the street is that a massive media conglomerate is poised to swoop on the system, gain control, and deliver professional, dynamic and timely media to the public and display professional surfing for what it really is. Then again, there might not be such a company, or such a situation at all, and I might be making this stuff up for the drama of a good story, and to be able to sit back and admire my work as the hit counts climb.

Professional surfing observer Derek Hynd agrees that there doesn’t seem to be too much in these rumours, calling it: “A bit of smoke.” Still, DH thinks that something is sorely needed to push professional surfing through to the next level. “Lateral thought is the key that the tour has lacked for 35 years, since 1977 and Peter Drouyn,” reckons Hynd. “Pro surfing has been too conservative and monolithic to evolve for a long, long, long, long, long, long time.”
That’s six longs. I checked.

*All images © Cestari / ASP.

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