On Saturday afternoon in pumping 10- to 12-foot surf at one of the world’s most dangerous breaks, Kelly Slater made history … again. The 11x world champ won the Billabong Pipe Masters just six days shy of his 50th birthday. He took the final against 24-year-old Seth Moniz, a world-class talent, North Shore local and Pipeline specialist.
It was Kelly’s 8th Pipe Masters title and 56th event win of his illustrious career, one that spans 30 years, 832 heat victories and 31 perfect 10-point rides. He is the youngest world champ ever (age 20 in 1992) and the oldest ever (age 39 in 2011). He won 5-straight world titles from 1994 to 1998 and holds nearly every record of significance in professional surfing.
As word spread around the net about Kelly’s most recent – and possibly, greatest and maybe even last professional milestone (he referenced the “R” word) – images of his incredible rides and emotional post-heat interview began popping up on social media. If you are connected to surfing at all, you likely came across a few of them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
On Sunday morning, I even saw a post about it on LinkedIn. It garnered a handful of likes and made me feel good to see it there. But it also gave me pause to consider all those people for whom the post might have seemed trivial on the professional careers network, as well as others who might have noticed it only briefly on various other platforms while quickly scrolling through the news of the day.
For many, Kelly’s historic accomplishment may have been nothing more than a passing headline in their newsfeed, a novel tidbit about a vague personality in a sport that is too often associated with frivolous immaturity. But for those of us who surf, who through some serendipitous fortune have had the opportunity to witness the entirety of Kelly’s incredible decades-long career, it was and is something far more meaningful and consequential.
There is a poem by Samuel Ullman titled, “Youth”. General Douglas MacArthur used to keep a framed copy of it on his wall and often referenced it in speeches. In it, Ullman reflects:
“Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life … Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.
Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage, and power from men and from the infinite, so long are you young.”
I am not big on celebrity culture and I have never been one for hero-worship. But what are heroes? In their simplest form, they are people who do something more. They work harder, persevere longer, take more risks, and make greater sacrifices. They inspire us to change and to do more, ourselves.
As a 50-something who still surfs regularly (your average free-surfer, but I’m out there), who remains professionally and creatively inspired, and has never been willing to forsake my physical health, stop chasing my dreams or setting my personal goals one inch lower because that’s the expectation of culture for people my age; that’s what Kelly’s victory in the powerful surf at Pipe, his current World #1 ranking days before his 50th birthday (February 11th), and the entirety of his career, mean to me.
It is about optimism and the challenge of remaining true to one’s ideals.
For the greater part of my adult life, Kelly has been one who has inspired these things in myself and so many others– to pursue life with vigor and passion; set goals based not on what others think, but on terms you set for yourself, and to believe anythingis possible, something more – far more – than most others might even be able to imagine. Yes, there will always be wins and losses, but why burden yourself with pre-conceived notions and limitations?
To Kelly, on behalf of myself and millions like me who have followed every step of your remarkable career, I say, Happy 50th Birthday. Thank you for your unyielding optimism and countless messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power played out across so many waves and oceans, and for so many years.
Thank you for your enthusiasm, your unfailing childlike appetite for what’s next, and joy for the game of living. Thank you most of all for a lifetime of inspiration and for holding fast to that wonder that lives in the center of your own heart, and in ours.
For friends who surf, I thought you might enjoy this clip from Surfers of Fortune, a vintage 29-year old VHS surf film by Brian Bleak. You can no longer buy it. It’s not on DVD. You might be able to find it on YouTube. It featured the Quiksilver crew tooling around Indo. It is one of the films that inspired my own surf travels through the years. Incredible surfing. Amazing soundtrack. Beautifully and creatively filmed, and edited.
A few years ago, my precious copy of Surfers of Fortune got jammed up in an old VHS player. I tried everything to get it out or just get it to move but was unable to do it. But in my eyes, that tape was way more valuable than the player, so I took the machine apart, destroying it in the process to salvage the tape.
Recently, I hooked up another old VHS player to watch it for the first time in many years, and yes- it is as brilliant as ever.
I wanted to share this extraordinary clip of a young Kelly Slater surfing one of the most incredible waves anywhere in the world – Lance’s Right (aka Hollow Trees or HT’s) because it is still today, the single greatest display of tube riding I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot). It is complete mastery: entering, exiting, slotting, positioning, sitting, standing, drop knee, even critical drop-ins … switchfoot. Incredibly, 29 years later, at age 49, he’s still performing professionally in world-class, Tom Bradyesque-style. He may not be his 20-year-old self (shown here), but he’s still remarkably close. But enjoy this! (P.S. You may have to turn up your volume. This is a decades-old VHS that was subsequently recorded straight off my television set, so not the greatest quality).
I went to Maui on my honeymoon. I surfed Lahaina Boat Harbor and a “secret spot” just around the corner from Hookipa. We stopped at Honolua and it wasn’t breaking (mid-May), but of course, I had seen many pics and much footage of the place doing its thing. This looks like an amazing break.
Just a couple of days after Mick Fanning was attacked by a Great White, here’s Kelly Slater blasting great white blasts of spray on those same JBay lines. Well, not exactly the same. A good 4-5′ larger and perfect. The music is “Three Seed” by Silversun Pickup and Guy Mac put the edit together.
Since its birth hundreds, if not thousands of years ago, surfboard design has never ceased evolving. From ancient paipos, olos and alaias to modern longboards and shortboards, every new generation of surfers has always looked both forward and backwards in never-ending attempts to find new ways to enhance performance or just have a good time and more unique experience in the water.
These days, experimental boards of remarkable diversity continue to emerge at a breathtaking pace. A glimpse around your local lineup on any given weekend will provide testament to this trend. And for every surfer you might see at home trying out the latest unusual shape, there’s a steady stream of new web clips waiting every time you surf the net to show you how a dozen others are doing it someplace else.
Your shaper can’t imagine or engineer style into you. He can only provide a framework for drawing out your own natural expression of it; an expression fashioned by some inexplicable combination of God, genetics, friends, heroes, the break(s) you grew up surfing and the good or bad memory of 640 different muscles that make up our human bodies.
Great style is magical.
It is hard to define and as unique as our own DNA. At the same time, most of us claim to know great style when we see it, even if it’s served in a thousand different flavors. Clearly, it’s important to us. It’s one reason why an explosive, acrobatic world champion can be criticized for stink stance, while others with air games nowhere nearly as advanced, are routinely recognized as being better overall surfers.
Heck, did Tom Curren ever ascend even ten inches above the lip? More to the point, did he need to? No.
And yet, Curren is still universally heralded as perhaps the second greatest surfer of all time behind only Kelly Slater (witness some of the most stylish tuberiding ever at 7:32), whose unparalleled mix of speed, style, power, flow and explosiveness may never be rivaled.
Great style is transcendent.
It transcends age, gender, body type, wave type, conditions and whatever surf craft it is you might happen to be riding. It typically begins to evidence itself early in our surfing lives and matures as we ourselves do. To be certain, we can all improve our skills and work to refine our style over time, but core style is so ingrained and inherent in each of us that slivers of its true nature will always be revealed, no matter how much time and attention we’ve dedicated to “fixing” our less stylish bad habits.
I can recall two specific instances in my life when the true nature of style presented itself to me in clear, unequivocal fashion–two occasions when I paddled out with different surfers who were regarded as two of the best, most stylish surfers in the area where I grew up. Perhaps not coincidentally, both were pretty decent on a skateboard, as well. Although both were often encouraged, neither had much interest in surfing competitively. They were simply passionate about surfing as an activity and a lifestyle.
Randy, the first fellow, was pretty much an All-American kind of guy–smart, laid back and just a really cool, fun guy to be around. Physically, he was on the short side of average with a compact, athletic build not uncommon to many pro surfers. We agreed to meet out at the Jax Beach Pier one hot summer morning to try and catch a few. But when we arrived, as is the case on so many Florida summer mornings, there was little energy in the ocean, save for the slightest occasional burps from a far-distant SE background swell.
While I almost immediately resigned myself to the fact that there’d be no surfing that day and began weighing our fishing prospects, Randy began waxing up his board saying, “Well, I’m gonna’ go catch a couple. You comin’?”
There was no way I was even going to try–especially being one of only two people who would have in the water at all that morning, trying to ride a swell that was only barely there. But Randy went right about his routine as if it was just another session. He removed his leash from his board and to my surprise, pulled on his baseball cap and sunglasses before trotting down to the water’s edge. And there wasn’t a damn thing pretentious about it.
Randy wasn’t trying to attract attention. He was just trying to beat the blistering Florida sun on a windless summer day. And within two minutes
of paddling out, there he was gliding effortlessly down the line on these periodic, glassy one-and-half-foot bumps; hat dry, sunglasses in place, finding energy where none existed, and turning 360s without displacing a single drop of water, with as much grace and style as you could possibly imagine. It was just all so smooth. I was fully content to just sit there and watch the show. I learned that day that truly great style is unaffected by shitty conditions.
The second instance was with my friend Tony. He was a hipster through and through–a tall (about a full foot taller than Randy) skinny musician / guitarist / vocalist / surfer / skater and independent music connoisseur who oozed charisma. At the same time, like Randy, there was absolutely nothing contrived or self-conscious about him. He was unmistakably, authentically himself and that just happened to be extremely stylish, in and out of the water.
Just like with Randy, Tony and I had decided to meet up for a paddle out, this time a little further up the road at a sandbar behind my dad’s place in Neptune Beach. Tony showed up that afternoon glassy-eyed and ready to have fun. The waves were about 2-3 feet and offering up some really nice peaks.
I was keenly interested in trying out Tony’s board and immediately asked him if that would be ok. I determined to figure out how he could surf so well and learn what his board had to do with it. Was his craft noticeably lighter than mine? Was there something different about his rails that helped make his lines so much more fluid and his turns, so much smoother and arching than mine? Surely, a revelation was at hand. And it was.
Tony handed me what looked to be a standard 6’ thruster- a worn, yellowed beater that I estimated to be about 2-3 years older, a little longer, wider and heavier than my own. In exchange, I gave Tony my board. He wasted little time getting at it, casually paddling over to spot about 15 yards away and beginning to surgically dissect the fun peaks in a manner not altogether different when he was riding his own board.
Meanwhile, to my astonishment, there was no extra “magic” that I could conjure from his board. Nothing helped make my turns look like his, nothing helped me to displace more water or create more symmetrical fans; nothing prevented my dominant right arm from dropping towards my rib cage when I really needed to keep it extended… the writing was on the wall.
Some people were–are–just naturally more stylish than others. Period.
This point was driven mercilessly home when Tony then mentioned the antique longboard hanging in my dad’s garage. I think it must have come with the home when my father purchased it. He certainly hadn’t ridden the thing in years and frankly, I was embarrassed of it, and not curious about it at all.
But Tony was. He wanted to try it out.
I tried to laugh off his suggestion off at first, but he was serious. And so we took it down off the wall. It must have weighed 50 pounds and had faded far past yellow. It was now closer to steam pile brown. I was red-faced as Tony enthusiastically tucked it under his scrawny arm and lugged it across the sand and out into the water.
And just like that, he was up and riding it–his stance and body positioning largely unchanged, like a cat about to pounce as he navigated shifting areas of the waves where opportunities presented themselves to hit open faces, step up to the nose or bend a knee to pull a graceful, flowing turn.
Oh, Tony fell a couple of times. But when he did, it was always with a smile on his face and, well… just a lot of style. He loved riding that monstrous old antique. And he looked every bit as brilliant riding it as he did on his shortboard. Or mine.
And finally, if your style still needs work: Hey, no worries. Just keep on trying, having fun and smiling like the rest of us. After having spent a great portion of the past 30 years in lineups at home and abroad with surfers of every different skill level, I promise you that’s the most effective style-enhancer that any surfer of any ability can ever hope to master.
The guys from the Surf Station dug this one up. As Matt O said in his blog, Kelly Slater + Rincon = Endless watchability. So true. Rincon is the perfect break for surfers with perfect style of which Kelly is certainly one. Here’s a clinic on style and form. Nice work Michael Kew and crew.
Wow, here’s another great one from Portugal, shot on a lay day at the Moche Rip Curl Pro. Although the winds were bad at the contest site, they were good up the road and a group of touring pros, including Kelly Slater, Taj Burrow, Mick Fanning, Josh Kerr, Kolohe Andino, Jordy Smith and others put on a brilliant display of surfing. The waves look nearly perfect and this crew really showcases how beautiful and FUN the act of surfing can be.
What can you say about this? Kelly Slater is 42 years old and is still the best surfer on the planet. Watch this clip (filmed on a lay day for the ASP / WSL’s Moche Rip Curl Pro in Portugal) for the “PERIOD” to that statement.
It’s funny how he calls out John John Florence at the end of the video. JJF is the heir to Kelly’s throne (only once Kelly decides to relinquish it). They seem to have a great deal of respect for one another, but are competitors and trade a lot of fun barbs, such as when John John called jokingly called Kelly, “Dad” in a recent clip.
Kelly has stated that he wants to surf better at 50 than he did at 40 and at this point, he’s on track to do it. Here he reminds the young guns who’s still the Top Gun.
Cry all you want. Light up the net with rants, raves and conspiracy theories. Break down the heats, waves, drops, barrels, surfers, scores, could-have-beens, should-have beens and never-gonna-be’s. The contest is over. And while nerves were frayed, dreams shattered and emotions overflowed, one thing is clear – the winners of this year’s epic battle on the North Shore far outnumbered the losers. Kelly picked up his seventh Pipe Masters. John John nabbed his second Triple Crown, and Mick snatched his third World Title. All this, and the real winners weren’t even in the water. Rather, we were watching it unfold from the beach, the scaffolding, at home, at work, behind our computers, on our phones and through networks like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Congratulations ASP– you, ZoSea and fans of professional surfing everywhere won big. That. Was. Epic.
Regardless of whether you believe fill-in-the-blank was underscored or overscored (please choose one) by fill-in-the-blank points on his first, second or both (please choose one) wave(s), there are a few things I think we can all agree on.
a) The top surfers on the WCT are absolutely phenomenal. Pro-surfing snobs who still deride competitive surfing as uninspired, mechanical or lacking in any manner, spare us you indignation and spiritual self-righteousness. It’s you who are tired, repetitive and devoid of originality. No soul in pro surfing? Go learn to use the heat analyzer and watch Slater’s reaction after getting blown out of a menacing 10-point barrel against Parko in the semis. Watch him bravely trying to maintain his composure while speaking onstage prior to his heat with John John or Mick trying contain his own emotions after realizing he had earned the score to secure the World Title. Watch nearly any heat with surfers like Kelly, Mick, Julian, Gabriel or Adriano. Watch some old heats of Andy’s. Then shut up and stop trying to affix your definition of “soul” to everyone else. Thank God our souls are all unique.
b) The drama that unfolded on this year’s World Tour, from Bells to Cloudbreak to Tahiti and the weeks leading up to the Triple Crown rivaled any in professional sports. How much tension, how many storylines, how little margin for error in waves of beauty and consequence can we ask for? I think we got our money’s worth (and oh yeah, that’s right –I watched every contest online, for free!)
c) Mick may (rightfully) be 2013 World Champ, but Robert Kelly Slater is still the greatest surfer in the world. Right now. At age 41. Soon to be 42. How long can he continue to defy the laws of nature? Seriously? Had he won, I don’t think we’d ever really know. I think he would have retired. I’m a third-generation native of Florida and a die-hard Kelly fan. I wanted to see him win the World Title as much as anyone. But at the end of the day, I was stoked just to watch him put his full talents – his very soul – on display in the emotional way that he did following the loss of the title to Mick. Selfishly, I’m thankful that his own competitive drive and pure love of surfing will bring him back for yet another year. It’s historic. It will never be duplicated. And each passing year only adds to that legacy.
(Disclosure: I feel for Yadin Nicol, but believe that his heat with Fanning was a true coin-toss. And, I don’t believe that Mick’s last minute wave against CJ was overscored. I do, however, believe that both of Hobgood waves were underscored, as has been the case with both CJ and Damien many times over the years, in my opinion. Perhaps that’s just my Florida bias. In any event, we can’t change history. And frankly, at this point, I’m not sure I’d want to.)
d) The ASP won BIG time, controversy be damned. Here’s the dirty little secret of subjective judging: it’s as compelling as it is maddening! It’s going to be extremely interesting to learn what the viewership numbers were online. I watched nearly the entire comp on my desktop, but had to leave my house for a different event prior to the final. There, at a holiday performance of the The Nutcracker, in which my daughter had a role, I had brief opportunity to steal away and catch a few minutes of the final on my cell phone. And there in the hallway, surprisingly, three other guys were doing the exact same thing, or otherwise asked for an update from me.
Now, with Kelly returning next season, the schedule enhanced yet again with the addition of Margaret River, and a contract with ESPN in hand, the ASP has a legitimate shot to get their plane in the air. They’ll need to take quick advantage, because they very likely dodged a bullet by Kelly not winning the title. Once he does decide to call it a career, there’s little doubt that it’s going to present a powerful vaccum for ZoSea, the parent company of the ASP, to work against. And, as great a champion as Mick may be, and as dynamic a surfer and promising a future world champ John John seems destined to be (or Julian or Medina), it’s going to take the kind of effort and infrastructure that ZoSea seems to be putting in place to keep the tour strong once Kelly calls it quits. But for this moment in time, in the weeks leading up to and during this historic North Shore season, ZoSea, the ASP and fans of pro surfing have all won. Call it a Triple Crown.
Not: The above article was originally created for and published on The Inertia, Surfing’s Definitive Online Community. To see full reaction and discussion of the article, click here.
After surrendering to a flood of questions surrounding its executive leadership, the drug-related death of one of its brightest stars, and an unrelenting wave of public criticism concerning everything from the scheduling of events to the scoring of competitors, the ASP announced today that it was ceasing operations, effectively shuttering the governing body of professional surfing. The announcement by ASP Executive Chairman Richard Grellman came just two weeks after former ASP CEO Brodie Carr resigned following a high-profile math error prematurely awarding this year’s ASP World Championship Title to surfer Kelly Slater and only days after releasing its 2012 events schedule which was to feature 12 contests at premier breaks around the world with $5,675,000 in prize money. The announcement sent sponsors scrambling to rethink their global marketing strategies and competitors to rethink their careers.
None of this is true.
But what if it were? Would surfing really be better off?
Clearly, surfing as a professional sport faces unique challenges. It stands at the mercy of geography, weather conditions, powerful brands and an inherent assortment of independent-minded competitors and fans, all with their own strong opinions about what surfing should or should not be. It’s an enigma, and so is easy to knock. But that doesn’t mean that the ASP and competitive pro surfing are worthless. Or worse, as some critics argue– destructive. Indeed, they’ve helped many surfers enjoy great careers in a sport they love. They’ve also helped surf-related brands to thrive, producing even more of these same lifestyle opportunities. And, they’ve progressed the overall level of surfing. Many might argue that this last point isn’t true, but pro surfing provides the macro-structure for amateur surfing, which drives the advancement of our most talented youth. If there was no structured pro surfing, you’d likely lose a lot of that. The ASP also continues to modify its judging criteria to conform with advancement in the sport, quirks like the seemingly renewed emphasis on floaters and occasional questionable scoring, notwithstanding. The ASP and pro surfing have also long provided a generally stable platform for surfer skill rankings and credibility. Is the system perfect? Obviously not. Nothing in this world is. Can it “miss” on people like Dane, Jamie O’ Brien, Bobby Martinez or others? Sure. Which is not to say that some responsibility doesn’t fall back on those same surfers to perform within the existing infra-structure if they or their sponsors feel a need for validation (or prize money). Not all of them do…
That’s a matter of choice.
And choice is always good.
That’s why I’m thankful for the ASP and the sponsors who support them. If you don’t like professional competitive surfing, don’t attend their events. Don’t watch them online. Don’t buy their sponsors’ products.
Take your board and go home.
Just to be clear – I’m speaking from the perspective of a life-long surfer, traveler and pro surfing fan (currently ranked 58th in Fantasysurfer). I’m also a marketing professional (but outside of the action sports industry, and California). But honestly– I am amazed at the voracity of the criticism leveled at the ASP and its institutional sponsors, when all of them have worked extremely hard over many years to advance our sport.
Most of the same people who rip the ASP also knock the surf mega-brands (Quik, Billabong, Rip Curl, etc.) as “soul-less”, but I think that’s lame. Those companies were started by people who were passionate about surfing. They loved it so much, they wanted to build their lives around it and they made that happen. Then, they created more opportunities for so many others to do the same thing, not to mention carrying the load when it came to promoting the sport, sharing it with the “outside” world and helping bring more of it to us through a variety of marketing and media channels.
Some decry the the mega-brands’ burgeoning relationships with China. It is no surprise that their eyes are fixed upon China due to the sheer size of markets there and the fact that China already has a vibrant youth action sports subculture. That is simply the nature of globalization, an inherent byproduct of advances in transportation and (especially) communications technology over the past 20 years. It does no good to stick your head in the sand to try and ignore it. Look at a well-regarded core action sports brand like Camp Woodward. Rest assured, they raked in a chunk o’ change taking their brand to China. And make no mistake- that wasn’t even about straightforward consumerism on China’s part, but rather the Chinese government’s ultimate goal of having the proper training facilities in place to soon begin dominating us in Olympic skateboarding and BMX! The flip side? At least the flow of goods is running from west to east for a change and perhaps as we export more western culture, an unquenchable thirst for freedom and independence will come in the box.
As for the exploitation of surfing in China– as some have noted, Kelly’s wavepool seems the perfect match. We can’t afford it. China can. And while I know better than to bet against Kelly getting his pool built somewhere, I have to confess that even the one he describes would not be that interesting to me. I should clarify that it sounds like it would be great fun to ride, just not interesting in terms of watching contests. Mechanical waves. Talk about “soul-less.” I strongly believe that the unpredictability and varying conditions of Mother Nature is a vital characteristic of what makes the current ASP world tour events so compelling and that wave selection is an integral part of a surfer’s skill set. That’s why I believe thinking about future contests in terms of wavepools will always be lacking (which is not to say that it won’t be successful, or shouldn’t be). And so we circle back to pro-surfing’s numerous core challenges. Surf in a wave pool and you increase accessibility; likely improve judging; provide viable platforms for Olympic inclusion and more affordable network broadcasts; paving the way for broader audiences and increased advertising revenue.
But you neuter its soul…
At least, in my own opinion.
Which brings us back to choice.
CHOICE is always good.
So, for those of us who appreciate the ASP and pro surfing as it exists currently – what can be done to make it even better?
I think you begin solving problems of these kinds with no-holds barred idea-fests– where no idea is a bad idea. I’ll start with a couple of softballs:
Stop giving the cold shoulder to non-traditional brands like Nike. If they can bring more people (and money) to the party, then by God, welcome them in! If Quik, Billabong, Rip Curl and Red Bull can’t fund MAJOR NETWORK BROADCASTS by themselves, then find corporations that can. The way action sports continues to grow, certainly most major brands even remotely trying to target youth have, or are creating divisions exclusively for it. And what kind of elitists are we to say who is, or isn’t cool enough to surf?
ASP: Take control of your media rights and get the events on MAJOR NETWORK TELEVISION. The ASP’s new media offerings are uneven (per event sponsor), but improving rapidily. The heat analyzers are brilliant. And certainly, distribution via the web has massive reach potential. However, online media, despite its propensity for complete, accurate measurement isn’t highly valued (everything on the web should be “free”, remember?)- not like network television broadcasts which ultimately bankroll organizations like the NFL, NBA, PGA, MLB, etc. And contrary to popular belief, kids are not abandoning TV for new media. They watch TV more than ever, up to 3.5 hours per day. Perhaps, when our televisions and our computers finally become one (Apple and Google may argue this has already happened, but many problems still exist), then the ASP will be in a great position to leverage it further. But network television has, and will continue to be king.
How to sell the major networks given the production expense, unpredictability of conditions and no assurances that anyone further than 50 miles from any coastline will care? How about simply identifying a world-class salesperson and media rights negotiator and incentivizing them with a minimum threshold and unsparing commission structure. I mean come on– Are you telling me that you couldn’t show anyone -and I mean anyone- the slabs that I saw during Chopes this year on an off day, and dare them to not be compelled? Can you imagine watching that contest on a 50″ HDTV? Live? Heck, even if it wasn’t live! And you don’t need to show the whole contest- just highlights and the finals. Even a fully pre-produced, creatively edited special, set to popular music. Then, jack the prices up and sell that #$%!. And if Quik / Billa / Rip Curl can’t afford it, don’t assume that just because they won’t swallow it, that no-one else will. Go over their heads. Bring in Ford, McDonald’s, Apple and Target. Better yet– get all of them. And if you can’t sell events like Brazil, then can those and replace them with Mavericks. Or more Hawaii. OrShipsterns! (How insane would that be?!) The ASP generally seems to have done a terrific job with pulling together a dream tour. They just haven’t done a good job of selling their dream.
Perhaps the ASP should invest in establishing its own network or production company.
If it can’t afford to regain control of all events immediately, take a stepping stone approach and begin taking back control of one event at a time, starting with the most compelling.
Finally, for the ASP and every corporate sponsor it is connected with: GIVE BACK. You want to connect with today’s disenfranchised youth (and all the rest of us)? Show them you care by making it a point to DO GOOD in the all the areas of the world where you play. There is a fundamental cultural shift underway in reaction to a world that has been broken by greed run amuk. That doesn’t mean that capitalism is bad, that all corporations are sinister or that the ASP sucks. Only that the entire world could use a little more selflessness. Corporations have it in their power to affect serious change in the world, while inspiring an army of brand loyalists. Critical is approaching charity earnestly and creatively and in a way careful not to suggest self-appointed elites pushing Marxism as “progressive”. When you approach anything in life with this mindset, you will always enjoy success. Eastern religions call it “Karma”. Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism) call it “God’s Will” or “Cause and Effect”. Bob Marley simply said, “What goes ’round, comes ’round.”
I’d like to see the ASP and competitive pro surfing come ’round.
I’m a FAN, and I’d like to continue to have that CHOICE.
Author’s Note: This is my latest piece for The Inertia, the highly-popular action sports website billed as, “The Planet’s Largest Network of Thinking Surfers” To see the response and full discussion of the article, please visit: http://www.theinertia.com/author/tim-hamby/
Safe to say, even if you don’t surf, you know who Kelly Slater is. He’s the world’s greatest surfer. King Kelly. A legendary 10x world champ who even at age 38, in a time when most progressive surfing is regularly performed above the wave, has somehow remained fit enough and good enough to routinely beat surfers years his junior, from all around the planet.
And now the greatest surfer in history wants to build the best wave in the world.
It’s an interesting prospect, only because it comes from someone whose understanding of the ocean and the sport are second only to his determination and will to succeed.
I remember seeing Kelly surf in person on a road trip to Sebastian Inlet back in my early twenties. Kelly was just 14 at the time and already getting national attention. He was there for the ESA Regional Championships. We just happened to arrive in time to catch the Superheat, where the winners of each division compete against each other in a final, decisive high-performance session to see who is the best of the best.
Kelly had already won his division and was surfing against several older, more experienced men. There was a northeaster blowing and the waves at Sebastian were large and sloppy, far from ideal conditions. But let me tell you, when Kelly dropped in, he made every wave look flawless. Not just good. Not just great… but jaw-dropping, “OMG, can you believe that?” otherworldy good. And everyone on the beach that day recognized it.
He surfed fast, fluid and stylish, blasting every sliver of open face, effortlessly connecting beautiful maneuvers while intuitively navigating every tricky section. It was clear, even back then, that he wasn’t just a natural. He was supernatural.
Today, as freakish as 10 world titles sounds, it doesn’t surprise me. He’s just that good. I consider myself fortunate to have been able to follow his career through my own lifetime, because I don’t expect his accomplishments will ever be matched. This is also the reason I won’t summarily dismiss his vision to build the world’s first natural, deep-water world-class wave.
According to a press release, the Kelly Slater Wave Company will use “pioneering wave generation and control technology to create the wave on the outside of a large circular pool, propogating onto an inner island where it breaks endlessly.” Slater suggests that the wave, inside a planned surf park with beaches, restaurants, bars, pools, conference facilities and retail will come close to reproducing the “natural”feeling of one of the world’s best waves.
A few years back, I had the opportunity to surf Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon with just a few friends after the park had closed for the day. The waves there seemed to start with 4’ peaks that quickly receded to 2’ lines that weren’t endless. While reasonably fun and consistent, between the stadium lights; eerie sounds of the hydromechanics; soft, punchless waves and chlorine smell, the experience was far from natural.
Even if Kelly’s engineers have devised a way to double the size and power of the waves, there are some things about surfing that simply can’t be duplicated by men, even supernatural ones.
The inconsistent nature of swells that makes chasing them so exciting, and an integral part of the surfing experience.
The unique characteristics of individual waves that allow us to enjoy a variety of experiences on each and every one we ride.
The subtle risks of dangers like shallow reefs, clean-up sets and sea creatures we can’t always see, that open our adrenal glands to their addictive flow.
The infinite beauty of God’s handiwork, which varies so dramatically from ocean to ocean, beach to beach, break to break, right down to the locals sitting next to us in the lineup.
Of course, I’m sure Kelly already understands all this better than most.
So, I won’t do the easy thing which would be to scoff at his vision; dismiss it as idealistic; unrealistic in this uncertain economy; or opportunistic at the expense of “surfers” from places like Indiana or Ohio, who only understand surfing through movies like Point Break; magazines like SURFER; and the big brand surf tees they buy in their local mega malls. They deserve to experience the thrill and joys of surfing as much as any of us.
Instead, I’ll lay money down that Kelly will leverage his incredible personal and financial resources; visionary imagination; and passion for surfing, including his unyielding desire to advance the sport and share it; to create something that will exceed all of our expectations. Something that will leave us standing slack-jawed, looking at the person next to us and saying, “OMG, can you believe that?”
To learn more about the Kelly Slater Wave Company, visit Slater’s YouTube Channel where he shares more of his vision in a series of videos.