Tag Archive for: Pro surfing

Dividing Lines – The Segregated Soul of Surfing

06 Dec
December 6, 2014

Freesurfing vs. Pro Surfing

As we head into the homestretch of the 2014 ASP World Championship Tour, we know that a fast-approaching storm of inevitable controversy, heartfelt conviction and colorful commentary is headed our way. We don’t even have to wait to spot it on the horizon. It is coming just as surely as that sneaker set at your favorite big wave surf spot.

Just sit deep and get ready for it.

By December 20th, the entire surf world will be blowing up over botched scores, titles earned or gifted, the new world order and the very future of our sport. Or… err… “activity”. (Dang it! I knew that one was coming and still took it right on the head! When will I learn?)

Jokes aside, I say this because I know full well that in the midst of all the coming noise, the loudest voices won’t be from those interested in the compelling storylines that the ASP, ZoSea and the world’s greatest surfers will have delivered for us. Nope. It’ll come from those who wish that professional competitive surfing would just pack up its sh#t and go away.

Forever.

After all, surfing is too diverse to be siloed. Too sacred to be packaged and sold. It was always meant to be, “free”.

The continuing segregation of surfing into two camps, “freesurfers” who believe that surfing at its core is a spiritual activity inherently at odds with competition and consumerism, and those who support professional surfing as an acceptable way to advance and enjoy the sport, is as old as competitive surfing, itself. But these days, like so much other social and ideological phenomena, the divisions just seem to have grown deeper, the conversations more shrill and cynical, our ideological differences pulling us further apart in ways that are neither fun, healthy nor productive.

Maybe it’s just me. Heck, I’ve been “freesurfing” for the past 25 years! I haven’t competed in a contest since college, when I launched my own citywide surf league. And even then, when we competed, it was always in the spirit of fun and fellowship.

At the same time, if I had sufficient talent to make a living competing as a pro on the WCT, would I do it? Hell yes- in a second! I do love competition. Professional sporting competition. Professional surfing competition! As a result, I’ve followed it closely for nearly as many years as I’ve been surfing.

And therein lies the biggest disconnect of the whole, “surfing as an activity vs. surfing as a sport (or a business; or product)” narrative: Why should any of us have to choose one over the other? Can’t we enjoy all of the various aspects of surfing? Haven’t most of us always done so, to one degree or another?

Following the careers of surfers like Shaun Tomson, Tom Curren, Kelly Slater and John John Florence… watching live contests in places most of us could only dream about in conditions we could only imagine… enjoying the sheer drama of the battles for glory that have provided the fundamental appeal of all athletic competition since the first Olympiad in 765 BC?

Increasingly, it seems that the freesurfers of the world –the real freesurfing purists and not those like me, who are only half-in– would have us be free of everything but their opinions and their judgment, ever-projecting a self-righteous air of pretentious enlightenment that the rest of us poor souls who watch contests more than clips, could only ever hope to understand. And, while I couldn’t care less about how anyone might try to frame me as one kind of surfer or another- that mindset, old as it is, is fast becoming as stale and sour as the rest of the ideological antipathy that we increasingly see grinding our country and our communities to a halt.

Interestingly, the Pew Research Center noted in a recent study that people with strong political views are increasingly constructing their lives around people who agree with them, while shunning those who disagree. The report stated that this kind of ideological rigidity is increasingly leading people to actively avoid others with divergent opinions, making them not only more likely do simple things like defriending on Facebook, but also affecting their decisions about where to live (think Red State / Blue State- all the way down to the neighborhood level); where to eat; where to shop and do business; even who to start a family with (“My name is Canyon. I’m 25. I love surfing and traveling, ride a ’73 Steve Lis fish and am looking for a girl who hates Paul Speaker as much as I do.”)

It begs the question: Are many surfers today really not traveling down the path of independent thought, but rather, simply following the well-trodden and increasingly crowded path of rigid ideologues whose close-minded thinking continues to sabotage compromise, civility and acceptance in so many areas of society, today?

No offense to my friends in California, but I often wonder if the whole freesurfing “purist” vs. “competitive” or “commercial surfing” narrative is primarily a Calicentric industry phenomenon? Because I rarely see so much hand-wringing about it over here on the East Coast.

Here, by and large, all competitors are idolized, from world champs to mid-level CT’ers and QS’ers to local blue-collar rippers. They are supported at every level from the amateur ranks to the pros. When they win, we all win. And when they lose, retire, get hurt, run out of money, head back to college or into the real world, it’s no big deal. They are welcomed right back into the water where you could always find them anyway between their competitions, heats and traveling- freesurfing.

I understand that California suffers from severe crowd-control issues at many spots (don’t we all), and that a common complaint about ZoSea, current owners of professional surfing, is that their ultimate goal to bring surfing to the masses via the aggressive marketing of professional competitive surfing will only worsen this frustrating trend. Truth is, shifting demographic trends and local zoning and development regulations are far more likely to impact these issues than people from Ohio watching the Teahupo’o contest live on ABC, or breaking heats down afterwards on YouTube.

Heck, in a well-researched article written earlier this year by Stu Nettle on Swellnet, his organization’s findings suggest that you could see the crowds at your local break plummet by as much as 30% as soon as Slater decides to retire! (Or at the very least, folks will be unplugging from watching professional surfing, online).

Ultimately, the fear of increasing crowds is just one of a laundry list of justifications that surfing “purists” cite for being skeptical of professional competitive surfing generally, and ZoSea in particular. There’s too much we know about them, and too much we don’t. I for one think they’ve been doing a pretty damn good job with the exception of the name change to the World Surfing League (I understand their reasoning, I just don’t like their choice). Regardless, the ASP and professional surfing have survived name changes and many much larger challenges in the past, and both have only continued to grow.

If the conspiracy theories are true and ZoSea ends up leaving surfing at the altar because like others before them, Paul Speaker, Terry Hardy and (allegedly) Dirk Ziff can’t figure out how to wring a dime out of it, rest assured, it won’t stay down for long. As long as there are surfers who yearn to make a living out of their passion, there will always be others willing to try.

As for me, I’ll continuing to keep an “open mind”, something surfing’s “purists” like to own, but which doesn’t resonate when they continually insinuate that those of us who enjoy professional competitive surfing are somehow uniformed, immoral or something less than “pure”, because we value surfing both as an activity and a sport. It is both those things and so much more.

Note: This article originally appeared on TheInertia.com. Go here see to the original version, and full ensuing discussion.

Love on the Rocks: California and the U.S. Surf Industry

21 Feb
February 21, 2012

Love on the Rocks: California and the U.S. Surf Industry

Dear U.S. SURF Industry (SIMA Members, Grind Media, ASP NA, New Media, Shapers, Pros, Joes, Rebels and Start-ups):

Greetings from sunny Florida!

I hope this letter finds you well and that you have been enjoying some bountiful surf. We’re not complaining over here. Seems like there have been great waves all year. And hurricane season– well, you got a little taste of it in NY. (I hope you enjoyed your trip east and found your way around the city). We scored much more of the same down here (BretIreneKatiaLee, Maria, etc.,), only without wetsuits. The water temps have retreated into the mid-60s lately, though. I guess all good things have to come to an end sometime– which brings me to the reason I’m writing.

I know we don’t see each other a lot, but we’ve been friends for a long time. And I care about you. Everyone here in Florida does. But there’s something important that I need to tell you. It’s not easy and I hate to have to be the one to do it, but I just think you need to know.

You see, California– she doesn’t love you any more.

Surfing? Yes.

But you– the surf industry? Sorry man, afraid not.

Trust me, I’m on the websites and message boards. She’s been talking about you behind your back, dude. Nasty stuff. I’m hearing words like “incestuous”“soulless”“hose”“monumental screw-up”“sickly”“polluted”, “dangerous”“evil” and “lame”… She’s over you.

But, here’s the deal: While you’re not a kid any longer, you’re still plenty young; not too old to bust a move and make a transition in your life. So what I’d like to suggest is for you to consider relocating to Florida. Yeah man, throw your gear in a bag and come on over! You don’t have to take all of Cali’s sh#%! Granted, she’s beautiful– but you have spoiled her rotten. And there’s plenty of eye-candy here. We can set you up big time. And you know, I think you’d really love it.

Most importantly, you’d have someone who loves you back.

Yeah, I know– global economic focus is shifting to Asia, and you’re a little closer where you’re at. But Florida is also a global hub for business with large modern and growing ports and airports. Consider: Once Europe finishes imploding and the US does the same, then who’s left holding the debt bag? That’s right- China! And once they are forced to restructure and we all hit the “reset” button, then where do you think the money will head? Yep, right back to the good ol’ USA– safest bet on the planet! China won’t be such a big deal, then.

Besides, even if things don’t go down exactly like that, consider: Do we (can I take the liberty of saying, “we”, because I’d really like for you to start thinking of us as your new “partners” here?) Do we really want to be in bed with China? I’m telling you– this is one of the problems that Cali says she has with you. You know… human rights issues. It’s serious stuff. And none of us want to ignore it.

Let me introduce you to Latin America

I know you’ve always loved Mexico… We do, too! And hey, the Brazos– they’re NUTS about you! Man, with surfers like AdrianoAlejoJadsenHeitorMiguel and what’s the other new guy’s name?… Oh yeah– Medina! With those guys coming on like a 9.0 California earthquake, do you think there might be a growing market for you there? Those guys are our “neighbors”! Oh, and don’t forget about Puerto Rico… and Cuba! Cuba’s coming– just a little more time… you’ll see.

Look– I know at first glance, Florida might seem a little uptight for you; maybe a little more conservative than you’re used to. But hey, a little fiscal restraint’s not a bad thing, is it? Everybody knows what Cali did with the credit cards… (Yeah, we used ours too, but they’re on ice now.) In most other areas, things are pretty relaxed here. You’d dig it!

Oh, and how about this idea? Instead of sourcing to countries that want to kick our ass and rob us blind, how about getting your apparel manufacturers together and we can all help establish a sustainable new economy in Haiti? Seriously. Your Gen Y customers want you to do better. We all do.

Did you know that at the same time he is shrinking the state budget, our Republican governor is also pledging $40 million for Everglades restoration (part of a larger $600 million plan) and is pushing a $1 billion bump for education funding? And the part of the state I’m living in– Jacksonville (where I’d REALLY like you to direct your focus), well this may sound strange– but as one astute local columnist noted, we’re the “New Progressives”. That’s right! San Francisco has nothing on us.

Just look at the facts.

Our population is younger (35.8 to 38.2) (tons of talented young artistsphotographers and filmershere). We have a new African-American Mayor– a fiscally conservative Democrat who is actually doing what he promised and now, the NFL’s first and only minority owner! Yeah- a dual-citizen Pakastani with a stylish ‘stache who “busted down the door” on the world’s most reknowned rich white guy’s club. Heck,Forbes even has Jacksonville listed at #6 on “Best Cities for Technology Jobs”! (I think I saw San Fran on there at #29). We’re happy at #6, but once our spaceports for horizontal and vertical space launch open, I think that’s when you’ll really see things blast off.

So what’s bringing businesses east (and south) to places like Jacksonville and Florida? Why did Lebron, Wade and Bosch choose the Heat over… everybody? Because Florida is business friendly. The tax advantages are huge compared to California. And financial incentives? State, local… we pay big for jobs! Operators are standing by.

But hey, this is all stuff for the suits. I know the real problem you’re having with leaving Cali is the emotional connection, right? A lot of good memories there, I know. (Hey, me too and we only hooked up a few times… Oh, I’m sorry– I didn’t mean it that way.) At first glance, Cali seems to offer a lot: 840 miles of coastline! Of course, Florida offers 1,350 by itself,  not to mention the rest of the east coast.

Surfing Heritage? We’ve been doing it here since the 1930s and Florida surfers are responsible for 13 out of 29 ASP Men’s World Titles, and 8 out 29 Women’s Titles!

Look, I’ve played in Newport. I’ve caught a couple of those solid 8’+ south swells at Huntington. Man– big ol’ perfect skate ramps! So fun!! But, we get those same waves here during hurricane season and other times of the year… South BeachReef RoadSebastianRC’sNew SmyrnaSt. Augustine and Jax Beach, not to mention the Gulf Coast– they all go off!  Think about it– Nor Cal is cold and inhospitable. And Central and Southern Cal are crowded, with growing environmental concerns. Look through your photo album. Are you really enjoying yourself?

Mavericks: Ha! Yeah, right. Take a picture. Or, visit warm, perfect Puerto Rico instead.

Steamer Lane: Cold, crowded and localized.

Rincon: Ultra-crowded.

Sandspit: Crowds, localism, pollution (although, please take note that one of your premiere breaks is indeed a SANDBAR.)

Malibu: Hollywood. Crowded and localized. A zoo.

Huntington: Rips, localism, pollution and crowds.

Trestles: Urchins, localism, crowds and soon, toll roads?

Lunada: Sure, if you know martial arts.

Newport Jetties: Rips, rocks, localism, pollution and crowds.

Blacks: OK… gorgeous, yes! But also crowded and hard to reach with wacky nudists, rips, undertow andlarge, mouthy neighbors (Yes, we have a few minor issues here. Put a band-aid on it.)

Am I missing anything here? “Secret spots” like Pt. Mugu (hmm… another beach break) or The Ranch? –  Sorry– do you have double top-secret clearance, or a billion dollars?

Let’s see, what else is in Cali’s magic spellbook?

High cost of living?

Springsuits in August?

Hollyweird?

Kelp?

Look… here in Florida, the water is warm; the people are friendly; the waves are fun; and the line-ups not nearly as crowded. The weather and the business climate are both ideal and there’s not thousands of people bitching because you’re not good enough for them. Rather, this is a place where no one will take your venerable qualities– the jobs, the business and culture that you bring to the table– for granted.

So, what do you say? Will you consider ditching Cali once and for all? Yes, she has some fine physical attributes, but maybe it’s time you considered someone with a better personality.

You know, sometimes in life, it’s best to just stop arguing, and accept that you might not be right for one another.

Author’s Note: This is my latest piece for The Inertia, a leading-edge highly-popular action sports website based out of California 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/

 

 

 

 

ASP: Is Pro Surfing Really Dead?

26 Dec
December 26, 2011

ASP: Is Pro Surfing Really Dead?

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.

Thankfully…

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.

Always…

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:

Yes, drug test the athletes. Build credibility and acceptability. The death of one of the sports icons not far removed from his prime, makes this a no-brainer.

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.

Other thoughts:

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/

 

 

 

 

Remembering AI: A Fan’s Perspective

26 Dec
December 26, 2011

SURFER Tribute to Andy Irons

A lot has been written about Andy Irons from some of the surf world’s most notable personalities- people who knew Andy personally and interacted with him in a variety of ways.

So, I’ll offer some perspective coming from the rest of us– fans of Andy who knew him only through a prolific collection of videos, magazines and online webcasts, but who somehow still felt strongly connected to him, just as if he was one of our own crew paddling out, laughing, and sharing good times and bad with one another.

Keala Kennelly wrote in a moving tribute to Andy that her remembrance was “…one of the hardest things I have had to write about, because I don’t feel like anything I write will be good enough to honor Andy.”

Keala, if you happen to read this, it was better than “good enough”.

What was so beautiful about it is exactly what was so beautiful about Andy. It was an honest expression of emotion that came straight from the heart. And honesty in all things (writing, design, music, art, people…) is what ultimately makes them special and so compelling to all of us.

When I reflect on Andy’s passing, I do so coming from a perspective that is likely not too uncommon– that of a lifelong, die-hard Kelly fan, Andy’s long-time nemesis.

I viewed Andy as a “villain” (aka “asshole”) for a great part of his career until ultimately won over, not just by his incredible surfing, which was always undeniable; but by his fierce competitiveness, raw energy and passionate personality– no matter where that passion was directed.

But Andy’s rise from Antihero to Almighty, even amongst those of us who once rooted against him, wasn’t just about that endearing kinetic energy that oozed from him. No, what ultimately drove his popularity off the charts for all of us, the rest of us– even Kelly fans, was when he finally started owning his insecurities.

Not hiding them.

Not apologizing for them.

Just being authentic and admitting that he had them like everybody else. Just like Kelly himself did in front of Andy following the death of his father, as he so eloquently related in his own moving tribute to his career-long foe and good friend.

That’s why Andy became and remains one of my favorite surfers. 

 It’s one of the same reasons people are drawn to Dane. 

 And, it’s why Keala’s tribute wasn’t just “good enough”, it was freaking perfect.

You see– you can be a superhuman surfer… and still be human.

I didn’t know Andy, but I sure do miss him.

 

You can see a lot of that honesty on display in this gem of a video.

Author’s Note: This is my latest piece for The Inertia, a leading-edge highly-popular action sports website based out of California 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/

 

 

 

Kelly Slater Wave Company: The Next Ultimate Wave?

06 Dec
December 6, 2010

Kelly Slater Wave Company: The Next Ultimate Wave?

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.

Hmmmm… really?

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.

Kelly Slater Wave Company: The Next Ultimate Wave?

 

Find us on Google+