The news is out and no doubt you’ve heard, from next year the Association of Surfing Professionals will cease to exist. In its place we will have the World Surf League, or WSL, so what is going to change? Very little essentially, same awesome surfers, same epic breaks, just a different name and logo, but the rebadging must mean something. As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, so why change something that seemed to work just fine?
It’s Transforming Before Our Very Eyes
For the more astute among you watching the WCT live webcasts over the last couple of years, you’ll have noticed how polished they’re looking now. ASP graphics flying in and out of the screen between breaks, slow-motion instant replays, in-depth commentator analysis. Sponsors are worked into broadcasts, the latest example being the best replays at the Quiksilver Pro France labelled as ‘Monster Madness’ to tie in with the Monster Energy Drink sponsorship. Professional surfing competitions are beginning to look a lot more like football and ice hockey games… well on TV anyway. Just check out the ASP YouTube channel to see the hundreds of videos of past events to watch. They’ve even got a video section devoted solely to footage of perfect 10 rides.
New Owners Mean Business… Literally
Why has this happened so dramatically quickly? New ownership is why, with ZoSea Media taking over just two years ago in 2012. This media company is on a mission to make the world tour and professional surfing a whole a lot more profitable, and Floridian Billionaire Dirk Ziff is footing the bill to get it there. Rumors abound, but it seems Dirk is coughing up around $20 million a year to make sure the show goes on. This sort of money isn’t a donation, it’s an investment and you can be sure that he’ll want it back and then some. What is happening is the monetization of surfing, and ZoSea CEO Paul Speaker is the public face of the enterprise. Having worked at the NFL you can guess where this is all heading.
What the Pro’s Think
Well you couldn’t have a World Surf League without professional surfers, and it seems that many of the guys and gals on the tour are in favor of the shake up. In fact, the soon-to-be-defunct ASP has released this morale boosting video to reassure the non-believers that everything is going to be alright…
Will the Gamble Pay Off?
So the big question is whether all of this revamping and rebranding is working. Well it seems so, with more people across the world tuning in to the live webcasts than ever before. Over 12 million watched the Billabong Tahiti Pro, the most to watch a professional surfing contest in the history of the sport. But will surfing become a popular spectator sport for people who don’t surf, live nowhere near the beach and have nothing to do with the lifestyle? Well, Paul Speaker seems confident and reminds doubters of this succinct fact, that 97 percent of people who watch the NFL have never actually played in a game of football.