Pittwater Life February 2017 Issue


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Feb 20-26: Toyota Pro, Merewether NSW

This humble tour qualifying event along with its outliers – there’s

a pro junior on at the same time – is a quiet king and queen

maker. Last year Matt Wilkinson got into gear by winning it; two

months later he’d won the first two major league pro events of

the year at Snapper Rocks and Bells Beach. Waves are often OK

to good although it’s not the best time of year for Merewether,

which is more of a winter surf zone set-up.

PHOTO: P34 pic: iStock, P35 pics: Redbull

REAL & UNREAL: Slater surfing Tahiti (left) and his wave pool (above).

as a stand-alone pro sport.


It was epic blue sky

thinking. And for all the shiny

coherence of today’s tour, for

all the hard work of Paul and

his many loyal staff, it clearly

hasn’t quite worked. Deals had

to be cut immediately around

that naming rights fee; major

events in Fiji, Rio and Maui

remain without corporate

names (or fees) attached. A

fortune has been spent on

trying to lure non-endemic

backers through the door,

would all be in sync with a

with limited success; indeed

range of equally impressive

the WSL’s most prominent

new broadcast deals, which

partners, Samsung, Jeep

would work to secure the

and Corona, are carryovers

partnerships and open

– all had prior relationships

more and more doors for all

with ASP events. The media


platform is still essentially

This was in stark contrast

the online event broadcast:

with the ASP’s previous plan, massively improved from the

in which the organisation was incoherent event-to-event ASP

basically a marketing tool version, for sure, but a long

of the big surf companies, way from the live network TV

and unable to move in any that provides most pro sports

particular direction of its own with their financial lifeline.

accord – while said companies, The WSL team has been

after years of mad prosperity, able to find some silver

were suddenly and ominously linings, especially in various

running out of moolah.

government-funded tourism

To the ASP staff and pro authorities, who kick down for

surfers, Speaker loomed as a range of events including

a saviour. Now, freed from Portugal and the whole

its tangled surfing roots, Australian tour, plus other bits

professional surfing would and pieces. Paddle-in Nazare!

embrace its true destiny Longboards in China!

Feb 27 into March: Australian Open, North Steyne

Second of the important second tier qualifying events in Australia

this year, and so much more. The Australian Open has

become known for its departure from regular surf contest programming

through the addition of arts festivals, music, and bowl

skating demos on site. Just what Manly needs! Will also boast a

grommet event to run just before the main show.

But mostly what they’ve

been doing is spending

money. LOTS of money.

Why hasn’t pro surfing

taken off like the rocket

everyone dreamed of in 2013?

If I were to take a wild guess,

I’d say the WSL’s plan has

fallen foul of the same thing

that’s knackered pro surfing

repeatedly through its history:

the surf. The stupid Ocean!

It comes and it goes with no

consulting, it goes flat in the

middle of major events, it

sneers at schedules. I mean!

What do you say about a sport

whose finest event, the Eddie

Aikau Invitational, goes on

hold for years?

It’s a worry – exactly how

much of a worry you can

deduce from the fact that the

previously super-private Dirk

Ziff is taking the reins now as

CEO. And if the rumours I keep

hearing are right, he thinks he

still has an ace in the hole.

Maybe you’ve seen the

YouTube footage of Kelly

Slater’s experimental wave

pool? The one where Kelly

keeps inviting small groups of

top pros, then releasing clips

of them riding what looks like

a captive version of a perfect

point break?

It’s still a prototype, yeah.

But… it’s not Kelly’s. The

pool and its technology are

majority owned by Dirk Ziff

and the WSL.

What if they could partner

up the wave pool, or its better

younger sibling, with holiday

resorts and tourism authorities?

Run everything to schedule?

Charge people admission?

Pro surfing, without the


You know what, I don’t

believe it for a second. But

stranger things have happened

– and if it’s a choice between

that and nothing, I bet the

pro surfing community will be

happy to jump on board.

Nick Carroll is a leading

Australian and international

surf writer, author, filmmaker

and surfer, and one

of Newport’s own. Email:


Surfing Life

FEBRUARY 2017 35

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