PRO SURFING'S INDY FUTURE
Pro surfing's on-again off-again affair with the mainstream is back on again. ZoSea, the ASP's new owners, are seeking to attract new sponsors and a whole new audience to the sport. They've started well by improving web coverage, pumping up the women's tour and bringing the big wave surfers into the fold. The final day of the J-Bay contest showed what a slick product they are delivering and how thrilling competitive surfing can be. But the fact that the J-Bay Pro is currently one of seven major ASP events without a sponsor is telling. The established surf industry's financial troubles and Nike's hasty withdrawal from the sport are further indicators of a difficult market. In addition there is the surf community's natural suspicion or outright enmity towards commercialism and the mainstream. Overcrowding an already busy line-up is a huge concern for many dedicated surfers. Many already have an axe to grind with the surf industry, the pro tour, surf mags, surf schools or anyone else they feel is profiteering from surfing at the expense of their next wave. Surfing has flirted with the mainstream ever since there was a chance to make a buck from it. Many of surf culture's most embarrassing moments have happened as a result. It started when Gidget and the non-surfing Beach Boys who tailgated surfing's first big boom in the early '60s. The cringe factor hasn't improved much since (see: In God's Hands, Chasing Mavericks, Surfer Dude and Bay Watch). Despite beach and youth culture staying popular, competitive surfing has never really caught on with the general public. Unless you surf it's very hard to appreciate the skill set required much less to sit through all the lulls, lay days, poor conditions and non-elimination rounds. But pro surfing is probably better off without the suburban hordes and it may not need them to prosper. The number of wave riders in the world has swelled into the millions – many of whom currently pay little attention to pro surfing. If the ASP could find a way to engage them, pro surfing's future will be bright indeed.
Kelly Slater aka Jimmy Slade fresh from the set of Baywatch and revelling in the hieghts of his mid-ninties power. ||