Tracks - - Stuff We Dig -

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. ||

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