I was waiting to hear the call one Sunday afternoon on Dawn Patrol, anxiously waiting to hear whether or not the ASP commissioner would run the Billabong Pipe Masters that day. Towards the end of the program, he came on and said it was a lay day and it turned out to be the start of a four day waiting period.
Then my dad walked by and said that’s why surfing will never make it to primetime. It’s a bummer to hear him say that, but it’s the unfortunate reality. Surfing will never make it to primetime for a few reasons.
In order for the ASP to make a case to a major network to air all the WCT contests, they have to prove that there’s a mass appeal for the sport. While it’d be easy getting everyone close to surf towns to tune in, it’s not likely someone in Iowa, for instance, would choose to watch surfing over football. The same barrels, airs, snap turns, and cutbacks are bound to get monotonous for someone who’s never surfed and let’s not even get started on trying to explain the rule of priority in contests.
Here’s the scenario: This big contest is advertised heavily for the past month. You get home, flick on the TV and find out the contest is on hold because Mother Nature didn’t provide the necessary conditions for that given time. Now the network has got to air something else, and you’re bummed because you were looking forward to watching that contest.
The bright side here is that scenario will never happen because it’s so impractical. It’s impossible to know when the conditions will be prime to run the contest. That’s why there’s usually a two week window to run the contest.
Contests are held all across the world. In order for it to make sense for the ASP to get airtime, there has to be a big audience consistently watching. Not just tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, I’m talking about millions sets of eyeballs being glued to the TV during the contests.
I’m not sure there are even a million people in the world that’d be interested in watching an entire contest, and if there are, only a small portion of them will be in a time zone that lines up with the time zone where the contest is being held.
Live vs. Recorded
We all know that the only way to watch a sporting event is when it’s live. There’s no sense in recording it because we all have that one friend that posts about that big play as it happens and eventually the outcome of the big game.
Public wave gardens certainly provide the quickest option to launch surfing into the mainstream, maybe even the Olympics. They’ve got great seating areas to view the contest from all angles and with stadium style seating, you don’t really have to worry about standing on your tip toes to see over that tall guy who blatantly stood right in front of you.
The downfall with wave gardens is that they really take away the element of having to be adaptable. As surfers, we have to be adaptable and that’s kind of what makes surfing so much fun. Taking that aspect out of a contest would just be insane.
For now, the ASP is doing the right thing and airing contest recaps on ABC’s World of X Games on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s mildly entertaining listening to Pat Parnell give a recap of what went down, hearing actual contest commentators, and having our heart strings pulled as they dive into a select surfer’s life during the hour long broadcast.
There really isn’t any hope that surfing’s going to get a big break and make it into the mainstream. Our sport’s going to have to accept its place as the red-headed stepchild behind bigger sports like football (American and European), baseball, basketball, and other household sports.
Part of the draw to surfing is that it’s a counterculture sport. Do you really want it to lose that value and become mainstream?