Which is a shame, because pro surfing has the potential to become something infinitely more significant than an eleven-month marketing campaign punctuated by large, drug-fueled parties. In fact, it can be anything that we, the consumers want it to be. The trick is finding the right formula and demanding its financiers to make changes. (By the way, we employ them, because we buy their merchandise. So we’re more powerful than we let on.). That brings us back to Martinez. The one thing that all of his YouTube rants have conspicuously lacked is a serious alternative to the current system. No one else has publicly put one forward either. Saying that something needs to change isn’t the same as changing it.
I support the decision to begin drug testing and would remind those who complain about “cultural homogenization” and the death of surfing’s great “personalities” that our latest “great personality” already died. Alone, in a Texas hotel room. No one is trying to homogenize surf culture; they are trying to run a Tour in which the athletes aren’t competing while using or coming down from banned substances. That’s a win-win.
As long as they are in the reforming mood, they should also think about enforcing their own rules, like mandatory fines for missing competitions. According to an inside source Slater, Martinez, and Dane Reynolds were quietly fined for missing the Billabong Pro at Jeffreys Bay, though it remains unclear how much.* All three should have been publicly fined and reprimanded, not because they did anything that you or I wouldn’t have done, but because no one in pro sports is above reproach if they break the rules. To think otherwise is, well, amateurish. Finally, they need to put the best surfers back in the best waves. Unless they start charging people to sit on the beach, “putting butts in bleachers” is a ludicrous philosophy for a sport that is much more fun to watch on TV anyway.
None of this is worth anything if the ASP doesn’t dedicate itself to creating a Tour that allows the surfers to compete on fair and equal terms in order to prove who is the best (in the realm of competition surfing, at least). And the only way to do that is to somehow differentiate itself from the surf companies whose sales figures drive the undercurrents of professional surfing. Whether or not this is possible remains to be seen. But as I mentioned earlier, the surf industry is a small place, and you had better believe that some of the ASP’s Board of Directors are going to read this, so use the comment section to tell them what you think. If you were hired as the new CEO of the ASP what changes would you make to create a Tour that we could all love? As the outpouring of Internet sympathy for Carr (formerly the most derided surfer on the web) has shown, surfers are, if not a family, a strangely close peer group like few others in the world. In other words, we’re in this together, so if you don’t add your two cents, you only hurt yourself.
*Correction Appended: The original version of this article assumed that Slater, Martinez, and Reynolds had not been fined until an email from a concerned reader set the record straight.