The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) has a new CEO—Paul Speaker, and yesterday he announced the ASP’s vision for the future of surfing to a cadre of surf media reporters. While the ASP has several key initiatives in the works, Speaker assured that it would take time to implement change. “2013 for us is a real data year,” said Speaker. “We’re ramping up for a bigger launch in 2014.” According to Speaker, the transformation will be three-pronged: improving the fan experience, increasing professionalism in surfing, and developing a more effective broadcast initiative.
According to Speaker, the ASP’s top priority is to improve and mature the fan experience – attracting new fans as well as respecting the needs of a core audience, but doing so in a way that will broaden global appeal. “All changes that we make – all improvements and evaluations are really about the fan,” said Speaker. As such, the ASP asserts that wave quality and “drama in the water” are top priorities.
Speaker also said the sport must continue to elevate its level of professionalism through new partnerships and collaborating with “the best and the brightest” within and beyond the surf industry, which means involving major players in the technology and media worlds. In past years, Speaker said there has been “a disparate collection of events” with a governing body that has had limitations based in sanctioning, rather than directing and managing events. Moving forward, the ASP plans to standardize the viewing experience in that brands that previously owned and managed individual events will assume more traditional sponsorship positions. With the help of new, non-endemic event sponsors (also a bold change as professional surfing looks to broaden its reach) the ASP plans to exert more control over events and deliver a more standardized event experience. “The endemic brands have been supporting this sport for a very long time,” said Speaker, “and it’s time to allow non-endemic brands to come in and support the sport and athletes.”
Third, Speaker announced the possibility of major broadcasting deals that will put surfing on every screen available while eliminating hiccups in broadcast endeavors. According to Speaker, the ASP will be interviewing and educating broadcast and online partners to provide a premium global experience over the next month and a half. Webcasts will be viewed and heard in many languages, which he believes will create the best product possible.
The new CEO also addressed the issue of drug testing in professional surfing, an issue that has made headlines recently. “We’re doing a deep dive into all the policies that we have – both employee policies and athlete policies,” said Speaker. “We look forward to engagement with athletes to ensure that we have the cleanest sport possible.”
Tour veteran Kieren Perrow was also named the Interim Commissioner for the year, and he has already assumed his responsibilities.
Speaker has quite the challenge to put surfing on par with other professional sports, and his experience as a former Director of Marketing and Ideas at the National Football League could serve him well in his new role. If a larger, more engaged fan base boosts viewership of a cleaner and improved broadcasting system, the surf world may enjoy watching the sport rise to levels of professionalism unseen. We will have to wait and see as Speaker and the ZoSea management team attempt to take surfing to new heights.