Estimating the amount of time competitive surfing fans are able to observe any individual competitor requires some flexible math, but this may just be the kind of math behind recent tour reorganization. On his march to a tenth world title last year, Kelly Slater surfed approximately 59 heats. At 30 minutes per heat, that’s 29.5 hours fans got to watch him in competition. Let’s compare this with LeBron James in the NBA. James currently averages 38 minutes per game, and at 82 games per year, that’s 52 regular season hours. If the Miami Heat make the finals, this number could reach nearly 80 hours.
Not every world tour surfer is Kelly Slater, and so obviously competitive hours drop away precipitously as you move down the ratings. Sponsors, on the other hand, want their surfers in front of fans more. In order for surfers to achieve this, they need more competitive hours, and for most surfers, that means entering more competitions. Sources say this is a root cause of last year’s tour reorganization, and the drive to get more top-rated surfers into Prime and 6-star events. The interesting thing about all of this is that it’s been tried before. It was called the 1980s.