With the loss of New York and the addition of Fiji in 2012, the onus of bringing pro surfing to the masses will, and should, fall back largely on the Prime Tour, which many of the Top 34 now compete on. Having a couple of these events as part of the Dream Tour will help grow the sport and engage the fans. You only have to look at the countries represented to realize the tour is truly becoming more global, and we can’t just compete in the South Pacific, America, and a token event or two here and there. This is a World Tour.
You can’t warm up with Tiger on the range at Augusta or stand at the free throw line with Kobe at the Staples Center, but you can hustle Mick and Joel behind the rock at Snapper before the first heat or paddle out under the pier with Kelly at HB. Are you kidding me!? That’s pretty amazing. If we were to ignore the fans, and every event was held out in some remote jungle or obscure reef pass we would be missing the point. Giving the groms, and for that matter the everyday surfer, the chance to see their heroes destroy the same waves that they rush home from school and work to surf everyday is inspiring. The Dream Tour and its locations will always be the heart of the Tour, and I hope they never lose their place and significance, but finding that balance is important; There is only so much that you can experience through your PC.
Criticism of the modern pro from pundits and fans alike is now part of the territory – just as it is in other mainstream sports. The web has given everyone a voice. Talk is not just confined to the lineup or the car park anymore. We have the growth of social media to thank for this. But the banter and discussion is a good thing. The fact that so many people spend hours of their lives arguing the finer points of the sport shows they either have nothing better to do or they care about the sport, or both. I’d like to believe it’s more of the latter. The new generation will just need thicker skin!
Finally, moving to become a properly recognized professional sport demands that we, as athletes are drug tested. Although the finer details and penalties aren’t yet fully clear this is a big refutation of the critics who have continually played on surfing being a game for drop outs and druggies. Pros now travel with coaches and trainers and commit themselves with the same dedication as Olympic athletes to their goals. I can already hear the cries from the “purists” that this professionalism is causing surfing to lose its soul, but is it a crime to want to be your best, and to commit everything to that? I still love the early morning surfs at home with my mates and the missions into the national parks looking for uncrowded waves with my Dad above all, but I love my job too, and I know to keep up with the kids I’ve got to be a professional.