Few, if any, sports boast an experience as subjective as surfing does, and attempting to organize competitive surfing during a period of unprecedented growth while accommodating the various (and largely passionate) opinions on the matter boils down to one thing: creating balance. A balance that provides the variety needed to create a comprehensive vetting process in determining an undisputed ASP World Champion – a balance still equaling itself out.
In criticism of this year’s “Big City Tour,” a constant citation is the addition of events in Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco and New York. On the surface, this provides weight to the aforementioned label, but upon closer examination, it’s more indicative of a tour attempting to reconcile recent growth in popularity by maintaining status as the vanguard of high-performance surfing.
This season, Billabong and the ASP relocated the Brazil event from Imbituba Beach in Santa Catarina to Barra da Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro, and I believe the vast majority of the Top 34 would testify that both Tijuca and the backup location of Arpoador are both wedgier and more conducive to high-performance surfing. There has admittedly been observable backlash for the South American event in western media and forums over the past few years, but it doesn’t change the fact that Brazil has arrived as a major power player in this day and age – in terms of talent, audience and economy.
Rip Curl has chosen San Francisco as the site of its 2011 Search installment. Specifically, Ocean Beach, San Francisco – a cold-water, shark-patrolled thump monster of a beach break. Previous installments of the Search include Reunion Island (’05), Mexico (’06), Chile (’07), Bali (’08), Portugal (’09) and Puerto Rico (’10). This season Rip Curl is back to cold water, and they’ve already confessed to returning “to the jungle” in 2012. That said, the Search event consistently scores some of the best surf each season, and has done so since its inception – I think we owe it to Rip Curl to see if they can bring the heat (metaphorically that is) again this year.
NYC – the big, mysterious apple of potential for professional surfing. I’ll tell you this much, every single surfer on tour is excited about this event. Whether that excitement level maintains throughout the event’s three-year license agreement remains to be seen, and is probably contingent on the region’s ability to produce classy surf. That said, putting our boys next to the biggest city in the media world can only benefit surfing in terms of generating audience, media and corporate interest. Something that the surfers all want to see and that will hopefully mean bigger and better things for all of us in the future.
And this speaks to a final thought: at the end of the day, the ASP is an organization run by the surfers, for the surfers. They sit on the Board of Directors and have a voting stake in the major decisions that go down – everything from ratings systems to judging to venues and so forth. The administrators, myself included, exist solely to advise and act as stewards of this organization.
Are there gaps in the current Dream Tour schedule? Yes, both in terms of calendar time and in terms of wave diversity. Is this schedule set for the indefinite future? Absolutely not. The last two years have seen unprecedented change to the way the ASP operates, ranks surfers and services fans. This change has been predominantly organic and is still processing itself and balancing out. When this balance begins to take shape over the next (what I foresee to be) three years, we’ll have a tour that is more stable in terms of longevity, dynamic in terms of performance and talent, and sophisticated in terms of audience service.