Senior Editor
Breaking up is hard to do.

Breaking up is hard to do.

The Inertia

The World Surf League just lost its prom date. A few days ago, the League announced that Samsung is no longer the title sponsor.

“Samsung has been a great partner for the surfing community over the past three years, elevating the sport to new heights and honoring the community’s heritage,” Dave Prodan, WSL ‎VP of Communications, told Surfline. “We thank them for their partnership and look forward to an exciting 2017 season.”

When the Association of Surfing Professionals changed its name to the World Surf League, it made a lot of big changes. Paul Speaker’s presence, of course, changed the outward facing platform to something that pulled heavily from his previous job at the NFL. Billionaire businessman Dirk Ziff sat back and threw money down the funnel, probably hoping to kickstart something huge. New sponsors signed on: Tag Heuer, Jeep, and the title sponsor, Samsung, all pitched money into a very expensive endeavor.

For a while, things looked like they were working out great. The previously nearly-unwatchable webcast turned into a professional endeavor that seemed as though it was finally run by people who knew what they were doing instead of a bunch of industry bros who were just in it for the free t-shirts. The WSL bought the Big Wave Tour and Kelly’s wave pool, and their strides towards a brighter future for competitive surfing were big ones. Then, just a few months ago, Paul Speaker (somewhat mysteriously) resigned. Now news has broken that the 2017 Tour will be without a title sponsor.

In our tiny circle of surfers who love a good conspiracy theory, it’s easy to imagine (and sometimes pleasurable to imagine) that Samsung dropped out because pro surfing simply won’t work. Unfortunately, that’s probably not the case–especially if the numbers the WSL has showing are to be believed. According to Speaker, the WSL has seen a “remarkable increase in fan engagement.” It’s more likely to be a function of Samsung disastrous last few years. Exploding cell phones are never good for business, after all. Add a massive scandal involving the head of the Samsung corporation, some $36 million, and President Park Geun-hye (who was impeached for her involvement back in December), and you’ve got a recipe for a company that can’t afford shoes, let along a few mil a year to the WSL.

So for now, the 2017 season will remain without a sponsor. Amid rumors of a diminished schedule and a diminished roster, it seems as though the WSL is tightening its bootstraps and preparing for what could be tough times ahead. They’re not giving up the ghost, though–as much as those purists might wish. “The WSL is excited about upcoming announcements in the commercial space,” Prodan continued. “More to come when available.”


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