I don't begrudge people making a living and refrain from pointing fingers at people who make a lot of money as that is the world we live in. The Dream is to have 'financial security', pay off your mortgage early, put your kids through school, help them buy a house and have enough to retire on and live comfortably. I get it, I really do. I have a family of my own, am getting older and who doesn't want 'peace of mind'. The issue I have is that perhaps this is something that is always just over the next hill. It is unattainable, unrealistic and forever a mirage. There is no such thing as being fully content, and as I am fond of saying, you have to have ups to have downs in life.
This is relavent why? Hang in there. The UFC. The WSL. What do these two things have in common? Errrrrrrr, three letters? Well yes that, and the fact that the man partly responsible for the UFC's financial success has just been given a job at the WSL, and has been directed at doing the same with the 'sport' of surfing. His name is Joseph Carr.
Let's not panic everyone. We know that the WSL has deep pockets and with the help of sponsors helping it along it has provided extremely watchable events when the weather permits. It's about those last four words of that sentence which I wish to speak about first.
'When the weather permits' I will watch a surf comp, to explain. I will not tune in to watch 2ft Teahupoo, onshore 2ft France and so on. I just have better things to do with my life, like writing this for example. The webcast is free at the moment, and I would say I watch about 40-50% of events that I can, and when they are worth watching, and I would imagine I am more of an avid viewer than most. It does not matter how many bottom turns Tatiana does, the waves still need to perform, and that is not something that the WSL can control. Or can they?
Joseph Carr, it is believed, is partly responsible for the 'pay per view' bank roll success of the UFC, and naturally you would think might bring those skills to the table for the WSL. He is also believed to be heading up the highly complex (as it would seem) integration of the WSL and it's newest acquisition, the Kelly Slater Wave Co. Are the pennies beginning to drop yet?
It seems clear to me that there are now a number of potential futures for the WSL and for us, the viewers. Allow your imagination to wander with me through a few of them.
Future Version One - Imagine, if you will a World Wrestling Federation take on the WSL. The 'Frenchman Flores' billed to take on 'John the John' at a Teahupoo KS Wave Pool. One match pay-per-view. The hype would be insane, both the competitors would get involved in staged arguments and fights on and off the camera. Both 'athletes' would have tag lines, sayings and there would be amazing amount of 'merch' to buy for each.
Future Version Two - Joe Turpel gets cloned and we can now enjoy back-to-back commentary from him with a pay-per-view package. The judges in the tower who give the scores on waves get replaced by Simon Cowell, Eminem and Susan Sarandon. They hold up scores out of ten for each wave, the highest scoring competitor gets to stay in the comp and the two losers are subjected to a phone in vote by our pay-per-view customers.
Future Version Three - The comps continue now as they have done except they become pay-per-comp. You pay a 20 dollar premium to watch a single comp and get a discount if you buy the whole season up front. The whole WSL collapses like a flan in a cupboard as the fans don't pay it, Joe Turpel and Martin Potter become jobless drunks and end up on a celebrity Get Me Out of here programme.
Okay, enough of this silliness, all these unlikely events could come to pass, but it is more likely that things trundle on as they are, and slowly new aspects of the WSL experience are added over time. Sure, you could have pay-per-view events, but I think and trust that the guys at the WSL know their audience enough to refrain from asking fans to pay for 2ft WQS comps. Saying that we have to remember that the WSL is not a charity and it is not owned by its members or anything nice and fluffy like that. The WSL is a business and exists to make money, that is the bottom line and one we best not forget.
As I have said , I do not begrudge anyone from chasing the cash, from making money and finding the magical 'financial security' that seems to be always just on the horizon. But at the same time I hope we don't look back on these days of watching the WSL for free as the golden years, the good old times before huge ad breaks, pay-per-heats and back to back Joe.
Jordy Smith has been recorded as saying that he thinks that's the way things are going. Pay-per-event. He said that a fair price might be 20 dollars per event and that everyone was spending that on a coffee and a bagels anyway. Hmmm, now was that something that he let slip or just the ramblings of the Tours most 'brah' of athletes? I also think that Jordy may be wrong that surfers worldwide would part with that cash for an event. Maybe if it was Code Red Pumping Cloudbreak or another reef pass, but let's face it, most comps are not 20 dollars worth of exciting and that comes from a fan, me.
It would be pretty interesting to see what you guys would pay if anything, drop me a line through the website or leave a comment. In the mean time happy free viewing, for now...