With so much poop flying around about this huge mammoth in the room (new WSL schedule) it's kind of hard to make sense of anything. Then I had a moment of clarity. It came as I read one of the comments reacting to the WSL schedule for 2018/19. I would credit the author but the comment has either been deleted or lost in the swirling vortex that is today's ether madness.
To quote one of my 6 year old son's favourite books, Captain Underpants, "Before I can tell you that story, I have to tell you this story." While you are digesting this narrative I would like you bear in mind one question. Does Bobby Martinez have a time machine?
Backstory. In case you were too young to remember, living on another planet or not into surfing at that time.
Bobby Martinez is one of the most talented, raw and honest goofy-foot surfers the world has ever seen. Many would say that he is not the sharpest tool in the box but I would not be one of them as he also has wild martial arts skills and it's not that difficult to find out where I live.
Bobby won the Billabong Pro Tahiti twice in 2006 and in 2009 and the Billabong Pro Mundaka twice in 2006 and 2007. Both of these are gnarly waves to say the least. Bobby's rail work alone puts him up there as one of the best goofy-foots of all time not to mention his tube-riding prowess. Everything was going well for Bobby in his career and then he had a melt-down 'on air' during the Quiksilver Pro New York in 2010 during his post heat interview. The evidence is below:
Yes, Bobby had a reputation for being outspoken and so those who knew him were not as surprised as those of us who did not know him. At the time we thought he was mad, throwing his career away, ranting away on air, but looking at the state of the surf industry and the WSL today you do have to ask yourself that question. Did he know this was going to happen? I am not sure I am ready to believe that Bobby is a prophet or clairvoyant and so see the next logical answer. He had a time machine. That's right you heard it here first, we believe Bobby Martinez has invented time travel.
So now on to the beef of this article sandwich. What the actual flip is going on in the world of competitive surfing ,or at least the World Surf League part of it?
Let us look at the changes the WSL have made recently and try and work out what's going on. We are not going to talk about the management changes too much because that is by now common knowledge and we have already foretold that nothing good would come next. The Pay-Per-View King of the KFC (sorry UFC) and the Golf Tour Lady are weaving their corporate magic and that is that. Instead I am going to ask myself some questions prompted in part by the comment from Mr or Mrs Unknown mentioned at the start of this text.
A quick look at the WSL Schedule Changes for 2018:
Mens: Fiji has been replaced by Keramas in Indo which is a premium location for spectators if you have the $$$. Trestles has been replaced by THE wavepool event at Kelly's place, one imagines this stop will be pay per spectator, tickets for cash that sort of thing.
Womens: Cascias, Portugal has gone and has been replaced by mirrored events of the men's schedule of Indo, J-Bay and of course THE wavepool at Kelly's place. The women will no longer surf in Portugal.
SB: Are the WSL aware of what the surfing world thinks of these changes?
James: You bet your arse they are. This whole thing has been planned and thunk out way way back in history. The fact is, they don't care about what we (surf fans that surf) think. I have come to realise that we have been sacked as fans. We are no longer the demographic they are targeting.
SB: Uuuurg, what do you mean? How can they survive with out us? Surely we are the ones that watch the webcast?
James: Yes, Surf Bunker, you have hit the nail on the head. We ARE the ones that watch the webcast and we DO surf. The reality as I see it (the job of Mr KFC and Little Mrs Golf) is to bring surfing coverage to the masses. To those that don't surf. To make televised surfing a sport that everyone can enjoy, regardless of their geographical location or penchant to be submersed in liquid because everyone has got money right? There are a lot more non-surfers in the world than surfers, that is a fact.
SB: Quite frankly we think you have missed the point, why would the WSL want to do that? Why get rid of fans?
James: Good Lord, this is painful. Let me spell it out for you. How many people who watch Formula One or Nascar actually drive race cars? How many people who watch tennis actually play tennis? or football? You can ask the same of all successful, lucrative televised sports. Their fan-base is far greater than just those that participate regularly in that sport. It's not that they want to us (surfers) gone from viewing but more that their business model assumes we will continue watching, if not then meh, who cares.
SB: Everyone that you hear talking about the changes from the industry side of things sounds pumped, surely it can't be all bad?
James: That's an interesting point and I am glad you brought it up. Have you stopped to consider that all these changes are the beginning of one thing. Cash money for all those involved. The athletes are looking at a massively increased fan-base, salary, exposure and endorsements. If the wavepool event is a success it will mean no lay days, and guaranteed waves so they can showcase their skills. It will no longer be about luck, set waves, heavy wipeouts or all the other things that make it like real surfing and also inspire me as a person to tune in. The whole industry stands to make money out of this transition and they are along for the ride.
SB: You sound a bit upset about it, it's not all that different than last year's tour surely?
James: Wow, you just seem to be asking me all the questions that I want to answer. No I am not upset about this schedule exactly, in fact I am interested to see how it pans out but I am a little miffed in what the introduction of this wavepool event signifies and the rumours (unconfirmed) about the 2019 schedule. I have heard (again unconfirmed) that the tour will undergo a massive makeover for 2019. These are a few things I have heard, Pipeline is to be the beginning of the tour in January, followed by Peniche, Portugal in February, then one a month until September when, for the final event, the top six will be invited to the wavepool for a (no doubt pay-per-view) showdown. Welcome to the Superbowl of surfing, some might call it a Tennis Tour. Wait, hang on, someone did.
We will be emailing Bobby Martinez (not a joke) to ask him what he thinks about this shambles and to see what his take on this is. His response will be awaited with the wettest of anticipation. Oh yeah and we will be sure to ask him where he got his hands on a flux capacitor.