Sniffing out a Rebel Tour.
The WSL Championship Tour has been adrift since the cancellation of Snapper in March. Despite an update in June, CEO Erik Logan hasn’t offered anything meaningful for surf fans to look forward to. E-Lo comes from a media background and content creation is well within his wheelhouse.
However, all we’ve received these past six months is a smattering of viral Instagram clips, re-runs of contests (in no meaningful order) and shows like WSL’s Lawn Patrol that reveal nothing other than the superficial surface level personality a pro surfer is willing to part with on camera. Yes, there’s been a Taylor Steele back catalogue to dip into but most of us had worn those VHS tapes out in the 90s & noughties.
To be frank. Zero innovation. It’s been an epic fail.
Surfing and the WSL’s most celebrated figure, Kelly Slater, was in Australia for the past six months. He was sneaking down to Lennox and Sydney, and chasing swells up and down the Australian east coast. The surf has been pumping here since Autumn.
But despite Kelly’s insatiable fondness for inserting himself in the centre of surfing’s conversation, no one at the WSL had the good sense to hire a filmmaker and follow the 11x world champ around fly-on-the-wall style and document the whole thing. I would have tuned in just to see him argue with 5G conspiracy theorists (or agree with them) on Instagram.
With Qantas CEO Alan Joyce saying this week that international travel won’t be on the cards until July 2021, the hope of a 2021 Tour is now in serious jeopardy. Unless some radical ideas are put on the table immediately pro surfing’s best days are in the rearview. If you’re a CT pro what would be going through your head? The next contest is a world away. And 2020 has shown that all contracts are breakable.
But therein lies the power that Pro Surfers possess.
If they all collectively walked away from their WSL contracts en masse right now and started something new, a Rebel Tour, for example then who’s going to stop them?
Ever heard of the ‘force majeure’ clause?
- 1. 1.
unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract.
In further detail from Wikipedia:
Force majeure is a common clause in contracts that essentially frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties, such as a war, strike, riot, crime, epidemic or an event described by the legal term act of God, prevents one or both parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract. In practice, most force majeure clauses do not excuse a party's non-performance entirely, but only suspend it for the duration of the force majeure.
Now I’m no lawyer but if I was on Tour I would be combing over the fine print in the contract I signed over to Ziff and Co. and talking to my manager and fellow CT’rs about jumping off the sinking ship.
Who’s going to pick up the bill you ask?
Well, I see a couple of options.
It’s been an open secret that Red Bull has been sniffing around pro surfing for years. The WSL and Red Bull have had a frosty history kicked off when Paul Speaker was CEO. Massive deals were scuppered at the last minute with massive egos clashing. Sure, recently Red Bull came on board for the Airborne events but it felt more like an experiment rather than a full-time gig.
Red Bull could wait until the arse falls out of pro surfing’s rotting corpse and swoop in like a vulture. Innovate the sport overnight with fewer surfers on Tour, better locations, and embrace the core surf fans that have been left out in the cold. Forget endless growth, KPI’s, and leave all the Corpo-speak behind. Surfing ain’t mainstream.
Another idea is that surfing, like us, will look inward and hunker down in our respective regions. The WSL could tip their cap to the government for a regional tourism investment to underwrite the events. Just like it does already.
The Trans-Tasman travel bubble that’s been proposed could extend to the Pacific for us in the Southern Hemisphere. A regional tour could emerge which would seed a more diverse mix of surfing locations and personalities.
Adopt the same blueprint for Europe, South America, and North America respectively. South Africa could use the whole African continent to scour waves.
The top surfers of each continent or region then qualify for an end of season Triple Crown playoff event in Hawaii. Best surfer wins.
It’s old school and bullish and I don’t have every detail nutted out but it’s a start.
Adapt or get passed by – that’s the reality for the WSL, not just a prospect anymore.
Comment below if you have an alternative.