WSL tour manager, Renato Hickel, opens up on the future of the WSL
It’s so hard to tell if the interview with Renato Hickel is sanctioned by the WSL or not. It seems a little bit out of place, that an organization with such an extensive and highly skilled marketing team and a deep pool of skilled Public Relations experts would leave it up to him to break such intense news to the public. But there it is. Pay per view is possibly coming, in a sort of tiered format, Trestles is going to be a 10,000 and Cloudbreak is going to return, among other things.
As tour manager, Renato is the guy that hands out fines when the surfers get rowdy. He takes no backchat from anyone, and if a surfer storms the tower, loses his temper, comments inappropriately in an interview or discredits the sport in any other way, he dishes out fines and penalties without a second thought. It’s his job. Filipe Toledo, Jeremy Flores and obviously Bobby Martinez have all felt his wrath, and many more.
He also banned Jake Paterson and Damian Fahrenfort from commentating, after feeling offended by some of their comments at the Quikkie Pro France 2013 - talking live about betting a beer on a heat result is not on.
Full Renato Hickel interview here -
Let’s also not forget that he was probably involved in erroneously awarding Kelly Slater his 11th crown one heat too soon due to a calculation error. This ultimately led to the ASP CEO Brodie Carr taking the fall and vacating his office, resigning from his position as a direct result of that mistake.
So this interview is quite extra-ordinary in its timing and delivery, as well as the news within.
The biggest takeaway is the talk about Pay Per View. According to Hickel, there will be different tiers, with the standard viewership remaining free, but for those wanting a bit more, it’ll be time to sign up, to register their credit card with WSL banking.
The higher tier, which Hickel calls “premium, or platinum, or gold package, or whatever it’s called…” will give access to i) backstage interviews and ii) different angles, and thus far that’s pretty much it.
There will most definitely be zealous fans willing to part with their credit card digits to access this world, but how many will succumb is the real question. It’s all about the numbers.
The other takeaway is the wave pool format. Hickel mentions the ‘round robin’ format, a fairly mundane way of running through heats. Hickel even makes mention of this eliminating any sense of rivalry, which is a real pity, because rivalry is the one thing that gets everyone amped, gets blood boiling, and brings out passion in those surfers involved in the clashes, as well as all the fans who have chosen sides. It’s natural to choose a side, and it often happens on a subconscious level. To eliminate a possibility of rivalry (in a round robin format surfers will not have one-on-one heats) is a bit disappointing.
The first piece of good news is the possible return of Trestles, which was lost simply because Hurley was over it and not because the Lemoore wave pool replaced it. The second piece of good news is the possible return of Cloudbreak, which was struck off the tour because the Fijian government was over it.
There is much resting on the success of the wave pool event though. Tucked in between Tahiti and France, Hickel believes that the Surf Ranch Open is going to pave the way to signings with major networks like NBC and Globo.
This is truly exciting, and a major breakthrough in the WSL’s yearning for mainstream acceptance, but there are many people with trepidation regarding the lack of variety that the wave pool delivers. Is repetitive perfection the way forward, or are the engineers going to throw a few wobbles into the delivery, chugging out a couple of lemons among all those perfect waves? Can those same engineers suck a bit more green energy into their system to make the delivered waves bigger, faster or more hollow? Will giant fans deliver an onshore / cross-shore breeze that will turn the perfection into ramp city?
The mind begins to boggle.