Quik Slashes

Ouch, that is the word that comes to mind upon hearing that Quiksilver is slashing, well, everything but the absolute core of the company.

Perhaps it’s time that this happened. While the global financial crisis hit many smaller companies very hard, the big boys of the surf industry continued to drive onward and upward, with investments in marketing, contests, team, etc. expanding rather than contracting.

The first signal of note that times were a changin’ was Nike’s dissolution from surfing in November, shoeing most of their riders to the Hurley team. Now Quik is keeping nothing but their very top “A” squad. I’d say it’s a pretty sure bet we’ll never see the Quik Pro NY chapter 2. Shame.

There are rumblings in the industry that Billabong will be next. If that happens, the future of the World Tour will be interesting. Will the new media partner, ZoSea, be able to deliver on their promise of modeling pro surfing after the “major” sports without the backing of the big boys in the surf industry?

It’s possible that events could look very different in the future. But in some way, some form, pro surfing will continue to exist. Thrive? Skeptical. But in any case, the waves have been firing. Surf brands, riders, contests, pros… Do they all even matter once you take off? It’ll never be about all that, and all of them. Surfing, that is.

Notes on the ASP and its future

"May end years of stagnation in the sport."

What was dubbed “The Dream Tour” by the ASP several years ago has buckled under tightened budgets and a bad business plan. Though the ASP has grown and shown areas of positive improvement, the one area it was seriously lacking was in media ownership.

Now, Kelly Slater’s manager has swooped in and purchased the media rights to the ASP, as announced on The Australian here. This move, in itself is a smart, calculated move by Terry Hardy, Slater’s manager. ZoSea is the name of his team’s entity, and their move should have several positive effects on the ASP in the future.

The ASP deserves credit for knowing enough to know they don’t have the mettle to grow into a thriving and growing worldwide sport tethered directly to the same companies that backed the surfers, and funded many of their careers. The lessened influence and ownership of events by the surf companies is a huge box checked, if that is in fact achieved.

But what does that make of Kelly Slater? Does this stamp 2012 as his last year on tour? Will he be a force in some form of media output to come from this new deal? After all, his manager’s team is bringing dollars and taking ownership stake. Would it be fair and right for Slater to stay in the hunt for a title when the man who runs his business affairs owns a share of the ASP?

I wasn’t being prescient when I posted this about Slater being the ASP. In fact, maybe now he will be in ways we never imagined. It would be interesting to hear from Slater on how much of the shaping of this deal came from his input.


Kelly Slater is…

image © Association of Surfing Professionals

He is the ASP. It’s been said in various ways before, but it’s never been so evident and there for the world to see. Appearing on the Jim Rome Show, Slater was direct and self-aware, as per usual.

Rome teed up the pink elephant in the room, delving into the debacle during the San Francisco contest last year, when the ASP proclaimed Slater the champion too early. But it wasn’t Rome pulling the dirty details out of Slater, it was the king himself who let loose that the ASP tried to put the muzzle on him about it.

Maybe Rome was hypnotized by the Slater stare, or maybe there was just no need to do anything but let the best surfer in the world completely discredit the governing body of his sport. One can only respect Slater’s decision to self-report the error to the ASP and through social media, and do things the right way. That’s what his whole career has been about. Check the video for yourself, then keep reading below.

It’s never been more obvious that the ASP is Kelly Slater. Without him it is a torpid, stumbling, banana republic of an organization. The world wants to see Kelly; the rest of the field is only there as attractive fodder. Sad but true.

Once Kelly decides to ride out into the sunset, what then for professional surfing? There is no one surfer that will replace him and what he represents to the sport, in terms of legitimizing it in the mind of the average sports fan. Now that’s not the death knell of surfing, as Kelly will always be considered a master of the art. And surfers will keep surfing on as always. But it certainly could be the final blow for the sport as administrated by the ASP.


Flowrider-the fresh(water) way to surf

Turning on the Flowrider

On a recent trip to the Gulf Coast of Florida I was lamenting the fact that I wouldn’t be surfing. Not for a lack of access to ocean or gulf, but for the insipid surf forecast for both coasts. A natural salt water surf session clearly was not to be in the cards.

Flowrider wipeout
This is what the first bunch of (attemtped) rides looked like. Trying to bodysurf it? No, wipeout.

So I was stoked when I arrived in Clearwater Beach and saw the sign for the Flowrider, which was housed inside one of those hokey wanna-be surf shops along the beach strand. Not that the option of riding a high speed sheet of water could ever outshine riding an ocean-borne wave, but what the hell, I figured it would make for some boarding fun. And after this miserable Winter of waves, that was just fine with me. Nevermind that notable surf-scribe Matt Warshaw once compared riding a Flowrider to “sex with a blow-up doll”, sometimes a down and dirty fix is needed, fake or not.

Flowrider ride
Gettin' the Flowrider hang of things.

With 21 years of wave riding under my belt I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous at the idea of totally kooking out on this thing. The potential for that was very real–I’ve heard pro surfers talk about how hard it was to grasp riding one of these things. And I also recalled the Flowrider scene in Endless Summer II, where many body-slamming wipe outs were taken by well-known surfers.

In any case I was feeling intrepid, and also was relieved to find just one other surfer enjoying a stationary surfing session. And he was just 9 or 10 years old. The worker dude was the only other one inside the wave room, and he seemed to roll his eyes when I informed him of my “real” surfing experience while also pleading for his help in getting up and riding.

I started out by edging the board off of the lip of the front of the wave while holding on to the rookie rope, which was held by the worker dude. He slowly let out some slack until… Floosh, I was unceremoniously whipped upside down and whisked up and over the wave by the jet of water. And again, and again. This was turning out exactly how I hoped it wouldn’t. But I didn’t give up, even taking pointers from the young kid who was riding the thing fairly well. When I found out he was from Canada and had never surfed, my pride kicked in–after all it was I who should be schooling this youngun in the way of the wave.

The aha moment came a few attempts later. Lean way back on the back foot, worker dude said, almost like when stalling a “real” surfboard on an ocean wave. Riding a board about the size of a large skateboard, flotation wasn’t a factor in keeping upright and riding–it was all about keeping that small board from being sucked under the water flow. And I was up and riding, for about 1.3 seconds.

I kept at it and before long I had mastered standing there like a statue, gliding to the top of the wave and back down. Trying to engage the rail for a turn only had me being hucked off the machine in all sorts of contorted positions, as my whip-lashed neck would attest the next day. Yet like the mole in a whack-a-mole game I kept popping back up for more, determined to get some turns going and display at least a modicum of style. Who ever knew sex with a blow up doll could be so painful?

Turning on the Flowrider
Gettin some style points.

The session lasted 30 minutes, and by about the twenty minute mark I was starting to grow out of the training wheels, getting little turns going and enjoying the ride rather than feeling like I was in survival mode. And by the end of the session I was getting the feeling down, engaging the rail and carving turns across the sheet of water. Fun… Artificial, but fun.

Yeah, so what if this is the silicone toy equivalent in the surf world? Fun is where you find it, and when the Gulf of Mexico is guaranteed to be flat flat flat, a little chlorinated, manufactured fun is called for.