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Wave Pools: Good or Bad for the Sport of Surfing?

Monday, June 1st, 2009

surfparkmod11There is no other sport like Surfing. I will go to the grave defending the ever changing dynamic sport that is surfing and how it’s superior to all other sports. Now obviously that’s my opinion, but there is reason to back it up. Every surf session is different. In fact, every wave is different. You can never surf the same wave and never re-create the same session. There are elements that dictate how and when a wave breaks thousands of miles before they reach the shore. In all other board sports, including snowboarding, you can replicate a situation. The kickers stay in the same spot as the run before and they remain the same size, the rails and boxes and planters and stairs will all be there exactly as you left them the day before. Pretty much nothing remains the same in Surfing from session to session.

Here in lies the problem when it comes to commercially advancing the sport. There will be a lot of people reading this that will say, surfing needs to stay core and blah blah blah. The fact remains it is already a commercial giant in terms of selling clothes and overall lifestyle and no matter how big it gets, the core reason as to why surfing is so amazing will never change as long as there are oceans and waves. In a recent ESPN article, Kelly Slater listed somethings he would like to see changed as to the way the ASP runs and operates. I very much agree with the majority of his points and I would like to address a few and see what your thoughts are.

ASP taking more control: As it is currently, the ASP organizes the events but each sponsor is in charge of marketing their events and their athletes.  How much visibility an event gets is entirely out of the ASP’s hands and up to the brand controlling the contest. Kelly mentioned it should not be this way,

“The new governing body should own and run the events, own the media, do the marketing, bring in sponsors. Right now, the ASP doesn’t own any of those things, because it didn’t do the groundwork in the beginning. Sponsors own, run and market the events. That needs to change.”

As things stand, it would not be financially feasible for the ASP to do this because there is one huge piece of the pie missing, ticket sales. You gotta pay money to go see Tony Hawk bust out on a Half pipe, or Travis Pastrana pull a double backflip. The X-Games, the Dew Tour, and all those other similar events all charge for viewing pleasure. They also sell concessions and merchandise and yes all of this doesn’t go directly into the pocket of the event organizers, but enough of it does to make a huge difference in terms of visibility and marketing. You want to watch Chris Ward and Freddy Patacchia go head to head? You walk to the beach, there are no bleachers or box seats. The ASP doesn’t see a dime from fans in comparison to all
the other boardsports and major sporting events.

wave-pool-surfing1Enter the Wave Pool: The reason the ASP doesn’t charge is because the beach is free and I don’t think that should ever change. However, the possibility of adding a wave pool into the schedule of the ASP might be the solution to generating cash to start a marketing division that solely works on promoting events and athletes without corporate brand agendas. A wave pool would provide a setting that would make the sport of Surfing more exciting and real to the everyday person. Think how many people go to the X-Games or Dew Tour that don’t skate or ride MX? They go for the entertainment. Everyone thinks surfing is amazing, everyone wishes they could do it, and everyone enjoys watching people on waves, but not everyone can get to the beach. You bring a wave pool into the mix and all of the sudden you have a format with bleachers, and sky boxes, and concessions and an event that thousands of people can watch live and millions can watch on TV. The controlled wave environment would allow for superior TV viewing as you would not be subject to weather or swells. Now, don’t get me wrong, as I stated above there is nothing that can change the dynamics of surfing and that is why it’s such a powerful experience for those that participate in it. But would adding 3-4 wave pools into the circuit dilute that element? I would say the positive visibility that would come from it would out way the negatives.

You would have a more controlled wave environment that would allow riders to go bigger, ride more waves and truly compete on a skill level as opposed to a “time the sets, take advantage of wave priority” method. Veterans often have advantage in ASP as they now how to use the current format to their advantage. And I am not saying to take that away, but every other board sport has a course that doesn’t change that allows the competition to be based solely on who does better, cleaner more technical tricks with the same opportunity given. Could you imagine watching Bruce Irons, Jamie O’brien or Dane Reynolds in a wave pool with perfect vertical lips, they would be soaring 10 ft in front of you. Riders could take more risks and perform far more technical tricks and that makes for better and more exciting competition. Look back on when the rumors that Tony Hawk was going to pull the first competition 900 at the X-Games, or when Shaun White was going to do a 1260 on the Half Pipe. Or When Travis Pastrana was going to pull a double back flip. There is drama and marketability and something that interests the average non-enthusiast viewer. People that don’t own motorcycles were emailing their friends Travis’s double backflip the next morning at work. We don’t have that yet in competitive surfing.

“Among the biggest problems with televising surfing are that traditional surfing contests are too time-consuming, that waves are too unpredictable and that judging is too nuanced for the uninitiated. But recent innovations in the competition format and the development of wave pools that could serve as surfing arenas could help bring competitive surfing to a larger audience.”  NY Times

“We would be able to schedule a contest on Friday at 6 p.m., live on TV. Picture a wave going around in a circle indefinitely. There’s a bridge over the wave for viewing, a Plexiglas bottom so fans can watch guys surf above them, and a crow’s nest in the middle so people can watch the best guys in the world surf the wave all the way around them. Kids could stand on the edge of the pool and get sprayed by their favorite surfers.” Kelly Slater

Wave pool stops should also be in land locked states or big coastal spots with no waves, the ASP could have stops in Vegas, Utah, New York, Texas, Chicago. Once the technology and end product can produce a world class break, surfing will become one of the most widely adapted and participated sports in the world. If you could truly progress your surfing in a wave pool in Vegas and then go to the coast and shred, you will have kids entering the ‘CT from places you could never imagine. Flash backs of Rick Kane from North Shore come to mind. You will see people driving with boards strapped to their roof in land locked states. You will have pro shops and local contests selling out tickets, kids going to school with sponsorship deals. Surfing will reach mainstream media as a sport, which will mean better and bigger events both in and out of the beach, better purses and better paid athletes. The entire sport will change in terms of visibility and exposure.

Whether that is good or bad? Time will tell. For the sport itself I think it will be good, for the core surfers that don’t care about world titles or ‘CT standings it will be annoying as you might be getting dropped in on by a kid from Kentucky with a bad farmer tan.

Posted in Surfing | 29 Comments »

The 2009 Dream Tour Line-Up

Monday, December 15th, 2008

asp world tourWith the Pipeline Masters coming to a close last Friday, the dust has now settled and next year’s ASP World Tour picture is becoming clear. The departure of Andy and Bruce Irons from the 2009 door has opened the door for Marlon Lipke to become the first ever German on tour.

Speaking of Andy and Bruce, with both of them failing to end up in the Top 10 on the final ratings, this is now the first time in it’s 32 year history that no surfers from Hawaii ended ranked above the 10 spot. Freddy Patacchia was the highest ranked at #12. Hopes of bringing the title back to the islands will now be resting on his shoulders as he is the only Hawaiian returning from 2008. Kekoa Bacalso and Dustin Barca round out the rest of the small Hawaii contingent for 2009.

Take a look at how the 2009 ASP World Tour is set to be stacked-

ASP World Nos. 1-10:
1. Kelly Slater (USA),
2. Bede Durbidge (AUS),
3. Taj Burrow (AUS),
4. Joel Parkinson (AUS),
5. C.J. Hobgood (USA),
6. Adrian Buchan (AUS),
7. Adriano de Souza (BRA),
8. Mick Fanning (AUS),
9. Bobby Martinez (USA)
10. Jeremy Flores (FRA).

ASP World Nos. 11-27:
11. Luke Stedman (AUS),
12. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW),
13. Andy Irons (HAW),
14. Chris Ward (USA),
15. Kai Otton (AUS),
16. Tim Reyes (USA),
17. Tom Whitaker (AUS),
18. Kieren Perrow (AUS),
19. Dayyan Neve (AUS),
20. Bruce Irons (HAW),
21. Mikael Picon (FRA),
22. Dane Reynolds (USA),
23. Taylor Knox (USA),
24. Damien Hobgood (USA),
25. Heitor Alves (BRA),
26. Jordy Smith (ZAF)
27. Ben Dunn (AUS).

The Top 15 ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) surfers in ranking order are:
1. Nathaniel Curran (USA),
2. Chris Davidson (AUS),
3. Michel Bourez (PYF),
4. Gabe Kling (USA),
5. Jihad Khodr (BRA),
6. David Weare (ZAF),
7. Josh Kerr (AUS),
8. Nic Muscroft (AUS),
9. Kekoa Bacalso (HAW),
10. Greg Emslie (ZAF),
11. Tim Boal (FRA),
12. Dustin Barca (HAW)
13. Tiago Pires (PRT),
14. Phillip MacDonald (AUS)
15. Drew Courtney (AUS).

The three 2009 tour wildcards went to injury applicants, Dean Morrison (AUS), Aritz Aranburu (EUK), and ASP WQS No. 16 Marlon Lipke (GER). Lipke will be the first German ever on the Dream Tour.

Posted in Surfing | 1 Comment »

Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro Underway

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

The first round of action was completed in Brazil today as the Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro kicked off. There were hopes for the sake of the event, as well as those who actually decided to show up, that the conditions at Imbituba would be in top form, that the story would be more about the brilliant surfing taking place than the fact that an astounding 13 out of the ASP Top 44 surfers have pulled out of the event for various reasons. That wasn’t the case however. The crumbling beach-break we’ve come to expect at the Santa Catarina Pro was in full effect.

The second to last stop on the Dream Tour was dealt an even bigger blow when world no. 5 surfer, Brazil’s own Adriano de Souza pulled out of the event at the last minute with a twisted ankle. “I’m not feeling good ,” de Souza said. I’m just getting better from a twisted ankle I injured in the Rio de Janeiro WQS, so I am not 100% which is very unlucky because I was looking to get a good result in Brazil.” That left only half of the Top 10 to take part in the event. Overall, 20 of the 48 surfers in the event hail from Brazil.
Bede Durbige, Fred Patacchia, Jeremy Flores, and Jordy Smith were among the standouts in Rd. 1. Jordy had the wave of the day with a 9.59 score after throwing two airs on the same wave. However as a result of two late interference calls, both of which could be attributed to the unpredictable surf, Jordy now finds himself in the dreaded loser’s round.

Rd. 2 will likely get going tomorrow morning. Stay tuned for more updates on the 2008 Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro

Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Taylor Knox (USA) 14.83, Ben Bourgeois (USA) 14.43, Fabio Gouveia (BRA) 7.50
Heat 2: Marco Polo (BRA) 13.27, Royden Bryson (ZAF) 11.34, Kieren Perrow (AUS) 10.60
Heat 3: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 16.50, Tanio Barreto (BRA) 12.84, Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) 9.83
Heat 4: Kai Otton (AUS) 14.67, Jay Thompson (AUS) 12.33, Gustavo Fernandes (BRA) 7.67
Heat 5: Marcio Farney (BRA) 12.00, Luke Stedman (AUS) 11.73, Heitor Alves (BRA) 11.43
Heat 6: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 16.03, Peterson Rosa (BRA) 14.84, Tiago Pires (PRT) 5.60
Heat 7: Mikael Picon (FRA) 13.67, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 12.66, Jano Belo (BRA) 10.70
Heat 8: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.33, Carybean Heleodoro (BRA) 12.67, Roy Powers (HAW) 7.63
Heat 9: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 15.33, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 14.57, Damien Hobgood (USA) 12.90
Heat 10: Mick Campbell (AUS) 13.90, CJ Hobgood (USA) 13.03, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 10.33
Heat 11: Leonardo Neves (BRA) 13.17, Tom Whitaker (AUS) 9.33, Pedro Henrique (BRA) 8.93
Heat 12: Hizunome Bettero (BRA) 14.83, Travis Logie (ZAF) 9.00, Chris Ward (USA) N/S
Heat 13: Bernardo Miranda (BRA) 10.73, Dayyan Neve (AUS) 10.33, Jihad Khodr (BRA) 7.27
Heat 14: Daniel Ross (AUS) 13.07, Tim Reyes (USA) 12.16, William Cardoso (BRA) 10.16
Heat 15: Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 16.00, Simao Romao (BRA) 12.16, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 0.00
Heat 16: Ben Dunn (AUS) 15.37, Bruno Santos (BRA) 11.47, Ricky Basnett (ZAF) 10.54

Hang Loose Santa Catarina Pro Round 2 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Carybean Heleodoro (BRA)
Heat 2: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
Heat 3: Luke Stedman (AUS) vs. Alejo Muniz (BRA)
Heat 4: Kieren Perrow (AUS) vs. Jano Belo (BRA)
Heat 5: Tom Whitaker (AUS) vs. Peterson Rosa (BRA)
Heat 6: Chris Ward (USA) vs. Gustavo Fernandes (BRA)
Heat 7: Dayyan Neve (AUS) vs. Tanio Barreto (BRA)
Heat 8: Tim Reyes (USA) vs. Fabio Gouveia (BRA)
Heat 9: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Pedro Henrique (BRA)
Heat 10: Roy Powers (HAW) vs. William Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 11: Damien Hobgood (USA) vs. Simao Romao (BRA)
Heat 12: Tiago Pires (PRT) vs. Bruno Santos (BRA)
Heat 13: Heitor Alves (BRA) vs. Ricky Basnett (ZAF)
Heat 14: Jay Thompson (AUS) vs. Jihad Khodr (BRA)
Heat 15: Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) vs. Travis Logie (ZAF)
Heat 16: Royden Bryson (ZAF) vs. Ben Bourgeois (USA)

Posted in Surfing | 1 Comment »

The State of Pro Surfing in Hawaii

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

clay marzo

It’s been 32 years since the ASP World Tour officially began. And in every year since 1976 there has been at least one Hawai’i surfer in the Top 10 come years end. With only 3 events left for the 2008 year on tour, that streak is in jeopardy of coming to an end.

With a total of 5 world championships making their way back to the islands over the past 31 years, Hawai’i’s professional surfers have always had at least some sort of impact on the world title race. However when Andy Irons unexpectedly skipped out of his 2nd round heat with Jihad Khodr at the Quiksilver Pro France, the Kauai’i surfer tumbled all the way down to no.13 in the overall ASP rankings and left Hawaii without any representation in the current Top 10. That has to be pretty strange for the place that many consider to be the epicenter of the surfing world. Even stranger than that is the real scenario that Hawai’i could go from having 5 surfers on tour in 2008 to a mere 2 on the 2009 Dream Tour.

‘08 has been anything but a smooth ride for Hawai’s current WCT surfers. Although he hasn’t been the same dominant, intimidating A.I. that we’ve come to know in recent years, Andy had been fairly consistent up until the Trestles event. He went home with a 33rd from the Trestles event, and then followed that result up with his France no-show. Brother Bruce, and current world no. 14, made his overall displeasure with the tour known by announcing his decision to bail on full-time tour status next year. In classic Bruce Irons fashion, the Volcom-rider completely blew minds on his way to winning the “Somewhere in Indo” event, and then went on to blow minds again, although in a very different way, with laying down of scores in the 2+ range during his very brief appearance at the Quik Pro.

Fred Patacchia started off the year with a frustrating leg-injury at the hands of Pipeline and it really took Fred a few events to get back into form. He finished runner-up to Bruce in Indo and, aside from his Trestle’s showing, seems to be riding some decent momentum. He’s currently sitting at no. 18 and will more than likely seal himself a spot on the ‘09 tour in the next couple of events.

Roy Powers and Pancho Sullivan round out the rest of Hawai’i’s pro-surfing contigent. Pancho, at no. 40, will definitely have to climb back on tour via the WQS next year and Roy, at no. 23, is flirting with having to do the same.

The overall future for Hawai’i’s pro’s is actually very bright. Between Clay Marzo, John John Florence, Torry Meister, Mason Ho, and many others, Hawai’i has an absolute slew of up and coming rippers that will most likely compete for the world championship for years to come. However it may be another few years before those guys are actually set to make noise on the Dream Tour. If Roy doesn’t finish in the Top 27, that basically leaves Hawai’i’s tour hopes heaped upon the enigmatic A.I., and a somewhat resurgent Freddy P. Sunny Garcia, currently no. 20 on the WQS tour, has an outside shot of being on the ‘CT next year, but even then you have to wonder about how well he’ll be able to compete with the new breed of surfing that’s taking place on tour.

So while there are still 3 events, and most importantly the Pipeline Masters left for Hawai’i’s current group of pros to make some noise, it’s been an uncharacteristically off year for the state of pro-surfing in Hawai’i. While this seems to be more of an abnormality than a sign of things to come, the possibility of having no surfers in the Top 10 come years end is something that none of us expected at the beginning of the year.

Posted in Surfing | No Comments »

Bruce Irons Wins Rip Curl Pro Search

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Bruce Irons Rip Curl Pro Winner

In what was a spectacular event that was as full of surprises as it was epic surfing, Bruce Irons took down his Hawaiian counterpart Fred Patacchia to win the 2008 Rip Curl Pro Search ‘Somewhere in Indonesia.’ The victory is the first for Irons on the WCT, and undoubtedly extra rewarding for the surfer many consider to be the ‘best freesurfer on the planet,’ as he plans to step away from full-time participation on the Dream Tour next year. “One of my goals when I joined the Tour was to win an event and I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen since I’ll be stepping away after this season,” Irons said. “But the waves pumped this event! This is what the Dream Tour should be like all the time. I’m definitely stepping away from the ASP Tour at the end of this year, but I’m not retiring. I’m still planning on competing at Pipeline and Teahupoo and at venues that I can get into.”

Aside from Bruce heading home with a huge win under his belt, the Rip Curl Pro Search saw all of the top seeds fail to take advantage of Kelly Slater’s Rd. 3 upset loss to Tiago Pires. Andy Irons, Bede Durbidge, Mick Fanning, and Joel Parkinson all let golden opportunities to make up ground in the world title race slip through their hands, all suffering losses in the 4th round. The only other surfer on tour with even an outside chance of catching Slater, Taj Burrow, did make it through the gauntlet that was Rd. 4. However his run would end in the quarterfinals as an absolutely firing Chris Ward sent the Aussie title hopeful packing, and essentially ending any hope Taj had of winning it all this year.

All other title contenders aside, Irons winning is the story of the event. There has been so much made about his stepping away following the year that it was refreshing to see him put out a performance that everyone knew he was capable of. You even got the sense that his fellow competitors were pumped on Bruce winning one before he steps aside. “It feels great to come back after a slow start to the year,” Patacchia said. “The waves were so good for this event and I’m bummed I didn’t win, but to have Bruce there and since he’s stepping away, it feels good that we kept the title within Hawaii.”

Congratulations Bruce Irons, the 2008 Rip Curl Pro Search ‘Somewhere in Indonesia’ Champion!

RIP CURL PRO SEARCH FINAL RESULTS
1 – Bruce Irons (HAW) 17.66
2 – Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 11.16

RIP CURL PRO SEARCH SEMIFINAL RESULTS
SF 1: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 10.16 def. Tiago Pires (PRT) 8.50
SF 2: Bruce Irons (HAW) 13.70 def. Chris Ward (USA) 13.50

RIP CURL PRO SEARCH QUARTERFINAL RESULTS
QF 1: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 16.50 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 14.17
QF 2: Tiago Pires (PRT) 12.00 def. Kieren Perrow (AUS) 11.34
QF 3: Bruce Irons (HAW) 19.40 def. Ben Dunn (AUS) 9.67
QF 4: Chris Ward (USA) 16.34 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 13.90

RIP CURL PRO SEARCH ROUND 4 RESULTS
Heat 1: Kai Otton (AUS) 11.67 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 10.67
Heat 2: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 19.50 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 18.40
Heat 3: Kieren Perrow (AUS) 10.00 def. Bobby Martinez (USA) 6.30
Heat 4: Tiago Pires (PRT) 13.77 def. Dayyan Neve (AUS) 5.06
Heat 5: Bruce Irons (HAW) 10.84 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 10.83
Heat 6: Ben Dunn (AUS) 15.97 def. Mikael Picon (FRA) 12.37
Heat 7: Taj Burrow (AUS) 12.43 def. Dean Morrison (AUS) 11.83
Heat 8: Chris Ward (USA) 18.17 def. Andy Irons (HAW) 11.33

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Quiksilver Pro Rd. 2 Recap

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

The second round of the Quiksilver Pro found Snapper Rocks coming back to form following several days of small-surf and uncooperative conditions. Snapper wasn’t alone in returning to it’s form as 2 time world-champ Andy Irons opened up and let loose in the opening heat of the day to put a quick end to 16 yr. old trials winner Tamaroa McCombs run and avoid what would have been an absolutely disastrous T-33rd finish for A.I. in the inaugural event of the ASP Tour. In a stark contrast to his demeanor in and out of the water during the opening round, the former world-champ sounded quite pleased with the way he surfed Tuesday, and after posting a 9.70 to seal his spot in the 3rd round he has every reason to be.

I haven’t gotten a 9 in about six months so it felt unreal. I haven’t made heats in a while and I guess I just haven’t been into it. In the offseason I really had to think about that and now I’m really psyched. I want to be here and I want to do well. I like to win heats and it feels good. It’s my new buzz.

ROOKIE WATCH – The frosh class pulled off some very impressive victories Tuesday, setting up some interesting match-ups in the upcoming 3rd round. Jordy Smith surfed a flawless heat and Dane Reynolds fired away and both move on to face Bobby Martinez and Dean Morrison respectively. Julian Wilson narrowly edged out Pancho Sullivan to move onto the 3rd round as well. This was a particularly surprising result to me as I really expected Pancho to do well with the way he had been surfing as of late.

INJURY WATCH – Fred Patacchia was unable to get the his ankle back into good enough condition and Jay “Bottle” Thompson moved on as a result. Aritz Aranburu also wasn’t able to go, giving Neco Padaratz (my dark-horse contestant) an easy pass into the next round of action.

quiksilver
asp world tour

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Pancho Wins, Patacchia Goes Pink at Monster

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Pancho Sullivan would not be denied. Dominating the Monster Energy Pipeline Pro from beginning to end, Sullivan sealed the win in what was, although sub-par by Pipeline standards, finally somewhat decent surf following a windy and rainy weekend of tiny waves.

Posting a perfect 10-point tube ride as well as the highest heat score of the event – 18.75 points out of 20, in the 30-minute final, his three rivals were all left in need of a combination of scores to turn the tables. The win earned Sullivan $7,000 and 875 World Qualifying Series ratings points. Pancho, the much heralded North Shore local, first won this event back in 2005, a result that catapulted him onto the elite ASP World Championship Tour.

An all-Hawaii affair, second and third place went to fellow WCT surfers Fred Patacchia and Roy Powers respectively, with Dustin Barca fourth. With the conditions being what they were, it was very evident that familiarity and knowledge of Pipe had local surfers in the right places at the right times, enabling them to dominate the competition.

Even though Sullivan’s perfect ten was up there, ride of the day honors has to go to Patacchia. In a classic move with 20 minutes left in the final heat, and realizing that Pancho was just too far out in front to catch, Fred decided to paddle in and trade in his surfboard for a pink bodyboard, apparently not concerned by the threat of losing money by dropping his position in the heat. When he wiped out heavily on that, he took to bodysurfing the barrel. “The thought of injury and money didn’t even enter my mind,” said Patacchia. “I was all about the win, so once I saw Pancho had it, I was done.”

monster energypancho sullivanfred pattachia

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