WSL CEO Paul Speaker is basically selling the PacSun model. Oops.
As anti-depressive as our wonderful BeachGrit is, sometimes hard truth must be looked in the eye. And a hard truth is that the surf industry is in deep and abiding depression. The appetite for surf apparel etc. has, more or less, completely dried up after a few decades of rolling good times. Kids in Kansas City don’t want Rip Curl t-shirts anymore. They don’t want to step foot in a PacSun.
The reasons are many and varied. We have a small video presentation on the horizon featuring the wonderful Michael Tomson addressing systemic failure. A major component, though, is that those who don’t surf just don’t care. And while the numbers of actual surfers is growing at a normal-ish rate, it doesn’t grow enough to legitimize massive businesses. And so Quiksilver files for bankruptcy. Then PacSun. Sport Chalet filed yesterday and they carry lots of Hurley, Billabong, etc. Dark-ish days.
And over to the World Surf League. The whole Speaker model is based off non-surfers embracing the action, right? Of non-surfers tuning in because they like the game just like non-baseball players tune in to Major League Baseball or non-football players tune in to the National Football League. Yeah? That’s where his millions upon millions of viewer projections come from. Motherfucking jerseys etc.
CEO Paul Speaker doesn’t surf. You know that, of course, and that is totally fine. The problem, though, is that only surfers consume the product the WSL is peddling. And surfers are the only group they take entirely for granted. I’ve been begging insiders for an interview with CEO Paul Speaker since the inception of your third favorite surf gossip website (BeachGrit). I never hear back and never will hear back even though we are, for better or worse, his market. It would be like NBA commissioner Adam Silver or NFL commissioner Rog Goodell refusing to look at ESPN. Of course we are not ESPN but has Speaker spoken with Surfline, Surfing or Australia’s Surfing Life? No. Because he thinks he has bigger fish to fry. Unfortunately those bigger fish are watching soccer or something.
Ziff money can only take massive losses for five years (I think) before the venture becomes a “hobby” and no longer gets to suck money. Let’s say there are three more years worth of minimal tourist board sponsorship dollars before Ziff tanks the thing. Will we miss it? Will we miss the dream tour?
Unfortunately, and to add to the depression, yes. Or at least I will.
P.S. Mr. WSL CEO Paul Speaker…If you are reading, and I know you are because you definitely have Google Alerts and BeachGrit stories about you account for a full 4/4 of those…I still promise to stop joking about you for one interview. One. Only one. 1. And I won’t even ask about your love of skiing backwards.