The World Surf League died today during Round 3 Heat 3. It might be missed.
On Monday, one-time boy-band impresario and lifelong con-man World Surf League died at the age of 45 of absolute boredom in the Round 3 Heat 3 matchup between Matt Banting and Jordy Smith in the Tahiti Billabong Pro. Those who knew it best were pretty much satisfied with that ending.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, however, World Surf League (then called Association of Surfing Professionals) was celebrated, admired and even adored, an affable King Midas of surf with a magnetic personality. It was a walking exercise in irony: The middle-aged, nasal-voiced, balding and 300-plus-pound Queens, New York, native surrounded itself with chiseled, underage surfers.
It didn’t invent surfing, but the ones it formed dominated brands, shattered boardshort records and helped propel the industry toward a multi-billion dollar run, the largest ever at the time. WSL/ASP started Kelly Slater and Andy Irons but followed its two biggest acts with a long tail of less-successful others: O-Town, LFO, Joel Parkinson, Take 5, Mick Fanning, Natural, Aaron Carter, Ace Buchan, Adriano de Souza, Matt Wilkinson, Italo Ferreira, Sebastian Zietz, Kolohe Andino, Wiggolly Dantas, Dusty Payne, Nat Young, Stuart Kennedy, Adam Melling, Alejo Muniz, Ryan Callinan, Bede Durbidge, Timothee Biso.
Etc. etc. etc.
Many who did business with WSL, though, remember it as a financial criminal. In 2008, it was convicted of two counts of conspiracy, one count of money laundering and one count of making false statements during a bankruptcy proceeding. It was sentenced to 300 months in prison, one for every million investigators said it stole in a massive Ponzi scheme involving fake savings accounts and a fake professional surf tour business.
If the league once known as “Big Poppa” to its beloved boys had his way, the story of its legacy would begin and end with its surf success and influence. But its later life was dominated by desperation to prove it was worthy of the credit it gave itself.
It all came undone during Round 3 Heat 3 when Matt Banting and Jordy Smith did not surf leaving Martin Potter and Joe Turpel to blabber about nothing for 35 full minutes.
It might be missed but not for many many many years.