He is gone now and I am poorer for it.
My phone lit up like a pachinko game early this Japanese morning and of course you know why. The World Surf League’s CEO Paul Speaker has resigned. He has left the building. And many smiling faces and thumbs up and “whoas!” “yeses!” and “wows!” filled my screen.
But my own heart sank like a stone. Like a boulder to the bottom of the sea.
If you are a regular here you know that I have made it a part-time job to kick at Herr WSL CEO and I have taken that part time job very seriously. Why did I kick so often? So relentlessly? So pointlessly? For so long? Oh my memory is a rotted husk but if I sift through its soft bits I think I can find the root. And it is this.
Paul Speaker would never kick back.
I don’t know what surfing meant to him since he didn’t do it himself but the way he went about trying to sell it was, in my estimation, ludicrous. I believe, truly, that professional surfing is the most beautiful expression in the world. That old and young can discover and appreciate. That the possibilities for growth are endless. That it can be explained to the non-surfer and understood by them.
But it all starts with the rabble. For those of us addicted enough to wake up at 3 am to watch Jadson Andre vs. Wiggolly D. It starts with the junkies. And BeachGrit is the home of the junkie rabble. You and I and Nick Carroll and Matt Warshaw and Longtom and Derek Rielly. We are not of the “pro surfing is lame” set.
We love this game and love it more than any other.
And Paul Speaker should have recognized this. He should have drank a cup of concrete, hardened the fuck up and come a’ callin.
His predecessor did.
I kicked at then ASP CEO Brodie Carr when I first started covering the tour so many years ago. I poked at his clothes, at his style, at his overall deal yet he did not run and hide. He took my barbs with the most gregarious laugh and smashed me on the arm wrestling table and we have been wonderful friends ever since.
I wanted to be wonderful friends with WSL CEO Paul Speaker too. I wanted him to call me up one day out of the blue and say, “Is this Chas Smith? Oh you are a worthless cocksucker. Come up to Santa Monica and let’s drink some whiskey.”
I wanted to help him help professional surfing get better. I loved landing shots on his big cornfed jaw. I wanted to be his pal. But none of this will now happen or ever happen again.
WSL CEO Paul Speaker is gone, and I am poorer for it.