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Beach Grit

WSL CEO: “Wow, this exists?”

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Come read Sophie Goldschmidt's vision for the surf future!

I had the opportunity to meet Sophie Goldschmidt, the World Surf League’s chief executive, at Surf Ranch alongside the most important surf journalists of our day (minus Steve Shearer, Matt Warshaw and David Lee Scales) at a small Mexican restaurant on Lemoore’s main drag. I cannot properly recall if she was drinking margaritas or not, nor if she ordered a chimichanga, but I was happy for professional surfing that she was there.

Her predecessor, Mr. Paul Speaker, did not possess the temerity for face to face meetings. If I’m allowed to parse his brief run at the top, I would say that he believed in surfing without surfers. That he could take the core physical/competitive activity, burn off the ugly cancers, repackage and sell it to the rest of the world. Bigger than football. Bigger than life.

Unfortunately for him, surfing’s ugly cancers metastasized long ago and cannot be cut away.

Ms. Goldschmidt seems to recognize this fact, see her meeting at a small Mexican restaurant and read her words in a new, wide ranging ESPN W interview. It is well worth a read. My favorite bit was when first told about professional surfing, her response was, “Wow, this exists?”

I also enjoyed her take on the new Facebook partnership.

We feel for our long-term growth, we need to invest in technology in our events, in the infrastructure that we’re building out around our operations, in the Kelly Slater Wave Company, in our marketing and communications resources. I wouldn’t say we’re niche, but we’re not nearly as mainstream as we’d like to be. We’re really in audience-growth mode. We were so excited to expand our Facebook deal, which was pretty groundbreaking for us. One of the key reasons we went with it is because it’s free. You don’t have to pay to watch content on Facebook, and that’s really important to us. Maybe some at some point down the road, we will have some kind of subscription service for content, but I think, philosophically, it’s always going to be important that a significant amount of our content is available for free. It’s kind of the surfing ethos to a certain extent.

Gross, unrealistic expectations certainly are the surfer’s ethos. No wonder Paul Speaker tried to perform surgery.