What the WSL (and a mountain lifestyle blog) is missing about its fanbase.
What a fantastic few days of professional surfing we all just experienced. Monumental even. Each professional surf fan across the globe pleasantly surprised by joy. 100s of people, sometimes even 1000s watching Filipe Toledo grab the reigns and bear down on the rest of the League. Does anyone now stand a chance? Can anyone knock him out of the Jeep Leaderboard Yellow Yellow Jersey?
Sure, the Facebook rollout was, can we say, less than ideal. Laughable even but we professional surf fans endured and applauded at the end. Oh, not the Facebook rollout nor Facebook nor the rising tide of surf fascism no no no. We applauded the show, the whole show, and we laughed at the WSL and we laughed at each other and we laughed in the warm sun and felt happy even though 100s, sometimes 1000s, of angry emoji faces rained down upon the feed.
When I read the World Surf League response to the botched rollout I almost felt sorry for Soph et. al.
Our switch to Facebook was to enable the entirety of our audience to continue to view each event for free, and also to further expand our fanbase throughout the world.
That being said, we apologize for any issues you may have experienced during our transition over the last two days and we hope you continue to enjoy the Corona Open J-Bay.
There has been much conversation about the concurrent viewership number displayed in the top-left corner of our live broadcast.
The number displayed on your stream does not represent the total concurrent audience viewing the event. Because we’re serving localized ads against our programming, what you’re seeing is the audience total for the regional stream that you’re connected to.
The total cumulative audience will be defined as the summation of all regional streams across all platforms and connected devices.
In short, what you’re seeing is a much lower number of people viewing than actually are.
Certainly cute but something seemed… off and I couldn’t quite tell what until this morning when that damned outdoor lifestyle blog residing almost spitting distance from Venice, California posted the story Opinion: The WSL’s Facebook Live Stream is Proof that Surf Fans are Fickle A$$holes.
Shall we read a paragraph together? No? Well, will you humor me? I’m still smarting from Instagram stealing my surf-related meme account.
We’re a fickle bunch. Remember when we hated the ASP? We called for more professionalism. We called for better webcasts. We called for legitimacy. Now we have the WSL, with its Sophie Goldschmidts and Dirk Ziffs and droning commentators and jerseys with numbers and athlete profiles. We have (had?) a webcast that worked with heats on demand and heat analyzers. We had it! But we hated it. We shouted for change. We shouted for a better viewer experience and we shouted for no experience at all. Now, the WSL’s weird switch to Facebook Live has given us something else to shout about.
And leave it to The damned Inertia to push out ill-thought propaganda whilst trying to be radical. Core surf fans are not fickle at all. Core surf fans endure all manner of ’89 world champ and strange Kieren Perrow calls and bizarre judging decisions and extreme time zones and the World Surf League itself in order to simply watch surfing.
Surf fans may even be the most long-suffering of any sort of fans on earth.
The World Surf League, while chasing non-endemic dollars and the giant pool of “potential” utterly ignore the core while also shaming us with their condescending “…enable the entirety of our audience to continue to view each event for free…”
For free. Like they are doing you and me and Longtom and that one guy on Twitter a humongous favor by offering each event for free.
That is where they are totally and completely wrong.
The World Surf League has zero idea what the core surf fan wants because they have studiously ignored her and him from inception. The ASP may have been clunky but its CEO, Brodie Carr, was himself a core surf fan and never shied from arm wrestling another one. The ASP was a reflection of its derelict base. The WSL is a reflection of branded marketing.
But hope springs eternal! Soph, Backward Fin Beth, Herr Speaker… I know you all read BeachGrit. Pop into the comments and ask for honest feedback from the greatest surf fans on earth. You won’t be sad! Or maybe for a second you will be but if you stick around long enough you’ll discover what makes professional surfing special and how you can exploit that for great gain while charging many dollars per contest and re-alienating everyone.
The world is still your oyster!