WSL CEO: “Surfing is a counterculture-type sport and progressive for different, maybe political reasons!”

Very cryptic.

I don’t know about you, but I like our Dear General Secretary World Surf League CEO Sophie Goldschmidt. We haven’t spoken much, just a few pleasantries at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch, but… I don’t know. There’s something about her. A spark. And glimmer. Like she could pitch an office chair from Santa Monica’s High Castle in a fit of explosive rage. Like she could have all her enemies killed overnight and never lose that little smile.

Anyhow, she gave a wide-ranging interview yesterday to SportsPro and let’s tuck into some highlights.

On today… “The reasons I took the role have been even more firmly reinforced. The sport’s at an incredibly exciting tipping point. Momentum is building in all sorts of ways. I’ve pretty much loved every minute of it.”

On growth potential… “We have so many different aspects to surfing, both the high-performance, elite end of the sport but it transitions into lifestyle, I think, more authentically than any other sport. That’s a real opportunity, and then also growing the profile of these athletes.”

On the Olympics… “I think we both need each other. The Olympics has done an amazing job, especially over the last few Games, and they’re evolving all the time. But I think they’re aware that there are certain segments of the population out there that maybe don’t resonate as much with it. And I think surfing definitely offers something very different.”

On wave tanks… “I think it’s important to state that the ocean has never been more important to us; the variability, the fact that [the athletes are] also competing with Mother Nature, as well as each other, makes the sport truly unique. But this is very complementary for all of the reasons I mentioned – it allows us to go to markets we could never have dreamed of, to be properly programmable from a TV perspective, to engage with audiences in different ways.”

On building two wave tanks in Paris… “We have one in Lemoore, which is our pilot facility. To be honest, we never thought we’d have events there but it’s just gone so well and the technology has become so robust that we are using that. But we’re building one in Florida; we’re also going to be building one in Tokyo, in Australia, in Brazil, likely LA, and we’re looking at building a couple in Paris.”

On being an agent of change… “I think I’m able to be a bit of an agent for change – again, the timing is right. But I’m not afraid to take some risks and be innovative and when you’re trying to punch above your weight, which surfing is as a sport – you know, we’re an emerging sport – we can have that challenger mentality. We have the flexibility because of the structure to act that way, which is incredibly exciting.”

All very great but tucked into the middle of the interview was a very cryptic passage, one that I’m having difficulty in really nailing down the meaning. Would you like to try with me? Ok here we go.

“It’s always been known as a kind of counterculture-type sport and progressive for different, maybe political or other reasons. But actually, considering it’s all about the ocean and nature, they’re really open-minded. I mean, the athletes have been fantastic. We’ve changed a lot, we’ve tried a lot this year and they’ve really embraced it, which is great. That hasn’t always been my experience in sports so that’s a real positive for what we’re trying to do.”

Got it? What does this first sentence mean to you?

“It’s always been known as a kind of counterculture-type sport and progressive for different, maybe political or other reasons.”

To me it would mean that surfers are a little rebellious and… no, throwing the “maybe political or other reasons” in really confuses though it confuses less when the following sentence is included. “But actually, considering it’s all about the ocean and nature, they’re really open-minded.”

To contrast “counter-culture type progressive for different maybe political or other reasons” with “But actually, considering it’s all about the ocean and nature, they’re really open-minded.” can only mean one thing.

Our Dear General Secretary Sophie Goldschmidt believes surfers are far-right and probably racist, sexist, ageist too but with hearts of gold.


Is there another reading?


Help: “I just got burned by a thirteen-year-old girl!”

Surf travel stories are the glue that holds us all together.

(Colin Wiseman is content director for the world’s last snowboard magazine)

I was two paddles deep, looking over the edge, when her tanned little legs blasted my face with salt spray. I pulled back and watched her disappear down the line, find the lip, disappear again.

“I just got burned by a 13-year-old girl,” I muttered.

No one was listening. And if they were, they didn’t care.

It was a clean, clear morning with overhead waves—heavy for a low-intermediate surfer like me. A light offshore breeze. Idyllic. A long period swell rolled off open ocean and jacked up into peeling walls and thumping closeouts over the cobbled bottom, with the occasional barrel on the inside. Far removed from the beginner free-for-all of Cerritos, this was a spot worth some respect, with a small local crew equal parts Mexican and expat.

They mostly seemed nice. Except for this princess of the Baja. I’d been sitting in the perfect position when she appeared from the inside, spun, and kicked water up my zinc-stained nostrils.

The worst kind of burn.

There were five or six folks in the water at this quiet break near Todos Santos, and all seemed down to share. Except this one dude sitting out the back. He eyed me as the girl paddled back out. She sat close to him and spoke, unsmiling. That must be dad. Fuckin’ dad.

I fumed and ran scenarios of what would have happened if I’d kept paddling. Would I have met dad on the beach? Bowled over a 90-pound teenage girl for a wave? Had dad had spotted me swimming down the line earlier and told her to go burn the gringo photographer? Fuckin’ dad. Must be dad’s fault.

On the next set, she dropped in momentarily, then kicked out. Either this girl ran the break or there was something I didn’t know. Maybe it was the kooky hat I wore to keep my pale PNW sniffer hidden from the blistering sun, a dead giveaway of foreign affiliation.

I found a few more shoulders and went in. My friend Devon was already on the beach. He’d been here a few weeks, rents a house nearby for a month every fall. I’ve been joining him for a week or two for the past five years, working my way up to this wave, finally starting to feel it a bit.

“I got burned by a 13-year-old girl,” I told him.

“Oh her? They live here. They’re from France. They used to live in a bus, moved here so they could have a house and she could work on her surfing.”

Apparently, she’s got CT dreams, and so does dad. Devon’s the kind of guy who talks to everyone. He’s got his own 13-year-old daughter with a competitive drive in snowboarding. He seemed to be proud of this little drop-in artist.

“She does surf pretty well,” I admitted, watching her draw backside lines, catching three times as many waves as anyone else. “Still doesn’t mean she should drop in like that.”
When we left for breakfast she was still out there, hammering away at the lip like a metronome.


A week later, I paddled out at Cerritos. The most popular break in the area, with drive-up access, board rentals and an easy rip out the back, it’s usually packed with sunburned gringos on foamies wearing sunglasses. But this day it was big, unruly, only a few people out. I was with my friend Barry, usually a longboarder, who decided his fish was more appropriate for the day.

We fought our way through a closed out inside bar, took position, and waited. A set came my way. I dropped, heading left. And there she was again, skimming down the line in front of me. But she kicked out. When I reached the end of my ride and paddled past, she held up her hand.

“Sorry,” she said with a smile.

I waved back. “No worries.”

Maybe there’s hope for the expat youth after all. Or maybe she was just taking pity on me.

Report: Chris Brown fell off cliff, drowned, “while under the influence of a high level of methamphetamine,” says coroner.

"He sustained blunt force injuries that were significant enough that he was unable to remove himself from the surf line and drowned as a result." 

Meth, hell of a drug ain’t she. The Santa Babs Police Department has reported that the former pro Chris Brown, who was forty eight, was “under the influence of a high level of methamphetamine” when he fell from a cliff and drowned two weeks ago.

“According to the investigation and toxicology reports, the decent was under the influence of a high level of methamphetamine when descended from a cliff to a rocky surf line below,” said police spokesman Anthony Wagner. “He sustained blunt force injuries that were significant enough that he was unable to remove himself from the surf line and drowned as a result.”

In an interview about his influence, and place in surfing, Matt Warshaw, surf historian, told me, “He had the talent to be a world-title contender but wasn’t interested. He had zero talent for big surf, at first, but that part of the sport really intrigued him, so he just pegged himself up year after year till he was really good at it… He paddled out at Mavs the first time that morning Jay Moriarity got his famous wipeout. On the cover of the magazines, you see Jay floating up there like Jesus hammered to the cross, and maybe the 10th time you look at the shot you notice a blond guy sitting on his board down at the bottom of the page. That’s Chris. The story was he paddled out, saw Jay’s wave, turned around and paddled to shore and drove back to Santa Barbara. But the great part is, the next swell, he drove back up to Mavs and did it.”

A service for Brown will be held at ten am, Feb 16, Calvary Chapel, 1 N. Calle Cesar Chavez, Santa Babs.

We are officially officially at the beginning of a VAL vision of surfing broadcast through the bullhorn of the World Surf League. Yes, Erik Logan, new President of Content, Media and WSL Studios is in the building.

Listen: “Can a Vulnerable Adult Learner actually show us all the way?”

A grand vision fresh, uncluttered by the detritus that clogs our own?

One of the greatest parts of surf culture is our slang and one of the greatest bits of surf slang is “valley” or “val.” As in, “Valley go home…” or “Beat it, Val.” It fell out of regular use a while back, being replaced with the more universal “kook,” and I have missed it.

Derek Rielly, though, last night in a fever’d inspiration, brought it right back, this time as an acronym VAL or “vulnerable adult learner.”


And timely.

For we are officially officially at the beginning of a VAL vision of surfing broadcast through the bullhorn of the World Surf League.

Yes, Erik Logan, new President of Content, Media and WSL Studios is in the building.

David Lee Scales and I talked much about what his arrival may do, how surfing, or at least the general public perception of surfing will change, if that change will be good or bad. David Lee believes that it will be impossible for an adult learner, vulnerable or not, to properly speak our language, as it were. I disagreed. Erik Logan is not an African-American woman yet by all accounts presided over a very successful Oprah Winfrey Network.

Is being a surfer so different?

Maybe Mr. President’s vision will be grand, fresh, uncluttered by the detritus that clogs our own. Maybe Mr. President’s vision will be as troublesome as his Instagram account. I’ll have a chat with him very soon but am betting on the former.

No, not betting on Former, though I do hope the brand is doing well.

David Lee Scales and I also discuss the slow death of Surfer, Egg McMuffin sandwiches and you. It is probably our best show yet.

Photos: Hole dug for “safe, convenient, accessible, welcoming” Melbourne wavepool!

The rise of the Sea Machines continues… 

Do you remember the promise made, four years ago, by the investment banker and self-described”hard-core surfer” Andrew Ross, that within a decade Australia would have ten Wavegardens?

And that he, or at least his company, formerly Wave Park Group now URBNSURF, would be at the helm of every single pool?

That bullish promise inched a little closer to fruition today when the company released photos of the Wavegarden it’s building at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport; a wave the company promises to be “safe, convenient and accessible” and created in a “welcoming environment.”

Are you listening Vulnerable Adult Learners (aka Vals)?

The presser:

Major earthworks, civil construction and services installation are now largely complete, and the heart of our 2-hectare surfing lagoon, our next-generation wave generator, has been installed.

We’re now on the final countdown to filling the world’s first full-scale Wavegarden Cove, and for first waves to be breaking around Easter 2019.

Once first waves have been produced, over Winter we’ll be fine-tuning our wave generator, developing a range of new waves, trialling custom surf hardware, and testing and commissioning our lagoon, ahead of URBNSURF Melbourne’s public opening in Spring 2019.

Read more about it, and give ’em your details if you want to surf it, here. 
Andrew Ross has a 10-year-plan to fill the vast continent with man-made waves. Here's the hole for number one.
Andrew Ross has a 10-year-plan to fill Australia with man-made waves. Here’s the hole for number one

The wave generator. Foil free!