Come and read the World Surf League's exciting plans!
Olympic news, as it relates to the Pastime of Kings, can be a little… dry. Oh, of course there is one thrilling storyline, (Will a 47-year-old Kelly Slater be able to surpass an injured John John Florence for a spot on the United States Olympic surf team?) but the rest is… brittle. Brazil will win men’s gold, silver and bronze (Gabriel, Italo, Filipe) and that will be that.
Still, the World Surf League is thrilled with the possibilities and Santa Monica’s Chief Marketing Officer Pri Shumate is absolutely bullish. I stumbled across a story titled With Olympics Looming, Sponsors Jumping Aboard World Surf League and I was excited to see which.
None new, as it turns out. Jeep, Harley-Davidson, Michelob Ultra brewed with Zoë Kravitz’s sultry whisper and Organic Grains, Boost Mobile, Red Bull but then the conversation turned to how over-the-moon the League is for the Olympic kick, hoping that surfing can soar as high as snowboarding and let’s dig in together for a little Chief Marketing.
The WSL hopes the Olympic spotlight can do for surfing what the Olympic rings did for snowboarding at the 1998 Olympics.
The two youthful sports have a lot in common. Like surfing, snowboarding was regarded as an outlaw sport back in the 1990’s. The traditional alpine sports establishment looked down their nose at snowboarders, even banning them from many ski resorts.
That all changed when snowboarding made its Olympic debut in Nagano, Japan in 1998. Fans loved the fearless, high-flying athletes and rock ‘n roll atmosphere. When budding superstar Shaun White won the halfpipe gold medal at the Torino Olympics in 2006, snowboarding went global. In the WSL’s ideal world, surfing would boast the same crossover appeal.
“Imagine the next Shaun White is a surfer? That’s the level of opportunity we feel we have,” noted Shumate. “And how amazing would it be if the next Shaun White were a female surfer? We have so many good storylines going into the Olympics.”
Ok, and I don’t need to be rude but I think this snowboarding analogy has gone a little far and/or is being rolled out… I don’t want to say ignorantly but…. let’s just say ignorantly. It’s true that Shaun White got rich off of his Olympic Snowboarding but as a “sport” in the year 2019, it is dead in the frozen water. There is no tour, declining participation, market conglomeration that has lead to a lack of innovation and next to zero general public interest other than for a few minutes every four years.
Snowboarding itself is still wonderful, of course, and I’d imagine the hard-core are overjoyed not to have “an industry” but two decades of Olympic spotlight has certainly not helped any governing body or exploded non-endemic interest or really done anything at all except shrink it down to a real community again where neither VAL nor blow-in dominate the narrative.
Is this the World Surf League’s ultimate and final plan? To turn surfing into a money-less passion?
Is Dirk Ziff a philanthropist?