Breaking: World Surf League reveals “tremendous opportunity around how to monetise our fans!”

Hello, hardened purist.

World Surf League President of Content, Media, Studios and Big Mouth Burgers Erik “ELo” Logan gave a long and wonderful interview to the industry website SportsPro yesterday and it was so very elucidating. You know how difficult it is for us to peer over that Wall of Positive Noise no matter how we try. Almost impossible for The People™ to see the gilded wonderland beyond but thankfully SportsPro was there for us and so was ELo but almost not for, as he revealed, he nearly missed the interview due to “taking one too many extra waves this morning.”

Who he took them from was not shared.

Oh it is purely fascinating and I won’t even try to summarize. I’ll give you the view straight and without my breathless editorialization. Let’s dip our paddles right in.

On leaving Oprah to join the World Surf League: “As an active surfer myself, and a storyteller working for Oprah and others, I thought, ‘wow, what an amazing opportunity to take storytelling in the sport to a new level’. The idea around this is to be just a massive storytelling engine where we can connect the humanity and the power of surfing to the masses. What we’re creating on our platforms is this very broad diversity of ways to elevate and deepen engagement with the sport.”

On giving Gabriel Medina a voice: “I think it’s important to really note that the way we’ve approached it from a studio perspective is we view our athletes as partners. If we do our job right, we can make them bigger and more powerful stars globally. That not only benefits them, but when that happens it benefits the league and benefits the studio.”

On turning lead into gold: “Surfing is a universally accepted global sport, it’s a very personal sport because of the individual nature, and it’s always you against mother nature. Because of that alchemy for what exists in the ocean, it really gives a great arena for rich and layered stories.”

On getting rich or dying trying: “We think there’s a tremendous opportunity around how we can monetise our fans on a one-to-one basis incredibly well. We want to try to figure out the right way to do that. What a broader content offering does is allows us the opportunity to do it beyond just what our play-by-play rights could be. We see a very holistic ecosystem out there around the sport of surfing that is inclusive – not only content, but also acquired content, live play-by-play, ecommerce, endemic partnerships. We see a very robust horizon for us.”

On choosing either red or blue pills: “That matrix of rights, and that matrix of thought, in terms of how the league is maximising our rights and also growing our audience at the same time is what we and the ownership group are really talking about a lot. How that needle is threaded is one that we spend a lot of time thinking about and trying to figure out where we want to put those bets.”

On and on it goes and you must thread the needle through that robust horizon yourself but before we leave each other, I am beyond pleased, tickled even, to report that The Biggest Little Surf Website in the World, and its Longtom, snuck onto ELo’s stage. Shall we read together?

There are factions within the surfing community who have their doubts, however; in short, some hardened purists are not buying what the dapper, suit-wearing execs at the WSL are selling. One writer for the satirical surf outlet BeachGrit recently described the tour’s latest ventures in content as possessing ‘a schmaltz problem’, singling out Brilliant Corners, a slickly produced yet syrupy travel series hosted by former European longboard champion Sam Bleakley, as ‘very nice, very pretty and as obedient as a tame animal.’

Oooooeee! Hardened Purists! Maybe even better than Grumpy Locals!

We need t-shirts stat and I’ll inform you of when they’re available.

In the meantime, buy a regular ol satirical surf outlet one here!

A little over a week after his twenty-sixth birthday, this journeyman of five feet and six inches who nobody pays attention to although they should, he was catapulted into the world of thirty million souls as the bogeyman who stole Gabriel Medina's dream for a third world title. | Photo: WSL

Audio: Caio Ibelli responds to “thousands and thousands and thousands” of online threats!

From the milk-a-story-until-its-teat-is-dry-and-withered department…

May God bless the underdog Caio Ibelli whose beautiful brown eyes are so full of pain, so filled with tragedy.

A little over a week after his twenty-sixth birthday, this journeyman of five feet and six inches who nobody pays attention to although they should was catapulted into the world of thirty million souls as the bogeyman who stole Gabriel Medina’s dream for a third world title.

You know the story, recap here etc. Here. 

And here.

In this phone call with the Australian journalist Anthony Pancia, which you can listen to below, Caio talks through the interference, the caustic response and how Jadson Andre, another unfancied surfer, brought in “core surfers” to restore a little sanity.

Free free speech: “I’m mad as hell about our collaborationist Surfing Nanny State and not going to take it anymore!”

Let's shake the world!

A handful of days ago Facebook’s founder-ish and CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivered a much anticipated free speech (I assume he took no fee seeing that he owns many billions of dollars) on free speech to a group of Georgetown University students. There he stood, black dry-fit shirt wicking moisture from his peach-like bosom, behind an earnest mahogany lectern, brave and glowing, the thrill of a Kai Lenny tow-foil session certainly still warming his cockles and/or the rouge applied to his cheeks.

He was ready to defend his platform, including our participation on it, and I couldn’t wait to listen.

Oh his free free speech had absolutely everything, a revisionist origin story, righteous indignation, chest pounding, moisture wicking, a patented Kai Lenny glow but best of all the complete repudiation of censorship. There Mark Zuckerberg stood tall-ish, saying, “People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world. It is a Fifth Estate alongside the other power structures of society.”


“We are at a crossroads. We can either stand for free expression or we can decide the cost is simply too great. We must continue to stand for free expression.”

My own heart melted at this last statement, though I had no moisture wicking dry-fit to clean it up, and I felt we had broken through a major wall. Maybe even the World Surf League’s Wall of Positive Noise™. As you certainly remember Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook and our World Surf League entered into a 30 million dollar partnership a few years ago. The consummation of that union, as you must recall, was the deletion of my “edgy” but popular Instagram (owned by Facebook) account ReportsFromHell which specialized in surf memes and penis ping-pong videos.

And I raged inside.

Burned hot.

Surfing is but penis ping pong on the water and the fact that Santa Monica’s High Tower couldn’t recognize that, couldn’t withstand very dull barbs, criticisms, honest hot takes, made me crazy inside.

How dare they.

How dare they cancel a very poetic expression. A true-to-life rendering of what we all love more than.,. anything.

Well, I celebrated Mark Zuckerberg’s rebel yell by posting a very poetic image of a brave young man choosing freedom of expression over the stilted norms of his family. An image that has come to mean so much to me over the years. My own Joan of Arc. My north star.

The post was flagged and removed within seconds and I know exactly by whom.

The same entity that asked for the deletion of ReportsFromHell.

That cursed World Surf League.

And it is so far beyond bad enough that the “democratic” powers-that-be capitulate to China’s version of authoritarian control. Mark Zuckerberg has been proven a liar, Facebook but a lowly and crude hitman for Santa Monica’s totalitarian whims.

Vanishing iconic content. Content as iconic as the brave young man who stood in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square.

Stab and The Inertia are just as bad, vanishing comments, restricting speech, dancing to the guzheng strum of tyranny all while positioning, I imagine, to be State Television for Professional Surfing and it’s Olympic Successes. Millions of people falling in love with the Pastime of Kings. Billions even, with China happily involved.

The censorship… it’s wild and drives me crazier.

We surfers, we used to know better. We used to be raw, legendary surf journalist Drew Kampion raw, willing to to shoulder the terror of Richard Milhous Nixon in order to be free. To be us.

To be surfers.

Well fuck Facebook. Fuck the WSL. Fuck collaborationist surf media including, but not limited to, Stab and The Inertia and of course the propagandist mouthpiece Surflie.

I’d conclude with “Delete your Menlo Park owned/Santa Monica directed social medias!” but that reads ineffective and impotent.

But just imagined if we did. If all surfers deleted Facebook and Instagram on principle we’d shake the world.

Should we shake the world?

Ready to protect all manner of VAL!
Ready to protect all manner of VAL!

Rebuttal: Swing the gates to Hollister Ranch wide and let the people surf those tasty waves!

Come find perfection!

All your arguments about keeping Hollister Ranch private make you sound like elitist assholes. There. I said it. I said that whole thing in my outside voice. I will probably get punched in the face at the coffee shop tomorrow. Live dangerously, is a thing I always say.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will know that Hollister Ranch is slated to open to public access in April 2022. Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law legislation that directs an assortment of land management agencies, both state and local, to develop a plan to ensure public access. Anyone who impedes this public access will be subject to fines up to $10,000.

The new law leaves open the question of what form access will take. Over the next two years, you can expect a succession of shouty meetings here in Santa Barbara County, as the relevant agencies try to resolve this question.

While the Coastal Commission, one of the principal agencies involved, has far-reaching powers in California, there are limits to what they can achieve. If you’re imagining that you’re going to be able to drive your Toyota Tacoma straight into Cojo, you’re almost certainly going to be disappointed.

That’s because, on the ground, the situation is more complicated than it looks. There are a number fabulous homes with eye-candy views, yes. The Ranch has this element in common with Malibu. And as you have certainly heard, there are the divided and subdivided parcels owned for the specific purpose of securing access for people who want to surf there.

But the Ranch also includes working cattle ranches and tracts of unfenced range land. In this respect, the area is not too different from the properties that it borders. This range land is the open space that is so often pictured when conversation turns to the Ranch: rolling hills, dotted with California live oaks, turning abruptly into tawny sandstone cliffs that drop to sandy beaches and tidy hidden reefs.

Then there’s the old Bixby Ranch, which adds one more piece to the intricate Ranch puzzle. This vast property stretches from the boundary of the county park at Jalama down to the mythical point at Cojo, and runs eastward along the coast. The area spans 24,000 acres and includes a mix of (mostly) untouched wilderness, cattle range, and Chumash sacred sites.

A look at the Bixby’s recent history offers a brief tour of California land use. During the early 20th century, it was intended to be a steel mill. That never happened, and in 1912 Fred Bixby purchased the land and the adjacent Jalama Ranch. Bixby ran cattle. Between 1972 and 2003, an oil processing facility perched on the bluffs above Cojo — and pipelines ran through the property. Beginning in 2007, a Boston-based hedge fund owned the Bixby Ranch and hoped to build a resort hotel there.

Now called the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve, the former Bixby Ranch is managed by the Nature Conservancy. This same organization also owns and manages lands on Santa Cruz island. In the two years since the property changed hands, there has been little talk of public access. Reportedly, it might eventually be opened for limited science and research. But you’re not going to be able to drive your Tacoma from Jalama to Cojo.

Put simply, it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to run buck-wild around the Ranch, like you own the joint (unless of course you do own the joint, then go crazy.) What is likely, is that access will amount to a single trail, hugging the coast as much as possible, and accessible by foot or by bike.

A 1972 law set it as a priority for the state to develop a recreational trail that would run along the coast from Mexico to Oregon. Subsequent legislation set out a process of securing easements to complete the project — which remains in bits and pieces to this day.

In western Santa Barbara County, sections of trail around the state park at El Capitan have recently been built. Over the past few years, there have been ongoing — and sometimes acrimonious — efforts to establish easements across private ranch lands in the area to build a recreational trail along the bluffs in eastern Gaviota. It’s not hard to imagine that public access to Hollister Ranch would look a lot like the access the County is already working to secure on the private properties nearby.

Property owners at Hollister Ranch like to claim that they are the best stewards of this idyllic land, but the area’s land use history muddies this argument significantly. And present-day behavior isn’t always exactly what you’d called environmentally conscious. Just last spring, the Coastal Commission had to tell the fabulous environmental stewards at Hollister Ranch to stop driving their cars on the beach.

It’s the last bastion against Los Angeles! You know shit’s getting real in California, when we summon up the bogeyman of Los Angeles. The Ranch will become another Trestles! Or Rincon! Filled with kooks!

Just listen to yourselves. Omg! Other surfers like me might surf where I want to surf! I mean, I hate the kooks as much as you do, but really, you are losing your minds here.

The idea of Hollister Ranch as some kind of Eden persists, but is by now, largely imagined. The best-known spots on good swells buzz with jetskis, zodiacs, and floating machines of all shapes and sizes. Anyone with a boat or a friend with a boat can go there. And we all know by now what happened to Eden.

Still, the Ranch has a unique hold on surfing’s imagination. I think it’s because we need to believe that a place like the Ranch exists in the world — even if the reality is nothing like our imaginings, and even if we never actually go there ourselves.

For most of us, the reality of surfing is driving to our nearest beach, finding a parking space in a sea of Sprinter vans, shimmying into our suits, and paddling out with the Wavestorms. But we hold on to the fantasy that there is something more. There has to be something more to this strange pastime that we can’t quite quit, no matter how absurd and pointless it sometimes feels.

We need to believe that John Severson wasn’t wrong when he said that a surfer could still in a crowded world, find the perfect wave, “and be alone with the surf and his thoughts.” Of course, there was already a lie in it. The lone surfer in Severson’s image wasn’t truly alone. Severson was there on the beach with a camera to record it all. But it remains our talisman, passed from each generation to the next.

Surf long enough, travel far enough, check that fickle local spot often enough, and yes, you can still find what Severson seemed to promise. Even in California, even here. Opening the Ranch won’t change that, not really. It might make it more difficult, sure.

But there are no sure things in surfing, no matter how many secret gates you can unlock.

And that one magic day, when you walk down the trail — wherever you may be — and you see perfect, backlit, green walls, offshores kissing the lip, and no one there to see it, no one but you, that day will make a lifetime of chasing and imagining and dreaming worth it. It just has to.

But I sometimes wonder if the true joy isn’t in the finding at all. I wonder if the true joy of this ridiculous pastime that’s seduced us all is in the dream of perfection, rather than the perfection itself — and in the endless, frequently futile, and very often stupid things we do in pursuit of it.

Shove the mic in Gabby’s face as he storms the tower. Film the conversation with the judges. And just when Caio and Gabby go to hug it out, have Strider make a chicken noise from behind a potplant. | Photo: WSL

Message to the WSL: Learn to love Blood Feuds, Wipeout Reels, Weeping!

Media minders and Sound Waves. Gun-shy competitors. Right now, it’s about as interesting as the director’s commentary on a Coldplay DVD.

My God,  I love a blood feud.

Exhibit A, Jadson Andre v Madina Fans. 

Whose fault was the damned thing? The judges, probably.

Was it manufactured? I highly doubt it. But with a vacuum of information from the top, the surfing world is left to hypothesise.

Just like Medina’s army is doing. A bonfire of Latin passion fuelling anger, fury, and controversy.

We might lose some lines in translation but their intent is clear as day. Paixão!

I love it! The drama. The intrigue. All of it!

And to the WSL I say, this is your business model right here. You should learn to love it, too. Because as well as passion and controversy, this shit generates clicks. Reach. Engagement. The buzzwords your high tower’s foundations are built on.

This is your business model: Blood feuds and wipeout reels. Italo almost dying on the Winki button and then smashing up the competitors area afterwards, while jetskis lip line twelve-foot foamies. Jordy telling Pete Mel he’s gonna bop him in the nose if he sasses him in a post heat one more time. Sally crying behind the showers after another win lets slip.

It doesn’t need to be nasty. But it can still be human. And along with gaping barrels and bloody gashes, it’ll get you on the six pm news.

Forget the faux intellectual hubris of BeachGrit. It’s all tilting at windmills. Like most surf fans, we’re one dimensional. Nothing more than a global network of tapped out Spicolis.

“All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.”

Give me two guys surfing in a tub and I’ll sit at the other end with snorkel and a pair of flippers all day long. Run the shit on AM radio and I’ll stand on the roof with my transistor and an old coat hanger to get the call.

We just fucken love surfing and everything that goes with it.

But you’re strangling the sport.

Media minders and Sound Waves. Gun-shy competitors. It’s about as interesting as the director’s commentary on a Coldplay DVD. And just when it looks like Chris Martin is going to start giving us the scoop on Gwenyth, you switch back to the acoustic set in Westminster Abbey.

You’re media professionals. Think of the soundbites and headlines you’re missing.

Shove the mic in Gabby’s face as he storms the tower. Film the conversation with the judges. And just when Caio and Gabby go to hug it out, have Strider make a chicken noise from behind a potplant.

Let it all out.

Become the mainstream sports whoopie cushion. Welcome outrage. Show emotion. Allow everything to go off script once in a while. Embrace the chaos.

Because surfing’s the most beautifully chaotic thing there is. It’s a cosmic joke. We laugh in its face every day.

But it’s also our salvation. We’d do anything for it. We’re not just brand advocates. We’re zealots. We dedicate our lives to this. We love the athletes, absolutely and with the fire of a thousand Latin sons. And we’re ready to fight for the cause.

You’ve just gotta get in on the joke. Milk it for what it’s worth. You don’t need to be exploitative or manipulative. Just let the surfers breathe. Show their real face.

The whole world will lap it up.

Do that right and I’d probably even pay you to watch.