Nick Carroll is a gift to surf journalism, our rank’s preeminent voice, and the rest of us all, from Derek Rielly to Sam George to myself are merely giants standing on the shoulders of a midget. When he finally leaves this gorgeous world life sized statues will be erected in his honor and carried around in elementary school children’s pockets, his face carved into granite cliff sides all jaw and more jaw, but even the mightiest can make altogether misguided and just plain wrong assertions.
For in a recent Surfline piece, Carroll reacted to Stab magazine’s whimpering over the mass layoffs of professional surfers by Hurley and shall we take a little nibble together?
Being a top pro surfer is infinitely the best gig in the sport, possibly in the world. Everyone else works like dogs, while things just fall in your favor. The surf industry booms and pays you a fortune. It runs out of spare cash, and a billionaire shows up! Then before you know it…along comes the Olympic Games.
Fine and good until the “along comes the Olympic Games” bit but excuse me for interrupting.
This is just one thing the stories about JJF have missed. The Olympic Games is about to open new doors for him and a few other first time Olympian surfers, doors that’ve been shut for generations.
The Olympics is a great lever for a big surf star to break open the bigger world of endorsement, the banks and the big athlete brands and such. These companies have seen what happened with snowboarding. They want the next Shaun White, and they will figure that surfing might be the way to get him and/or her.
Indeed it’s already begun.
And ok now. Here we have an essential misreading of history especially as it relates to Shaun White and snowboarding. The “Flying Tomato” won his first gold medal in 2006. A high water mark for still-fresh extreme sports, in general, at a time when cable television, as opposed to anything “on demand” ruled media.
White also dominated a discipline that was easy for the “non-core” viewer to understand. Men spinning wildly high above the earth, short runs, easy to spot mistakes. Everyone could be an “expert” at who performed best and why while sucking down ice-cold Coors Light.
In between his Olympic smashes, White had a yearly X-Games schedule, aired in primetime with much ballyhoo, on ESPN and ABC and an easy-going, magnetic personality that made his interviews and press outings at least appear dynamic. Covers of Rolling Stone and other magazines that used to exist. Celebrity girlfriends and small-time TMZ trouble for inappropriate halloween costumes.
He was America’s favorite red-headed stepchild all “rock n roll” yet mama-approved “safe n cuddly.”
Now, back to John John. Extreme sports are old and not fresh. The Olympics has shed viewers as more and more people “cut the cord.” In the United States, still the only market that matters in terms of seven-figure endorsement deals, much of the programming has been shifted to weird NBC channels like Bravo and Oxygen.
The X-Games is but a hollow reminder of what it once was and doesn’t include surfing.
John John has a public facing persona as vivid as oatmeal sans brown sugar and televised surfing in tiny Japanese waves where the “tricks” etc. are near impossible for the non-surf fan to gauge and/or compare won’t catch any real interest especially when the Coors Light warms up after 40 damned minute heats.
Of course Japan will push Kanoa Igarashi and his story will be cut into a nice YouTube package but that will be the extent of surfing’s Olympic bounce.
If a star comes out of the 2020 Games it will be in skateboarding’s park discipline where men spin wildly high above the earth in short, timed runs with easy to spot mistakes.
Blood on the concrete etc.
The ball is in your court, Nick Carroll.