"The transformation of the WSL from sporting league to media content creation company is allegedly part of the deal behind the sale. It's hard to define that transition as a success."
There’s never been a historical riposte like the one uttered by the old San Clemente crook Richard Nixon at his 1962 presser* where he took aim at his pursuing press pack and claimed, “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore”.
We raise that spectre because rumours persist that WSL is for sale which would mean the death of the organisation and pro surfing as we have known it for decades.
Which would obviously mean parasites like me would not have the undisputed pleasure of kicking the League and it’s risible management at every turn.
So, what now?
To borrow the title of Dane’s latest foray, how does it end?
The press moved on without Nixon, found new targets to kick after a turbulent time and the surf media has largely moved on alright without the WSL, which has presented a huge gulf between expectation and reality for the League and its CEO.
In short, without pro surfing we’ve all managed to float on OK.
We’ve found new things to kick. We’ll be fine.
It’s very unfair to compare a reactionary crook like Tricky Dick with the titular head of maybe the wokest and greenest organisation in world history (fair, yes?) but one thing they did share was welcoming the opportunity to “test wits with the press.”
Elo has fronted up a few times to get feather dusted by the surf media, and we credit him for that.
He’s more accessible than the previous 37 CEO’s of the WSL in the preceding half decade.
It’s doubtful history will record any such wonderful fightback from Elo, probably the closest thing we’ll get is snippets from Ziff’s wonderful masterpiece when he received the Waterman of the Year award.
He took aim at us, the surf fan, in an almost Nixonian way, albeit incomparably gentler.
Elo will be remembered far more as a charming flim-flam man, and a gold medallist in corpo-speak.
Ratcheting up of corpo-speak in the pro surfing universe almost always guarantees bad news behind the scenes. It has an inverse relationship to truth.
It’s incumbent on us, I think, to do some of the grunt work for future historians now and construct a simple timeline, upon which we could place upcoming events onto.
The Australian leg and the tour itself was cancelled by the WSL on Friday March 13. Slightly ahead of the cancellation curve, at least as far as Australian sport went.
A very long forty-six days later a clearly distressed Elo fronted a video presser announcing the Tour as we knew it was gone and a total restructured Tour was in the offing.
Details were to be announced June 1.
The distress and hyper corpo-speak conjured up Virginia Woolf’s dying moth. She found the extraordinary efforts of the tiny fluttering legs against an impending doom “superb”.
Her sympathies, like ours for Elo, were on the side of life; this struggle “to retain what no one else valued or desired”.
On June 3 the can was kicked down the road until early July.
Assuming the moth is close to kicking the bucket. Is there anyone who could pick up the corpse, asking price 150 million (US dollars presumably).
Few buyers spring to mind.
But, if we think of the largest stakeholders there could be some promising tyre-kickers. The Australian taxpayer has been one of the most loyal underwriters of the pro surfing dream.
And, if we can largely accept that pro surfing is an Australian project then nationalising the dream doesn’t sound so outlandish. Give it back to the people who have invested the most into it. With dollars and access to publicly owned land.
It’s always seemed perverse to have an American billionaire controlling coastal access via WSL comps.
Give the permits to the people.
Hawaii can take back their permits. Europe likewise**.
Obvs, much more to flesh out there.
The other obvious owners would be the pro surfers themselves. Take it back to being an Association of Surfing Professionals and let them have a go at running it. Expensive ask if owned by the Top 34, $4.4 million a person. If the top hundred pro surfers chipped for equity stakes then we’re looking at steep but not insurmountable 1.5 million each.
Or Kelly buys it.
At time of publishing Kelly did not respond to my enquiry about purchasing.
The transformation of the WSL from sporting league to media content creation company is allegedly part of the deal behind the sale. It’s hard to define that transition as a success. Elo has now had 104 days of non-sport in which to claim the room.
One hundred and four days of re-runs and a steady dribble of Inertia-lite content that has hooked nobody.
The ambit claims of the new ownership of the WSL, née ASP were extreme.
They claimed almost everything they could, and by and large they succeeded. By claiming to own the stories themselves they’ve committed massive over-reach.
That wasn’t theirs to take, let alone claim.
If this was to be the end, or the end until there is a new beginning under new ownership, then I think there could not have been a more fitting farewell to professional surfing than the last day of live broadcast surfing.
The finals day of the Pipe Masters, 2019.
A very, very fine high point to go out on.
*Not the final post-Watergate presser but a showing at the Beverly Hilton Hotel 7 November after losing the California Gubernatorial race to Edmund “Pat” Brown.
**They already love socialism, like Australians.