One that forced him to “fly home immediately,” according to one source.
And now we have finally arrived via voodoo, cachaça, endless transit hours, a fast setting South American sun, the worst food I’ve ever had in my life, too many texts and calls and emails with former World Surf League employees, current World Surf League employees, World Surf League contractors, Association of Surfing Professional relics, agents, professional surfers on tour, professional surfers off tour, order and progress.
The moment of revelation.
Why the World Surf League’s former CEO Erik “ELo” Logan got vanished so thoroughly and where he got vanished to.
But let us begin at the beginning, or at least the beginning as it relates to us.
Erik Logan came to the World Surf League as president of the newly formed “content, media and WSL studios” division from the Oprah Winfrey Network where he had worked for 10 years helping put closure on the daytime television show, moving to Los Angeles and “making OWN the most high-profile turnarounds in cable network history.”
During the vast majority of his days there, though, his name was actually Erik Logan Toppenberg. In a stirring feminist nod, he had taken his wife Erin’s last name as his own, enjoying those heady Hollywood days when Harvey Weinstein prowled sets, terrorizing actresses and celebrity jets whizzed to Epstein Island.
The married couple had two daughters and a seemingly idyllic existence in the ocean-front neighborhood of Manhattan Beach. Logan Toppenberg, lightly chubby with expressive eyes highlighted by non-descript glasses, a giddy smile, spoke at length in those years about how his wife had cured his fear of water by giving him a magic wetsuit of armor and how his children gave him strength and resolve.
At the time of his World Surf League hire, the 45-year-old took to Instagram, a platform that would consume him in the future, to declare:
Joining the World Surf League is something I never thought this kid from landlocked Oklahoma would say, but it’s happening. I’m beyond grateful to the WSL for the chance to join the already exceptional team for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
If I have learned one thing from Oprah over the past decade, it’s this: there is a “divine order” to the universe and our job is to get into that flow. We must LISTEN to what the universe is saying. So here I am. Marrying my passion with my career in this way is something only a higher power could forge for me. I’m humbled by this moment and still in a state of “I can’t believe this is happening!” But it is…. You’ll hear me say this a lot, but it’s true: #followyourpassion #liveyourpassion
The early days came in fits and starts. Mostly fits. Logan, who had dropped the Toppenberg, signaled a willingness to listen to the “core” community. “BeachGrit is hating on you hard…” a concerned observer penned. “Let’s call it constructive criticism from your peers. My advice for success at your new position in the WSL, watch some ASP content from the early 2000s. Surfing was like F1 back then… as in badass.” Logan, who had mysteriously dropped the Toppenberg, responded, “thank you for the note. 100% will be looking and have been for some time now. Also a LOT of reading… excited for what’s ahead.”
He proceeded to make nothing of note, save the incredibly dull Billy Kemper docuseries, a large order of Taco Bell for Kai Lenny and the dismantling of a surf journalist, alongside setting the wheels in motion for The Ultimate Surfer which was later dubbed “one of the worst reality shows in the not great history of network television.”
The family followed the last name and was dropped too, at some point in 2019, the same year he was officially tapped as CEO following Sophie Goldschmidt’s resignation.
There was no further public mention of wife nor daughters.
Under Logan’s reign, the mid-season cut was introduced alongside the “final’s day” at Lower Trestles. Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch returned to tour and sponsors continued to flee like rats off ship. The bright spot might have been the Apple Series Make or Break which received positive reviews for its first season though was cancelled after a less-than-remarkable season two.
Or the introduction of Bailey Ladders.
Through it all, the Oklahoman maintained a brave, increasingly handsome, face, declaring “the momentum of professional surfing” to be “real” and swearing to robust growth across all platforms, wild millions upon millions of new fans “engaging” at historic levels.
Logan suffered a medical condition during this time, described to me as a “stroke” by someone close.
A heart attack more recently.
And then he went to Brazil.
His behavior on social media, mostly Instagram, had become more frenzied over the course of his leadership. Odd for any fully grown, post-middle-aged father. Odder, still, for a chief executive officer. It regularly featured him appearing in to-camera pieces describing the inner-workings of the World Surf League, sitting very close to surfers or rubbing foreheads with them, asking them to take their shirts off because he just so happened to be wearing a replica of their chest tattoos, demanding a confusing amount of attention.
There was some tension before the Vivo Rio Pro, as three former champions, each Brazilian, had become frustrated with lack of judging transparency at the most recent Surf Ranch Pro. Brazil fans, never shy, had piled on, threatening death to Australian power surfers and such.
Logan responded in an open letter excoriating both surfers and fans that, according to one source, was not signed off on by the World Surf League itself.
His first multiple hours in the country of order and progress, though, hinted at no trouble. He continued to make personal content praising Brazil’s “passion” for professional surfing, touring the “WSL Academy” in Rio de Janeiro and penning, “As we take these learnings from Brazil to other parts of the world, I am filled with excitement and anticipation. Surfing is not just a sport, it’s a global community that connects us all. I can’t wait to see the ripple effects of this program across the globe. Here’s to fostering a deeper understanding of the beautiful sport of surfing, its business, and its power to inspire and connect us all.”
And then, like that, he was gone.
The World Surf League issued one of the most terse press releasees in executive firing history, reading:
Today, the World Surf League (WSL) announced that CEO Erik Logan has departed the company, effective immediately. As the WSL begins the process of identifying a new CEO, Emily Hofer, WSL’s Chief People & Purpose Officer, and Bob Kane, Chief Operating Officer & Chief Legal Officer, will jointly lead the company and continue to drive the WSL’s mission to showcase the world’s best surfers on the world’s best waves as the global home of competitive surfing.
A solitary line dedicated to Logan.
None dedicated to his work nor accomplishments nor wishing future success.
The lack of any information, whatsoever, from the World Surf League in the aftermath, alongside the “flabbergasting” lack of knowledge by those close to the levers of power, suggested an absolutely ruthless NDA.
A championship tour surfer had told me, directly, that Logan had made certain surfers “feel uncomfortable” with his behavior and by asking them to one-on-one dinners or drinks. He also, it was said, became “erratic” when he drank. The assertion of both troublesome requests and over-indulgent drinking was corroborated by at least two others, both with direct experience.
“He was getting away with it for a while,” another with first hand experience told me. “Lots of reports the last few events that he’s been drunk and making inappropriate comments to the women.”
Putting pieces together, it suggests the sort of firing that would deliver no praise and require an ironclad NDA. One almost certainly concerning personal conduct and needing the head of human resources and the head of legal to take over at a moment’s notice.
One that forced him to “fly home immediately,” according to one source, directly following his ouster.
Or as the great Jen See said, “clean up on aisle five.”
Which is where he is, today.
Eagle-eye’d citizen surf journalist sharing:
“On Sunday, I was surfing 2ft north side Manhattan Beach pier. About 7:30, I see a mirage of a stand-up paddler paddling towards where I was from under the pier. As he gets closer, I realize it’s him (Erik Logan) and he sees his buddy, another SUPer. ELo raises his paddle over his head with both hands and says to anyone within earshot, “I’m back, baby!” I honestly couldn’t believe how proud he was. I stayed relatively close to see if his buddy was going to ask him about his ‘exit’ but it was never mentioned. Saw him catch a small wave straight to the beach riding the foam (no turns). Saw him stumble off the board and trot around in the ankle high water. He pulled his leash to regain his board and paddled back out to the lineup where I heard him say to his SUP buddy, ‘just like riding a bike.’”
Leaving us the same way he came in.
Erik Logan has been apprised of the accusations, that the aforementioned is my understanding of what led to his extreme ouster. I gave him much time to correct the record, via phone calls, voice messages left plus text, to provide any insight.
He has yet to respond and my work here in Brazil is done.
Time for a sweet twenty-three hour next transit, assuming the airlines stick to their numbers.