The Outsider: When the Music is Over (An interview with Kelly Slater)
It’s not everyday you get a lap dance from the King. While Taj and Adriano surfed the final of the Quiksilver Pro I had a chat to Kelly Slater about the state of the sport, the ASP, China and its attendant moral issues, plus the disconnect between pro surfers getting paid big bucks and an industry shedding jobs. I found the experience quite surreal.
Steve Shearer: You’ve been in the game for more than twenty years, what’s your assessment of the current health of the sport?
Kelly Slater: Well, the surfing’s obviously always gunna evolve and be better every year. I think surfing has grown and grown in terms of the surf industry and the visibility of contests and the marketing of surfing, so it’s more under the microscope. Pro surfing is only really as healthy as the businesses I guess and they’ve been struggling lately, but that’s an economic factor that’s totally out of surfing’s hands.
S: There was a Dream Tour in place and then there was a perception that companies moved away from that to the big cities to colonise urban markets. Do you think they alienated a lot of the core fan base with that move?
KS: No. Because when you talk about big cities you’re talking about San Francisco which is The Search which goes to a different location every year. The New York event wasn’t a replacement for any other event, it was an additional event and we’ve always had Rio, or Brazil. We lost Fiji because of certain sponsors. I don’t know, certain companies are putting their focus into….Hurley/Nike are putting a lot of energy into the US Open and the Australian Open…
[Taj catches a wave and Kelly loses track.]
I think there’s been certain circumstances: we still have Pipeline, Teahupoo. J-Bay I’d say we still have but it just comes down to a business thing for the company. It’s not like they’re trying to get away from it. Billabong’s having troubles right now.
Every spot can be great or terrible. I think people are just being critical and it’s just something to either complain or write about to be honest.
S: As far as the ASP goes, it’s lacking a CEO at the moment…
KS: That’ll save it money (laughs).
S: Well an organisation without a leader is seen as a ship without a rudder.
KS: Well the ASP with a leader was seen that way. I don’t know who that person is going to be but I don’t think they should just grab the first person who comes along. You could easily argue it’s better to wait until that right person comes along.
S: What would you like that CEO to bring to the ASP?
KS: I think the CEO should be a business person first and a surfer second. Personally I think we need a CEO and we need a commissioner. And a commissioner is more the surf guy who relates to the business and the CEO is the business guy who can relate to the surfing.
S: So you think there should be a separate person with a strong vision who can sell the sport like Rabbit did?
KS: Um…we also had a lot of complaints about Rabbit. We were unhappy, at one point the surfers wanted his head. But I think that problem was caused by Rabbit being put in a position where he was the business guy and the surfer guy.
I think a commissioner could almost be like a contest director for every event and more like a visionary.