With the Volcom Pipe Pro about to take flight in Hawaii, kicking off the 2014 ASP season with it, we thought it was high time to take a quick look at a few major changes affecting the World Tour in this pivotal year of change. With ZoSea Media taking over the tour, bringing increased prize money, consolidated media rights, a Dream Tour stop at Margaret River, and even, eventually, the Big Wave World Tour under the ASP banner, expect big things in the coming months.
But while these developments are still little more than TBA speculations and one-sentence blurbs on the ASP website, here’s what we know right now: longtime World Tour fixture Kieren Perrow will serve as the ASP’s first full-time Commissioner; Jessi Miley-Dyer and Peter Mel will serve as Deputy Commissioners; Billabong veteran Graham Stapelberg will join the ASP in the newly created role of Chief Strategy Officer; and, most importantly, World Championship Tour rankings and World Qualifying Series rankings will be officially separated again.
This last rule change will have the biggest impact on the 2014 tour: now, World Tour surfers won’t include WCT results with their WQS or Prime results, and WQS surfers won’t be competing with those inflated WCT points totals on the now-defunct combined World Ranking. For a bit of insight, ESM turned to ASP veteran and passionate pro surfing advocate CJ Hobgood:
“I’m probably not the best person to ask, as I come more from a business side of things: it costs this much to do this many contests, and I need to make this much to keep the business going. Others look at it like, ‘I need this many points to requalify on this tour, and if I'm doing bad I can back myself up on this tour’.”
“I think what it boils down to is the ASP as a business needs a turnover rate of X percentage on the 32 that make the tour every year so there's a viable incentive for people to spend their money in hopes of qualifying. I think the new structure promotes that more than the old one we’ve been dealing with for the last few years. But in retrospect, it really just feels like going back to the old, old way when I first got on tour.”
So will it be easier now for aspiring WQS surfers to make the World Tour (the top 10 on the 2014 WQS rankings will qualify for the 2015 World Tour) — and harder for World Tour surfers to requalify (the top 22 will do so)? CJ weighed in:
“In theory, it will help young surfers on the WQS. That's the idea, as they will be competing with people that are in the same comps as them — NOT a guy on the World Tour in a contest they can't enter passing them in the ratings because that ‘CT guy posted 4,000 points for getting a 9th.”
In an ASP press release, Kieren Perrow agreed — note the key use of the word “fluid.” “Our office is charged with upholding the integrity of the sport of surfing, ensuring high standards are met within rules and regulations, defining dynamic changes to ASP judging, engaging with our athletes, developing a fluid and respectable career pathway, and overseeing all technical aspects for the sport… The combined ranking served a purpose throughout its time on tour, but the Commissioner’s Office believes that a separated ranking is the best path forward.”
As for Graham Stapelberg’s hiring as Chief Strategy Officer, the move makes sense, especially considering he’s already served as CEO of the ASP in the past — and the shakeups his previous employer, Billabong, has recently endured. “I am sad to leave Billabong,” Stapelberg said. “However I am extremely excited at the prospect of going back to ASP. It is no secret professional surfing is my passion and has been since my very first ASP event I judged in Cape Town in 1985. [New ASP CEO] Paul Speaker and his team are doing excellent work and are championing some of the most important changes to professional surfing in the sport’s history. I am honored to be taking on the role of Chief Strategy Officer for the ASP.”
“Graham has exhibited excellence in virtually every sector of the sport throughout his celebrated 20 years of involvement,” Speaker said. “His extensive experience across events, sponsorships, athletes, judging, operations, finances, marketing, media, and activations both inside and outside the industry will prove invaluable as we grow professional surfing in exciting new ways. We’re very fortunate to have Graham with us and we look forward to accomplishing great things together.”
Of Stapelberg’s hiring, CJ Hobgood added, “I've always thought and said from day one that the ASP has an awesome team in there. They’re probably overqualified. Graham's been on the other side with the brands for some time so I think he brings a great mindset for the direction of the sport.”
And that’s what the 2014 ASP World Tour will be all about: taking professional surfing in a direction never seen before. “Surfing is a sport that touches the lives of millions of people around the world,” Kieren Perrow said. “It can mean different things to different cultures, different things to surfers in the same lineup, different things to fans of and employees within the sport. The goal with the Commissioner’s Office is to ensure a cross-section of all stakeholders within the ASP are represented with a voice and have input into the evolution of this sport that we all enjoy. 2014 is going to be a great year.”