Hall of Echoes

It's time for a little more out of ZoSea and the "New" ASP

| posted on January 08, 2014
Pro surf fans would like to see more of this speaking thing from new ASP boss Paul Speaker. Photo: ASP/Kirstin

Pro surf fans would like to see more of this speaking thing from new ASP boss Paul Speaker. Photo: ASP/Kirstin

At last, the waiting is over. The Piping Hot Surf Festival, the 2014 ASP season debut and your favorite one-star ASP-Australasia event, ran this week in sunny Victoria, Australia, with ‘CT hangers-on Jay Thompson and Nathan Hedge as headlining performers (Hedgey’s your winner). “This is it,” you’re no doubt saying to yourself. “The new ASP is finally here!”

Except, well, is it? Take a close look at the ASP website. See any changes? No. Not really. Nothing much different from last year’s ASP homepage, except maybe there’s a bit more attention given to the ASP’s twitter feed (better than you might think, by the way). Bit of movement on the schedule, with Margaret River added to the World Tour, and a slightly more filled-out Women’s Tour. But as far as I can tell from my regular Internet perch, it’s business as usual for the all-new and much-ballyhooed ASP-ZoSea partnership.

Of course, the Tour hasn’t started yet. Maybe the grand unveiling is being saved for the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast extravaganza in March. But why? How would that possibly be a good idea? We’re weeks past the end of the 2013 season, off and running on the new year, and at this point even the ZoSea-ASP PR machine has nothing to say about what’s in store for 2014. No teaser trailer on the ASP website. No YouTube announcements. Nary a tweet or Facebook post. Not even a new corpo-speak press release to the surf media. Wave your antenna toward the ASP-ZoSea front and all you get  is the faint sound of crickets chirping. The only other real news to surface about 2014 was that longtime Tour sponsors like Quiksilver were pondering whether or not it’s even worth paying for Tour events. This might have resulted in an all-out damage control campaign by the ASP, but again they offered no public comments.

I shot the shit with new ASP commissioner Kieren Perrow last month on the North Shore, and he was as nice as could be, but all he was able to tell me was that the ASP doesn’t want to toot its own horn and then not be able to deliver on that tooting. (He wasn’t being evasive—he’s not the PR arm) OK, fair enough, but that shouldn’t really fill pro surfing fandom with a great deal of confidence. Pretty easy to deliver nothing when that’s all you’ve promised.

I guess, in some bleak way, I’m feeling some relief that the whole show isn’t being fed into the gears of some new high-end marketing machine, which seemed inevitable back in 2012, when the ZoSea deal was set up. Incoming boss Paul Speaker, remember, was hired in large part because of his association with the NFL—where the actual playing of football has just about vanished under layers of marketing, futuristic analysis, and enormous uncountable stacks of cash. Kieren mentioned that Speaker was chosen by the ASP in part because of the NFL’s success at presenting itself as an internationally-recognized “brand,” which, presumably, Speaker had some kind of role in. Speaker himself claimed that the 2013 “transition year” would include “refreshing the ASP brand” and “establishing a new commercial model for the sport.”

But here we are, at the dawn of the “new” ASP era, puttering along in what very much looks to be the old commercial model. So two choices. 1) There is in fact no new model, no new brand, no real changes in the works, and the ZoSea folks are sitting on their hands, or out to lunch—pick whatever do-nothing metaphor you like—hoping we tune in anyway. 2) Changes are in the works, but they’re so deep and profound that they haven’t even sprung to the surface yet. Like some kind of amazing rare flower that blooms in, I don’t know, early winter or something.

Anybody out there holding their breath for option No. 2? Anybody?

  • Scott

    I don’t have a good feeling about this. Don’t f*ck this up ZoSea, a lot of people are depending on your self proclaimed competence.

    • Stu Azole

      who, exactly?

  • Renato Mongaguá


    I bet that 2014 is going to be the same as 2013.

    I really hope the progressive manouvers deserve better scores when the surfers put them in a good line of surf and facts like that final MF x GM in France does not happen anymore.


    • Barry

      Just because MF kicked Gabs ass doesnt mean the heat was wrong.

      • Renato Mongaguá

        I dont care about who is going to win.
        I just dont want to see a show that i know what is going to happen in the end.

    • .,

      Mick won, you cant pump down the line and do a air reverse to win a CT nowdays. Micks surfing was precise and super critical, much more so than Gabs

      • Renato Mongaguá

        I agree with your first phrase, but that final was a joke.
        He lost that final and i reckon that MF without 10.000 points lost to KS the world title.
        ASP gave the title to MF , without taking his merits about his excelent year at world tour.

        • .,

          I think he won that final. I’ve seen groms do the same things as Medina. Fanning went off the bottom and tossed the fins in a critical section with speed, Gabriel pumped down the line and missed sections

  • Sea_Rod

    100% holding my breath for No. 2 – there’s no question that their Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts are crushing it lately. Also, the new logo is legit. I have a good feeling about it all…

    • Stu Azole

      yes, because all that was really holding the ASP back was their logo.

      • Sea_Rod

        Stu, your comments scattered on this feed are understandable but wholly
        gratuitous. This is a barely-explored territory for professional surfing
        and potentially the ground floor of something very special. What they
        do about it, of course, is the question at hand. But to say that “only a
        handful of people really care” is silly. This is a burgeoning
        international sport stumbling into the perfect storm of timing,
        household-named athletes and a steadily growing fan base.
        To the
        point that it’d be “boring” to watch, organizations like the PGA, NASCAR
        and ATP have managed to prove their importance in the sport and
        entertainment world despite similar critiques.
        Regarding the
        logo, your comment is just tiresome – like mosquitoes in paradise. As the company’s graphical representation, a logo anchors a
        company’s brand and becomes the single most visible manifestation of the
        company within the target market. For this reason, a well-designed logo
        is an essential part of any company’s overall success.
        There’s a sea of potential for the ASP in 2014 and I think, like you, this article was just prematurely critical.

        • gary E.

          How exactly to you crush it on social media? by posting stuff?

  • judging

    I don’t care what they do as long as they fix the judging. Number one priority for surf fans and without a fix, the sport loses all credibility. Doesn’t matter what surfer you like or what country you’re from, the judging has been highly suspect the past few years, and we all know it. It’s the most talked about aspect of the WCT.

  • flakoman

    Slater should organize an alternate surfing tour…

    • larry

      Flakoman –Slater’s manager Terry Hardy is a partner in ZOSEA (as in he owns part of the ASP), so I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one

  • Stu Azole

    There will be no changes of any importance. Surfing is surfing. Only a handful of people really care. And with all the free clips and movies on line, watching heat after heat is about as fun as watching paint dry.

  • klansea

    One year was not enough time for them to get their hands around the mess known as the asp

  • JM101

    I know a lot of people (myself included) want to watch organized pro surfing contests, provided the judging isn’t rigged anymore. Unfortunately – rigged judging or not – all of us are thus continuing to drive the sport into an early and soul-less grave by supporting “pro surfing” because we’re supporting the “system” in one way or another. On one hand, I think, “be realistic – this is how the world works, just roll with it…” but on the other hand, I look at the picture of Paul Speaker at the top of the article and throw up in my mouth a bit. EVERYBODY LOOK AT THAT PICTURE. Look at it for at least 30 seconds and repeat the phrase “this is surfing” in your head like 10 times… I think unprofessional and rigged – but with slightly better web casts – is better for surfing than the NFL.

  • Uncle Samuel

    A sign of the times. Current events of real world media are forboding as government intervention controls all mankind. The fact remains, more deregulation and the cause and effect which streamline our economy will feed a frinzy of dirivitives for office dwelling industry cronies to follow. Whether media outlets choose to portray any direct effect of royal surf lords and fear mongerers. The readers will nevertheless feel its impact. Surfers surival tactics won’t reside in social media platforms rather in our freedoms to travel and actually use the information gathering process as an enterprise rather than double agency. Our loyalty to the state will be the ultimate test of discrimination.

    • rel0627

      New tin foil hat for Kwanzaa?

      • Goolosh

        Will the Daft Punk cover shot explain this construction for the technologically advanced?

  • grumpy local

    i, for one, actually hope they screw it all up irreparably. surfing isn’t a “brand” & doesn’t need to be “refreshed”. pro surfing might need a reboot, but when has what the pros do ever been relevent to the rest of us? screw zosea, & screw the asp. i hope they fail.

  • Dharma Bum

    Houseman – I think it’s important to keep
    perspective… If you’re a grom in pursuit of a career in surfing, traveling the
    world and living a carefree lifestyle, all under the auspices of a corporate
    sponsor – then you’re probably grateful for the sports evolution from the early
    days, best dramatized in docs like “bustin’ down the door,” and glad there’s
    money to be made in this sport now, and hoping folks like Mr. Speaker don’t
    ruin things for you. If however you’re a purist, soul-surfer, longboard or
    retro fish rider – you probably resent what surfing has become, and chances
    are, you were never prepared to give ZoSea a chance in the first place. Im no
    grom. I surf a fish, but don’t adhere to much tradition. So I really do hope
    these guys make it. Good luck ZoSea, I hope you make it because i marvel at
    what the competitors accomplish under pressure, can they execute under time
    constraint, opponent sitting right there next to you in the line up, mano a
    mano, negotiating an uncooperative and fickle mother ocean, can you bear the
    grind of the tour, deliver consistent scores for the entire season, not
    break down because you’ve been combo’ed, time running out? And you just saw
    your nemesis execute a crazy maneuver that’s deflated your confidence. Will you
    keep your composure? Keep showing me Mick’s wrap, Medina taking to the air –
    will he land that shit? Kid’s a beast. That old guy Kelly pulling it off with
    seconds remaining, or watching Lakey and Carrissa in the semi’s of the Rip Curl
    Pro at Bells Beach… the anguish on their faces after the heat, standing there
    before the judges made that final call. Good luck ZoSea,
    keep bringing it.

  • Mik

    I would happily pay $10 for an online season’s pass to have access to ASP/WCT events. If the millions of surfers watching did the same, that would generate $10M in prize money. Just make it a clean payment, not something that I have to stop from being a recurring CC deduction. Keep it simple, like an app.

  • Mik

    BTW: if Speaker turns the thing into a corporate stiff NFL, I am out. Also, the judges better be former pro surfers, and one from each area. Otherwise, out again.

  • chris

    I mean isn’t pro surfing pretty boring anyhow? Does anybody really give a f what these guys are doing? The only good news is there are that many fewer guys at local breaks when there is a pro contest.

  • Stansfield Bottomturner

    Between this and Fukushima I’m waiting for the second coming of Dora.

  • Dash

    If we’re lucky surfing will go the way of bodyboarding or rollerblading (at least in the US), only people who really love it still do it and everyone else thinks it’s lame. I surfed a notorious “localized” spot today and there were 4 cameras on the beach and an SUPer wearing a helmet flailing through the lineup…

  • Seabass120

    Wow, that guy’s face looks like The Joker.

  • Eric

    Most of the effect will be monetary, which is desperately needed for the failed ‘Surf Industry’ business model. While companies like Quik and Billabong mismanage themselves into the ground, sponsoring events as solo corporate entities is too expensive: See J-Bay. The new model in theory will make it cheaper to be the main sponsor , while having one advertising vehicle. Better webcasts, no more “Duuuuuuude”commentators, and better financing for better events. It’s a structural change, not superficial, like most Surf Industry incarnations.

  • ccru

    I’ll be happy with Zosea if the webcasts continue to stream better. My #1 issue with the “old” system.

  • A different fish from Lorne

    The problem with pro surfing is the inability to reconcile the surfing lifestyle (‘scene’ if you like) with sport. And to be honest I think it is an intractable problem because as Wayne Lynch said “where are the goal posts in surfing?” I don’t think surfing really is a sport. Even golf or tennis at their simplest have scoring for the recreational player. On the other hand it’s not possible to go for a surf down at the point and quantify my ‘score’, let alone work out if I have ‘won’ or ‘lost’.
    I’ve been around the surf industry long enough to know that ~90% of the people involved in it are starry-eye hangers on, and those calling the shots got there mostly by being a good surfer, not through having any kind of business nous. In short, the industry (and I include the ASP in this) is mostly run by idiots. So don’t be surprised if it all falls in a screaming heap. Especially if the ‘big 3’ go to the wall.
    I can appreciate radical surfing. But if I want to see that I can watch a surf movie or drive up to Torquay where hot surfers will be in the water. Or I can fly to Hawaii. Pro surfing is only interesting if you are a self-obsessed wannabe. It certainly has little appeal to non-surfers. To be honest, pro surfing is not even that exciting as a spectacle anyway. Maybe that’s because I don’t care who wins, and especially I don’t need some ridiculous commentator telling me what’s happening. To be honest, it’s hard to take pro surfing seriously. In fact it’s hard to take any kind of contset surfing seriously to be honest.

  • mikensocal

    Put the best surfers in epic waves and reward the young rippers for pulling something new and innovative off. Their problem solved, no need for marketing

  • Ben

    Fix the judging. Damain Hardman 2.0 shouldn’t be winning titles anymore.

  • Fred d’Orey

    bigger promotion equals larger crowds. real surfers who are not on asp’s payroll don’t go for that. screw surfing as a big brand. we need to be under the radar again. before we start killing each other on the line up. wake up!

  • eLmuchacho

    i care and it is fun to watch. it is great to wait for waves and see what happens. watching Nascar is boring as hell. dont let too much bs infiltrate surfing though. and if you dont like contests, you dont have to watch and you can go on with your surfing life.

  • zbah

    Are the assholes of the world going to take over everything? How can putting a corporate kook in a suit in charge of pro surfing make it better? His picture tells the whole story of what is coming. The asp stated goal is to grow the pro surfing brand and that translates to more bullshit and a more homogenous “product” for the masses. Like anything else from business to government to healthcare the bigger and more centrally controlled it is the worse the product gets. Ladies and gentlemen, the speaker has no soul.
    Far better to decentralize the asp and keep the regional and sponsors idiosyncrasies in the sport.

  • Office Space

    The state of professional surfing is fluid. Some aim to preserve it so many make sure they can control any further development. ASP bartering doesn’t build wind turbines and surfing companies will become a guild under the apparent comparative advantage.

  • Norton

    Pre-echo post echo RCA audible noise and LPs could be the useful forerunner to the articles by conscription. Moving forward surfermagcom is and will be part renissance and a geopolitical cover story.

  • therealdmt

    Wilbur Speakemeyer: “Now I’m in charge of the ASP!”

  • Miguel Estrada

    The whole thing is a joke and will self implode taking care of itself. I give it 2 seasons and Zosea will be adios. I still watch most of the webcasts as the surfers rip and are entertaining, but at the end of the day trying to “Quantify” surfing and saying someone “beat” someone else is laughable. Kelly is still king and all the top 44 guys rip, but I want to vomit when I watch biased Aussie commentators and Brazzo’s surfing with tactics.