As was reported a few days ago, Sophie Goldschmidt, the current CEO of the World Surfing League, will be stepping down and will be replaced by the current WSL VP of Content, Media, and Studios, Erik Logan. That change taking place sometime next week. That in mind, we thought it might be a good time to not only congratulate Mr. Logan but to also let him know what we think, kinda surfer to surfer, as to how the whole WSL experience might be improved.
So, here we go.
Dear Mr. Logan,
First and foremost, congratulations on the promotion. We are very confident you will do a great job.
You strike us as a man secure enough in himself to be able to actually consider some constructive insight so we thought we’d make sure you heard, from at least one small part of your surfing audience, what it is we would like to see from the WSL in the future.
At What Youth we feel we partially represent an audience of whom one might call somewhat of a “core” surfer. Pretty much a hardcore frother of most things surf, including the periodic streaming of professional competitive surfing as supplied by the WSL. Probably more so when the waves are pumping for a particular comp, but still most likely checking back on heat replays and such for results of events we may have missed live. We are assuming that this demographic of other like-minded surfers would be deemed by the WSL as to be on the “very important” list and to make sure they are authentically entertained.
With that assumption in mind, we thought we’d offer a few suggestions as to how to best keep us engaged.
Before we get into that, we feel it’s very important to stress to you that the core surfer is the most important consumer of what the WSL provides. Simply, you want us talking about the WSL in favorable terms while in line-ups, parking lots, or even online. Any assumption that most surfers are already tuning in to the live streams so “we don’t need to worry about them” is, in our opinion, a very incorrect assumption. Yes, part of that miss is because some surfers simply don’t like watching competitive surfing, but a big part of that miss is also attributed to the overall WSL vibe that we often find just slightly off in a couple of key ways. Since you are surrounded by surfers every day and we believe you count yourself among them, we must assume that you are acutely aware of some of this and are hopefully even attempting to purposely craft at least some of the content with that in mind. This is where you lose us to some degree as the current presentation just doesn’t really resonate as we think it could, and actually should.
Mr. Logan, we have no idea of even the most basic economics of producing a large WSL event so it would be inappropriate for us to blindly speculate, but if capturing what we feel is your most important market is indeed a part of your future push, we have a few suggestions to consider.
Live feed. In our opinion a mainstream, non-surfing viewer doesn’t really care if the comp is live. Perhaps shrink the huge costs of creating that fancy live feed and just create a packaged show of which a mainstream audience can watch either on-demand or in a programmed slot on traditional TV channels. Then give the boys a down and dirty live version with an announcing crew that actually speaks to them. A mainstream-friendly commentary can simply be over-dubbed later into the packaged show. You know the deal, you did it a few years back with the ladies at Honolua Bay. We actually watched that, by the way. The best part of an edited and packaged version is the elimination of the dead air time of a live event. You know, the 20-minute lulls that lose even the most die-hard viewer. We can’t imagine a non-surfer sitting through that. By editing in the competitive highs and lows it creates drama and much more compelling entertainment for the non-surfer. While a live version, kept simple, keeps the core audience happy. Erik, we just don’t think you can kill two birds with the one stone.
Judging. Either the judges are not watching the same event as we are or the actual judging criteria are so outdated that they’ve become inapplicable. So let’s just assume it’s the latter as we do understand that surfing is very subjective and capturing a wide consensus will always be difficult. However, there are a couple of things you might want to consider to help create a clearer point of difference among competitors for the entire audience and in turn, create a respectable event with an outcome that has integrity.
- A 10 can only be awarded on a set wave. We realize that the “perfect 10” is gold in the quest for breathless click-bait headlines, but you are overusing it. A lot. Anything over a 9 needs to be very, very solid.
- No single maneuver should be scored a 10 unless it is something of which was extraordinary. See above.
- Repetitive, similar maneuvers should be scored progressively lower when overused. The repeated backhand wiper from the goofies comes to mind. Make variety a thing. It’s harder to do and more entertaining to watch.
- Let the surfers help you with what is scored and how. Get the crew together at the beginning of each year, with the judges in the room, and ask them which types maneuvers and each variation should be scored the highest. They know what’s hard and what’s not and that a weak little air-revo is bogus. Middle-aged men who haven’t pulled an air in 15 years, if ever, no offense, is hardly the panel of experts the sport requires and unfortunately, it’s often showing up in the results.
- Last, let’s take a page from snowboarding here. A “make” is only a make if it’s stomped cleanly. With the air game surely being a big part of the future of competitive surfing, a “butt-check” or other types of lay-back like recoveries from any maneuver should be scored appropriately. Period.
Mixed-Gender Events. OK, we get the economics on this but the typical length of a WSL dual-gender event is simply too long. In many cases, it actually requires two completely different swell events to take place in order to run all the required heats. The long lay periods that then happen in between are killing the pacing and in turn, interest. Surely keeping the full staff hanging around an extra week isn’t great on the ops budget either. Mandate overlapping heats in the early rounds. Maybe run men and women side-by-side when applicable. Get creative but get through those early heats ASAP. As I’m sure you’ve heard, the non-elimination seeding round is not very compelling. Perfect world for us, the meat of the comp (16 guys, 8 women) is a two-day deal max, held in the best possible surf of the waiting period.
We don’t think we are asking much and in turn, we will promise to watch, support, and generally throw shakas at the WSL if you could just see a way to create programming that surfers like us can actually feel like it was intended for them.
Good luck with everything Erik and thanks for your time.