The Future of Surfing

As sure as night follows day, winter follows summer.
Winter cold, dark, inhospitable is finally behind us for another year.

 

Anticipation.. those rare long days of sunshine and swell, ‘nature in perfect harmony. The all too few standout surfing days that will be remembered for a lifetime, the future may hold troubled times for us all… the memories of a youth are a precious possession, for you are one of the chosen few who will play in paradise in the summer of ’84.

The cycle of life cannot be stopped. The inevitability of age, reasonability and commitments to life, eat into our recreational time with the passing of time, other interests take over. Very few of us will be a surfer for all our lives, responsibility will cheat us of a lifetime of endless summers. So live it fast it is not going to last. You are one of the chosen few who will play in paradise in the summer of ’84.

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 But in what direction is the future of surfing going?

DIRECTION ONE

The four year rule of Mark Richards as World Champion is now over. Tom Carroll is the new World Champion, the Americans are emerging as a potential world force once again. Britain is no longer a back water of world surfing, We host at least one ASP event, but what of our own contest circuit? The SS 1000? This is the first attempt at getting something off the ground. Confirmed contests on that circuit are the Welsh Pro-am 21st-24th April (Won this year by Paul Russel), the Newquay Surf Classic 26th-28th May, the Biarritz Pro 1st-4th June, Jersey 23rd—24th June, La Torche 1st-3rd September. Not being able to complete negotiations before the 180 day rule set by the ASP the Europro ’84 contest has now been turned into the European Professional Open Championship, to be held at Watergate Bay, Newquay, prior to the Foster’s contest.

The dates are the 15th—21st August. Contest Director John Conway tells me that the prize money allocated by his sponsors for a second ASP event he was to have staged, has now been put up for grabs in an open Professional European Championships. He tells me that the winner could walk away with at least £2,000, the prize money will go down through the lower placings.

I asked him what he meant by open contest. ‘The Europro ’84 will be open to any surfer, professional or amateur who wants to enter. Competitions were originally started to test one surfer’s skill against another’s in a friendly competitive spirit, all the fun seems to have gone out of contests, I want to return to that philosophy of surfing for fun. Kids are being ripped off by the system with extortionate fees, forced into corners by organisations and exploited by sponsors. I would love to see some young British Guy walk away with enough prize money to take him off to Australia or Hawaii. That’s what’s on offer.’

I asked him how he saw the Europro’s future. ‘This year’s European Open is a one-off event, if it is successful, a three contest, fixed venue, European Championship could emerge from it. My sponsors were willing to invest £20,000 in an ASP ‘A’ Grade event, if the European Open is well supported by the media, then I can see no reason why that money can’t be kept here in Europe instead of going to the established names. I asked John who he thought would compete. ‘I expect that some big names will turn up, they will be in town anyway for the Foster’s contest. I am well aware that the top 16 aren’t allowed to compete, but they broke the rules in Hawaii and from what I hear, quite a few want to be able to surf in any contest. The ASP is restricting their earning potential’. I asked him what he thought of the article in the April/May issue of Surf Scene regarding the Europro affair. ‘I don’t waste time thinking about cheap sensationalism. If PETER BROOKS wants to place his magazine in Foster’s bed, then he’s welcome to sleep with them. I think that a magazine should be totally impartial because they have a lot of influence over their readership. By printing tacky half truth trash, Brooks has upset quite a few influential people here in Newquay, which only served to rub salt into a very open wound in the sport.’

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DIRECTION TWO

Four Fin Wonder Boards, gimmick or functional design — only 1984 will tell. Rumours are coming from the southern hemisphere of Aerials, over the back re-entries and all manner of radical manoeuvres. Fins are being winged, curved, bent and grooved. Tommy Curren has been elivated to the height of California’s most dominant pro since Corcky Carrol. Martin Potter could be South Africa’s successor to Shaun Tomson. Are we seeing the dawn of a new era, with the likes of MR, Rabbit and Shaun beginning to fade? and where does Europe fit into the pattern of things? If George Orwell was right, we needn’t even bother to think of a new direction ’cause this is the year you kiss your arse goodbye.

DIRECTION THREE

The British Surfing Industry is now heavily entrenched in the windsurfing explosion. Most of the sailboards are direct descendants of surfboards, that paved the way for windsurfing manufacturing techniques. Windsurfers, whether we like it or not, are now riding wind powered surfboards, pulling off insane manoeuvres and theres literally thousands of them. Surfing as we know it has to fit into the scheme of things.
Its human nature to resist change, our manufacturing industry has a duty to the sport that first breathed life into it. The transition period could be calm or stormy depending on how the fathers of the sport play their cards. Windsurfing is a far more profitable market, but surfing has paid its dues. It would he a magnificent gesture, if some of the profit of windsurfing was directed into sponsoring young surfers, who at the moment have the system stacked against them.

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DIRECTION FOUR

The British Surfing Association has been going since 19 (sic) and seems to have lost momentum. Here in our magazine office, we’re constantly hearing surfer’s complaining about the English branch of the BSA. The roots of the sport are in the amateur ranks, if the young guys don’t have a good organisation from the Association they will get dispirited with the whole contest system.
This summer our National Team is once again involved in the World Championships in the States. They will come up against the Australian and American amateur machine that is funded by the industry to produce champions. If we are not to be anything other than also-rans we need to take a leaf out of the major contenders book. The whole grey area of sponsorship and money needs sorting out, with clear guidelines stacked in the favour of the surfers. Not pot bellied officials arguing over a surfers status and the true meaning of the pure essence of being an amateur.
Life, like surfing goes through cycles, we are at the beginning of another era. Having just kept pace with the last, it would be only too easy to run out of steam and get left totally behind.

DIRECTION FIVE

The time for change is now. Surfing should take the good things on offer and change the malignant establishment. This can only be done by prominent figures in British Surfin who owe it to their spot, to stand up and be counted. Without positive direction from the top, the rank and file will stagnate and remain in an unsatisfactorily contest system. Throw out the amateur status, let the young surfers win money to fund a contest career and travel. It is scandalous the way the BSA skim off a percentage of their prize money and though a laundering system, back door the money to the surfer under the pre tense of a travel grant. Why not fix an entry fee scale in Pro-am events that is relevant to the prize money? For example, if £1000 is on the table in total prize money, and 128 surfers pay £6 each to enter, then they have contributed £768 to the total purse, sponsors should at least match this or double it and take the money down below 3rd place. Ego, argument and money are blocking the progress of surfing in the UK, time has come for a New Direction.