It's time for longboarding to dance to a different tune

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

Every time the WSL runs its new ad it's like a bad joke, and the longboarders are the butt of it.

“It takes a tour to make a title,” proclaims the flashy promo, but what does this say about the longboard world title? For the last four years the world title was decided on just one competition. This year they have two competitions. Is this enough to constitute a tour?

All the longboarders I know take it in good humour; they’re all too aware of the obstacles in making pro longboarding viable.

The Championship Tour is home to spearpoint surfing and it’s sold on that premise, while the Big Wave Tour is held in waves that impress the man on the street - it has the most potential for mainstream crossover.

Performance longboarding, however, is a version of who can whisper the loudest. The equipment restrictions negate high performance aerial surfing and a nine foot noserider won't work at forty foot Jaws.

So what’s the unique appeal of performance longboarding? Or, to put our marketing hats on for a moment, how can competition longboarding be packaged and sold?

Last month the World Longboard Championship - the first of two contests in their ‘tour’ - ran in Tupira, Papua New Guinea. The pre-contest media mentioned a daily press release but I didn’t expect to be running much in the way of results. Past experience shows they’d garner little traffic.

Swellnet isn’t alone here, very few surf sites run any pro longboard results and I’d wager their reasoning is the same as mine.

When the first WSL press release came through, however, I cut and pasted it straight to our site. I then pored over the accompanying photos to see which would look best on the homepage.

And the reason? The opening ceremony featured locals in colourful traditional dress carrying handcarved wooden boards. It was a cultural exchange, and of the thousands of photos and stories that flashed on my computer screen that day, that event stood out.

After the opening ceremony, Swellnet ended up running all the news and results from the PNG World Longboard Championships because when you begin telling a story you’re obliged to also finish it.

Tom Wegener was also up in Tupira during the contest. It was the third time he’d been there, the previous two times he’d been working with the locals on those handcarved wooden boards I saw in the photos. Wooden boards have a long tradition in PNG, and Tom being a wooden board boffin...well, you can see the link.

Tom also has an extensive history in longboarding being among the first kids to rediscover longboards after the shortboard revolution deemed them redundant. He’s had over forty years on the glide and now he’s got an idea for selling longboard contests to the world.

“My suggestion to the WSL,” Tom tells me during a recent conversation, “is that at each stop on the tour they tell some sort of story. Like we did here in Papua New Guinea with the wooden boards and the traditional ceremony.”

He believes the idea can be replicated around the world. “It can be applied to other nations of the Pacific,” says Tom. “Around the Indian Ocean too. India has its own story...even Malibu in California.”

“You tell these great stories and combine them with the contest to turn people onto it.”

The process isn’t alien to the WSL. In 2014 their VP of Communications, Dave Prodan, spoke to the Huffington Post and what he said sounded very much like what Tom Wegener is proposing:

“We need to do a better job of telling the story of the athletes and providing a better context for the fans. Fans can get involved in a personal story or biography. Once they are invested, they can then tune in on a time delay if they’re in a different time zone, and champion our athletes outside of the water.”

Acting on the above, the WSL kitted out a warehouse in Santa Monica and turned it into a production house where they churn out stories on their major athletes. They’re also heavily invested in a coming documentary on Laird Hamilton. The WSL is already in the business of telling stories.

“It sounds unreal,” said one unnamed pro longboarder who was at the Papua New Guinea contest when I ran the idea past him, though he concedes there might be resistance. “I don’t think some guys would like to see longboarding cast as a regressive sport. I’m sure they think it’s much more progressive than that.”

“But then,” he counters, “they also don’t like longboarding being neglected for the sake of the Championship Tour.”

Like the ad on television, Tom's idea just makes sense. Using longboarding to tell cultural stories may even attract that rare and treasured species: the non-endemic sponsor.

Though it has less dazzle than shortboarding, and (thankfully) less machismo than big waves, longboarding is more genteel and respectful of the past. There’s a timelessness to the longboard dance. It has, in other words, mainstream appeal.

It’s time, says Tom Wegener, for longboarders to dance to a different tune. “Every island nation with surf has a story. Longboarding can tell those stories.”

Comments

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Wednesday, 10 May 2017 at 4:08pm

Not a bad idea, using longboarding to bridge the cultural divide.

I can see it- The 'in Memorial of Yassar Arafat Gaza Strip Longboard Classic'.

or the 'Che Guevara Caribbean Backdoor Shootout' brought to you by Cohiba.

Ignorance is Zen

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Wednesday, 10 May 2017 at 8:10pm

the problem is the product, not the packaging.

Doesn't matter how much you polish it, wrap it in tinfoil or try and tell history with it; modern performance longboarding is still a turd.

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Wednesday, 10 May 2017 at 9:22pm

Hard freeride.......but fair!

abc-od's picture
abc-od's picture
abc-od commented Thursday, 11 May 2017 at 9:03am

A hugely popular turd.

sharkman's picture
sharkman's picture
sharkman commented Thursday, 11 May 2017 at 4:12am

sounds like BB and FR should have worked for Surfing mag in the USA , damn the longboarders!
How did that work out?

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Thursday, 11 May 2017 at 8:40am

I'd like to personally thank Surfing magazine for not furthering the idea of younger, able bodied surfers riding longboards.

Longboards are a potential nightmare in any situation where there aren't enough waves to satisfy a crowd . A nightmare mitigated by the fact that mal riders are usually people without the physical ability to fully realise their ruinous potential.

Adding youth ,Semi competence and a competitive attitude into the mix and longboards are the rampaging Godzilla through the Tokyo of global surfing line ups.

Thank fuck that the actual professional longboarders I've surfed with had pleasantly restrained attitudes to their line up etiquette.

sharkman's picture
sharkman's picture
sharkman commented Thursday, 11 May 2017 at 10:40am

they had to shut down surfing mag because ....they wouldn't recognize longboarding as surfing , ask Joel Tudor!

bean's picture
bean's picture
bean commented Thursday, 11 May 2017 at 5:51am

Must be a challenge getting their boards anywhere, especially using Jetstar??

tonybarber's picture
tonybarber's picture
tonybarber commented Thursday, 11 May 2017 at 8:53am

Leave the longboarders to the 'vibe and the serenity'.
Go to the Noosa Surf Festival to experience this or any longboard comp.

abc-od's picture
abc-od's picture
abc-od commented Thursday, 11 May 2017 at 9:05am

I didn't know so many people had an issue with it. I've got a mate that competes and it's just like any other branch of surfing albeit with an emphasis on style.

Tom's idea sounds like a good plan.

regano's picture
regano's picture
regano commented Thursday, 11 May 2017 at 9:35am

As a surfer who rides both long and short board I couldn't care less about 'how can competition longboarding be packaged and sold?' Obviously some feel the need for competition and it has its place however the future of longboarding is not dependent on it. It never ceases to amaze me though how articles about longboarding flush out those who generalise about longboarders and display their tribalistic tendencies. 'Surfing' isn't just high performance short boarding, its much more diverse than that and better for it.

regano

chook's picture
chook's picture
chook commented Thursday, 11 May 2017 at 9:46am

i don't understand what the supposed problem is.

your local area has a series of longboard comp throught the year. winners go the national each year. then there is an annual international comp, in a different country each year where this is a fair interest in longboarding. it has a healthy crew of OS visitors that can make it.

you get a bit of sponshorsphip. but everyone pays their way. bit of a get together for old friends and making a few new friends. what's the problem? it's worked for kneeboarding for years. isn't this how it should be?

sharkman's picture
sharkman's picture
sharkman commented Thursday, 11 May 2017 at 10:41am

stereo typing of longboarders!

chook's picture
chook's picture
chook commented Thursday, 11 May 2017 at 11:02am

sharkie, i type in mono. sure i use a bit of reverb. but it's still mono.

AndyM's picture
AndyM's picture
AndyM commented Thursday, 11 May 2017 at 11:01pm

On fire!

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 11 May 2017 at 11:30am

just to be clear, I love longboarding, had some unreal waves at the Pass this morning with my daughter on a log.
Logging is beautiful, graceful and looks unreal in the right waves.

Modern performance longboarding is the turd I am referring to. It somehow negates or deletes all the best things about longboarding and takes on all the worst aspects of shortboarding.
Thats not my opinion either, it's widely shared by the best longboarders like Joel Tudor and Beau Young.

bum_acid's picture
bum_acid's picture
bum_acid commented Friday, 12 May 2017 at 11:04am

you got it.

chook's picture
chook's picture
chook commented Thursday, 11 May 2017 at 11:59am

as long as they don't don't drop-in or snake, who cares what someone else rides and how they like to ride it.
i thought the days of people getting in your face and telling you what do ride and how to do ride where long gone.

Phil Jarratt's picture
Phil Jarratt's picture
Phil Jarratt commented Thursday, 11 May 2017 at 5:04pm

Freeride hits the turd on the head, so to speak, but the fact is that WSL longboarding has been moving away from HP for several years. Not far enough in my opinion, but it's a start, because the true value of competitive longboarding lies in its direct links to surfing's rich history. Put that on display and tell our cultural stories (as my friend Professor Wegener suggests) and longboarding has a place on the world stage.

Phil Jarratt

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Thursday, 11 May 2017 at 5:08pm

.........somewhere in the chorus line with body boards and SUPs I would think Phil. If I really concentrate I can sort of understand the attraction but then my brain hurts and I click on some big wave stuff.

sharkman's picture
sharkman's picture
sharkman commented Friday, 12 May 2017 at 12:52am

paddle or tow , or just waves over 20'?

chook's picture
chook's picture
chook commented Friday, 12 May 2017 at 10:50am

freeride, sorry for having a go at you. i'm pretty sure i misunderstood what you were saying. in fact, i have no idea what the issue here is after reading the artilce a few times.
my comprehension skills are even lower than usual at the moment -- i've a cold/chest infection that just won't go away.

as

Blarney's picture
Blarney's picture
Blarney commented Friday, 12 May 2017 at 12:52pm

I seen this kind of attitude at the lowest levels of sport where your loyalty to a particular sport or style, eg rugby vs rugby league, leads to the damage done, to the upcoming young kids, people trying to get obesity off the agenda, acting out from local beach ( ie where the real local superstars and five time mentawi, two trips to PNG champions reside). We know you went through the shortboard revolution but really!!
You shortboard only rivals, god!!, you can look as ugly and fucked as anyone on your day, then those sad fucks still trying to ride or learn on equipment they will never master. and the sad followers listening to you, I include myself in this bunch for many years. Then you turn around and have a go at a knee, boogie or other craft, people how have been hanging around the beach long before your craft rose to arrogance.. You just don't want to let go of that line-up do you, or ? maybe you think the standard will drop, bring on the finless rise.
On any day modern performance shortboarding can drop a turd in the line-up on any beach in the world. I thought the days of people getting in your face and telling you what do ride and how to do ride where long gone. Not here?, but the cultural cross pollination and global friendships and support that any form of surfing, organised, is long term going to outway any negative attitude you can muster.

the-camel's picture
the-camel's picture
the-camel commented Monday, 15 May 2017 at 2:36pm

Longboards negate wriggling. Wriggling is what the average shortboarder is doing when he thinks he's going off in waves that really should be left for those who are either very young or very old.
Who gives a toss about the existence or non-existence of professional surfing in any capacity anyway?

the War on Thrusting

Blarney's picture
Blarney's picture
Blarney commented Tuesday, 16 May 2017 at 6:47pm

You !!!!

the-camel's picture
the-camel's picture
the-camel commented Wednesday, 17 May 2017 at 12:00pm

You're right, they irk me with their frantic gyrations. We must win the war on thrusting.

the War on Thrusting

Blarney's picture
Blarney's picture
Blarney commented Friday, 19 May 2017 at 2:18am

There is no war on thrusting!

Blarney's picture
Blarney's picture
Blarney commented Saturday, 20 May 2017 at 3:00pm

Thrusting is a functional manoeuver in the surf and in bed,(or may be a sign of a tired or injured participant in the fine artistic and great sport of professional surfing).