Tom Butler rejects Nazare Challenge invite

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

In an expansive Instagram post, UK big wave surfer Tom Butler has underscored the World Surf League's athlete problem.

As the surf industry has collapsed, in part cannibalised by the Wozzle's own media grab, there's less coin to fund pro surfers, with big wave surfers some of the first to fall. Those who remain must cobble together a living from second and third-rate sponsors, and hope prizemoney and appearance fees can supplement them.

When even appearance fees are wiped then the pathway looks very shaky indeed.

Big winter swells are here and I’m being asked what my plans are for the season ahead. Right now I’m not planning to chase any swells abroad and have decided to decline my invite for the Nazare event. I’m taking a needed break from chasing Europe’s biggest storms. Aged 31, I’m completely content with my achievements but kind of burnt out from trying to monetise my sport.

Being a professional athlete can be a very selfish pursuit to reach to a high level. Big wave surfing is a contact sport with consequences, there is no getting around that. So pre-season, life-long preparation is essential to be comfortable in the mix and stand a chance on the biggest days. With a young son my energy and time has to go to my family right now. Stripping back the pressure of being ready to perform in big waves and simplifying my life, working on goals closer to home has made me really happy these last six months. Of course having Ziggy to squeeze on the regular makes me so happy it feels like I’ve dropped down a 60 ft wave most days.

Fact is, not that many big wave surfers globally are getting close to the level of financial backing needed to keep our sport safe. For me, more time has been spent behind a laptop screen than actually surfing. Commercialising myself as an athlete took all the fun out of what I was doing.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by T O M B U T L E R (@tommybutts) on

 


When you commit to a sport like big wave surfing and make the sacrifices and investment that are needed, you hope you can win titles and receive the recognition your performance deserves, not speaking just for myself I feel a lot of the surfers who have entered the @wsl awards and big wave comps feel the same. To make the sport even happen though some wild calls are made that probably are wrong decisions but probably the right decision in a business sense, most of the time at the expense of the athletes.

 

 

Take last years Nazare challenge, event staff completely pulled the wool over the athletes eyes. They said, “This year let's work together and build this event into something huge and profitable for all involved,” then to have @redbull as a headline sponsor and to keep it quiet until the competition day. Collecting my rash vest from a Red Bull counter but not being paid an appearance fee that reflects Red Bull’s financial status doesn’t sit right with me when there is so much on the line. When you have the contest director apologise to all surfers after the event, saying, “sorry for the way the webcast and post event coverage came out” you know you're in a shitty political event.

When you look at all the injustice in the world it’s pathetic me even thinking like this, but hope some of my words get across to the people involved in running these events so the surfers involved and next generation have a more exciting equal platform.

I’m frothing to watch the swells unfold over the next few days. All the big wave spots in Europe will be firing and I hope all the big wave community have a safe, successful season and keep chasing your dreams and them moments that make you feel most alive.

Thank you to everyone who helped me in some way over the last ten years, I’m forever greateful for the opportunities I’ve had and the memories and friendships I've made along the way. Ending a chapter feels as exciting as starting a new one.

Comments

Tim Bonython's picture
Tim Bonython's picture
Tim Bonython commented Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020 at 10:47am

The WSL have raped & pillaged the elite tour to make it very boring. Now there picking on the Big Wave world dropping the paddle events (except for Peahi) trying to turn it into a contest. The only winner will be the WSL guaranteed. I know Tom well and with his new born he's made the right choice.

EastSwellPls's picture
EastSwellPls's picture
EastSwellPls commented Monday, 2 Nov 2020 at 3:44pm

Good point Tim.
WSL has a long way to go before they're a respectable organisation top to bottom, at least in my eyes.
Also, Super keen for ASMF in Brisbane! YEW

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020 at 11:07am

After watching the AFL GF (we lost and it is a not for profit organisation by the way) and the, I think, the impressive organisation it has become, the WSL is a complete embarrassment. Why can't they get the surfers involved with someone with management nous, and take baby steps to build it up. They have taken all the bad US corporate rubbish and none of the core of the sport. It may be a case of the sooner the rich yank pulls the pin the better. Reset, start again and rethink the entire concept of surfing as a competitive pursuit, as everybody seems aggrieved with the current situation. Pros will be upset and poor, however I can't see there is any baby so I reckon throw it out with the bath water.

Trentslatterphoto's picture
Trentslatterphoto's picture
Trentslatterphoto commented Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020 at 12:00pm

Money and surfing are a like combining oil and water.

ringmaster's picture
ringmaster's picture
ringmaster commented Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020 at 12:14pm

Until you need new boards and a trip to Indo..........

Ernie's picture
Ernie's picture
Ernie commented Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020 at 1:09pm

Agree Trent

Plenty of crew who are unpaid with no sponsors who get out there and have a crack around the world and they dont need their ego stroked. Sounds like old mate is having a sook. Get a real job, suck it up, and quit crying about it.

Jay Davies interview on exiting pro surfing was pretty decent. At least he acknowledged how good he had it.

Ernie's picture
Ernie's picture
Ernie commented Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020 at 1:10pm

and who is Tom Butler anyways? And what has he done for the sport that makes him worth $$$$? Fuck these pro ass clowns infuriate me

Ben Harding's picture
Ben Harding's picture
Ben Harding commented Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020 at 5:14pm

Couldn't agree more. I thought surfing was a lifelong passion, first, second and third. And if you are lucky enough to get paid for it then that's an added bonus. He did make mention of not wanting to sound whingy while people all over the world are getting cooked from the pandemic, well he failed in that respect as it came across as exactly that.

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 3:15pm

When someone (WSL in this case) runs a professional league/contest, with sponsor money coming in, then they'd better look after the surfers.

He's definitely not saying "look at me, I'm fucken wonderful so pay me money for surfing".

Ben Harding's picture
Ben Harding's picture
Ben Harding commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 4:27pm

Yes, they should and in this case the big wave contest directors should just be up front and say whats really going on, give them all the facts and details prior to the event. Im willing to wager that the "sponsorship" money from redbull barely, if at all, covers production costs, government applications, insurance, event safety etc etc. And that head office isn't willing to cough up the rest as the CT is barely balancing the books itself, being the major breadwinner and all. With the small if not tiny viewership big wave events get on global sporting scale, Redbull are in pole position to pay the wsl sweet fuck all for sponsorship as there is limited ROI. In contrast to that, Redbull spent around $550m on their F1 team in '18, so it's clear they will spend if they deem it worth it. Unfortunately for the big wave crew, it appears it isn't.

Agitator's picture
Agitator's picture
Agitator commented Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020 at 12:51pm

When a select high profile and vocal few with dollar sign blinkers on bastardized the act of riding a wave and declared it a sport, the personal and beautiful experience of communing with a higher energy...which is what the simple yet profound act of riding a wave is, became lost to so, so many and became known for something it is not!

Got the shot!!!...Claim it!!

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog commented Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020 at 1:12pm

A very important quote:

"Commercialising myself as an athlete took all the fun out of what I was doing."

Don't necessarily envy them or try to emulate them. Someone with a normal career with a flexible work schedule to chase swells, squeeze sessions in around work or do an annual holiday somewhere special is probably having way more fun.

Frogg

Mishad's picture
Mishad's picture
Mishad commented Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020 at 7:49pm

Yep, that's the exact quote where he lost me.

These guys are on another level with their dedication and focus but that takes work, and it's not supposed to be fun.

eel's picture
eel's picture
eel commented Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020 at 1:18pm

"Collecting my rash vest from a Red Bull counter but not being paid an appearance fee that reflects Red Bull’s financial status doesn’t sit right with me when there is so much on the line. "

Why the fuck would Red Bull pay Tom Butler an appearance fee?

Shaun Hanson's picture
Shaun Hanson's picture
Shaun Hanson commented Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020 at 2:15pm

I love the challenge and the mental attitude required to big wave surf ...i love the feeling of self satisfaction when you push your own boundries no matter what size waves you surf and the humbling ability of the ocean when you get a bit cocky ..lot of lessons there ......but for me when its done to win or for heroism or for money it just feels a bit dirty to me .....WSL just does not appeal to me nor does the aggresive competitive attitude it seems to of created in a lot of average surfers ...i thing a lot of surfings soul has been stolen by profesional surfing organizations ...im guessin im not the only one

Pastmypeak

Pops's picture
Pops's picture
Pops commented Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020 at 3:35pm

Definitely not the only one.
As much as I admire the skill of the pros.

He who hesitates is lost

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020 at 4:14pm

Let's keep this discussion on track, eh? Thanks.

D-Rex's picture
D-Rex's picture
D-Rex commented Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020 at 5:32pm

I'd decline a Nazare invite too if I was asked!

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020 at 5:37pm

Haha, so would I. Fuckin’ oath!

NDC's picture
NDC's picture
NDC commented Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020 at 12:18pm

Lol - me too d-rex

JackStance's picture
JackStance's picture
JackStance commented Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020 at 10:22pm

a range of valid points here in the comments.

my read was he was acknowledging how good he's had it, and seems no one read his quote:

"When you look at all the injustice in the world it’s pathetic me even thinking like this,.."

does that no knock all the criticism in the comments on their collective arse?

Anyhow.. capitalism sucks.

I don't know what the solution is, but surely we've enough intelligence on earth to work out a better system for the realisation of human and earth happiness.

given capitalism is the current thang, in my view, of course he and all those fellas that put their areses on the line get paid - at least as much as the fat execs that profit off their images - as a result of their appearances.

Who doesn't love watching that shit. why - probably a few reasons, the power and beauty of nature, the craziness of it, the life and death of it. There's enough money in the world for those dudes to be paid properly and for it to be safe - no one wants to see someone die, or needlessly suffer..

And, of course, he doesn't have to do it. But we want him/them to.

Well to do it they got to train, and support families.

We should bitch about it.. Farrk soccer players earn miiiillllions... golf, tennis.. footy.... on and on, big wave surfing is, in my opinion, a sport/activity of absolute beasts. those mofo's should be national treasures. - as far as sport/surfing thing goes.

I'm more into art tho.

notice how we value artists?

The world is upside down.

People who teach our children, care for the sick, build roads, and drive trains and buses and keep our towns clean and deal with waste, shop attendant. They should be the big earners - we can't do without them... fat execs on the other hand.. ?

I might be wrong..

always open to criticism.

Breathe. Murdoch's empire will one day fail to control our minds.

bluediamond's picture
bluediamond's picture
bluediamond commented Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020 at 11:23pm

Let me get this right. He posts something on his instagram account, which is meant to be for the people that follow him to read, it's not a media release. So those who would read it would have some kind of interest in him and his life story. And on this surfing forum, where a surfing website has picked up what he wrote and shared it, it's upsetting people? How can it when it was only ever directed at people who were actually interested in him hence follow him. Not sure i see the need to sink the boot in, in fact, i'd suggest there's a billion other things on this planet right now you could lose your shit over, but this??

Billyw's picture
Billyw's picture
Billyw commented Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020 at 12:09am

thats why Swellnet reposted it, cos they knew it would stir up shit in the comments and they would get their clicks.

B Dub

bluediamond's picture
bluediamond's picture
bluediamond commented Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020 at 12:52am

Good point. And it did :-)

Ben Harding's picture
Ben Harding's picture
Ben Harding commented Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020 at 8:32am

I can see your point BD. But...when you tag the wsl into your post, similar to what Du Pont did when she felt like she got burned in the big wave awards, it turns into a media release open for discussion. What motivates one to do that other than to create dialogue inside and outside their immediate follower circle? There are other avenues to negotiate pay conditions with your employers. He thought this was the right one and probably is due to this issue not being novel. The sheer amount of traction Du Ponts post got, I feel that this post was his chance at piggy backing off the back of it and create some change, conversation, empathy and not surprisingly, criticism. These issues aren't new ones, he's another man in the Congo line of big wave surfers that feel aggrieved due to pay, recognition, wave interpretation etc etc. At the end of the day, the dollars don't stack up commercially for companies to back em',If they did, than I guarantee corporates would ensure they would all be sitting as pretty as Gabby, Mick, John F.

bluediamond's picture
bluediamond's picture
bluediamond commented Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020 at 8:50am

Fair call Benno. Hadn't seen the tag so yeah agree that does open it up. Interesting that crew think he's got it good/easy to b payed to surf nevertheless. He surfs the biggest waves in the world. It doesn't necessarily take talent but courage and commitment ot does require. So really nothing is stopping any of the above commenters from doing the same except putting the time in. How much does he deserve? I have no idea...I've never surfed nazare or waves like he has so I'm in no position to comment on that aspect.

Ben Harding's picture
Ben Harding's picture
Ben Harding commented Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020 at 12:51pm

Yeah it's definitely a curly one BD, and difficult to speculate how much coin they are worth. With that said, I was listening to a surf poddy, possibly ATS, ages ago, and they were talking about some big wave surfers in small waves and how their performance, in let's just say 1-8ft, leaves alot to be desired. I think they were talking about one of the girls btw. Which may explain parts of it. It got me thinking, if you had someone of Italo or John's talent tackling the big stuff, you would get eyes on the screen world wide for sure, and subsequently more revenue. Apart from Kai, who seems to transcend boundaries, no one really on the big wave tour appears to have the "profile" required to really kill it financially. Obviously Nathan's there and maybe Billy, but Kai almost seems on another planet commercially.

Billyw's picture
Billyw's picture
Billyw commented Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020 at 12:06am

one effect of Covid that will be welcome could be the quicker than expected demise of the WSL, I have my fingers crossed, they have farked the whole thing by listening to people with no clue sitting round a boardroom

B Dub

PCS PeterPan's picture
PCS PeterPan's picture
PCS PeterPan commented Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020 at 8:26am

Bluediamond , thank you for that comment on some of the above negative comments about this surfer I know little about . Having watched some of his waves , he obviously knows waaaay more than about 95 % of the global surfing population of how to navigate his way in BIG OCEAN .

ringmaster's picture
ringmaster's picture
ringmaster commented Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020 at 12:16pm

At the end of the day, the market place determines how much an athlete/big wave surfer etc. is worth.

Golf and tennis players make big coin because of the amount of people who are into it/watch it. Big wave surfing not so.

Can't see any of those blokes being motivated by money anyway. You would genuinely have to froth on riding massive waves (and everything that goes with it like caught insides/mega hold downs/insanely dangerous wipe outs etc) to do it in the first place.

No way you could 'fake' that you like doing that because of a potential big pay day at the end..

juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre commented Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020 at 1:14pm

At the end of the day, the market place determines how much an athlete is worth.

Yes. I was arguing with my parents and they thought that women should get paid the same as men in sport and it doesn't matter what anyone thinks, because at the end of a day, if you're a professional athlete, you're nothing but a billboard and a mouthpiece for companies.

If Red Bull, Monster, whatever fucking company doesn't want to use you, your equipment or your sport as a billboard, you're done. Capitalism, not my choice, maybe not yours, but it's the economic system of which we're all under.

I can't see pro surfing surviving, big wave or otherwise, but what the fuck do I know. If anyone wants to explain the economics of pro surfing and how it succeeds into the future, I'd love to hear.

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog commented Friday, 30 Oct 2020 at 1:33pm

The economics of a world pro surfing organisation
Revenue less costs per annum...
+ $19 mill - $30 mill
+$ 17 mill - $25 mill
+ $ 15 mill - $22 mill
+ $ 12 mill - $18 mill
+ $ 2 mill - $ 8 mill

or something like that.

Frogg

jacksprat's picture
jacksprat's picture
jacksprat commented Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020 at 1:27pm

The surf industry has achieved the demise it truly deserved. After decades of pontificating, posturing, greed and manipulation the money train has finally ground to a halt. All the hangers on and surf industry remoras will have to get actual jobs or finagle their almost celebrity into some type of scam (read enviromental or health non profit). May all the ex spokes models rest in pieces.

onetimeonly

fishnsurf's picture
fishnsurf's picture
fishnsurf commented Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020 at 6:11pm

I thought he said that Red Bull who make a fairly big profit , probably could have shared that with the athletes putting their lives on the line for the event.
Heres a quick google search for Red Bull in 2019
Manufacturing cost of a single can – approximately US$0.09
The average wholesale price of a single can in Western countries – US$1.87
The suggested retail price of a single can in Western countries – US$3.59
7.5 billion cans sold in 2019 helped generate US$6 billion in revenue – a third of which they reinvested into marketing
Felix Baumgartner’s space jump cost Red Bull US$50 million to make happen – the return value on global reporting? US$6 billion
Purchase of Red Bull New York soccer team in 2006 cost an estimated US$25 million – the return value in present-day? US$290 million (team value according to Forbes)
I think personally that with those kinda figures , thats theres definatly some money owing to the competitors .

Surf ingredients

juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 11:12am

Red Bull are not a nonprofit organisation. They're not a government company that exists because of tax payers.

So, under the rules of Capitalism, why do you think Red Bull owes competitors more than they've already been paid by Red Bull, under a contract that both parties signed of their own volition?

fishnsurf's picture
fishnsurf's picture
fishnsurf commented Saturday, 31 Oct 2020 at 9:12pm

The rules of capitalism ?
Is that survival of the richest. ?
I think that just taking profit and not giving back to the society you got it from is unhealthy and unethical. For example If all the profits from our non renewable energy sector could be used to establish a renewable energy sector. We might be less destructive to our environment. Capitalism alone isn't healthy for a nation , or a company. Eventually those you have capitalised upon, will not be there.

Surf ingredients

juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre commented Sunday, 1 Nov 2020 at 6:19am

I agree with you, but Capitalism is the form of government we keep choosing globally over and over again, even with knowing all the negatives since Karl Marx's critques in 1867 (some of them you've pointed out) and therefore we get what we deserve.

I'm hoping for some positive change! Our environment can't handle much more destruction.

Just Floating's picture
Just Floating's picture
Just Floating commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 12:26pm

Although I'm no major fan of the WSL and competitive surf I can see Tommy B's point. That's hardly a person on here who doesn't enjoy watching these guys take on the scariest waves on the planet, we cringe when they get smashed and admire their skills and bravado. We love to watch and the YouTube clicks prove it - 841K views of the terror vault part 2. I'm guessing that most of the guys don't get paid for any of those YouTube videos and if pro surfing is the only way they can fund their passion (and we love watching them risk their lives for our entertainment) than why shouldn't they fight for a better dollar. Rugby League players did it, NFL players did it, Rugby Union players did it etc etc. Getting paid big bucks to play the game they love and are passionate about - why shouldn't surfers?

If the platform is boring, that's not the surfers fault (unless he/she just wont go), it's the organisers fault - surfers shouldn't have to pay for that. I think this falls straight onto the organisers/producers etc who continually churn out crap - not the guys who want to chase it for a living. If I was good enough and someone wanted to pay me to surf - I wouldn't say no.
Just want to officially turn down any potential Nazare invites right now - just in case nobody signs up this year.

SI's picture
SI's picture
SI commented Thursday, 29 Oct 2020 at 2:40pm

If they are going to pay surfers money, I reckon some of it should go to the big wave surfers. I mean, who doesn’t like watching someone get a big barrel or defy death taking the drop at Nazare ... it’s awesome man!!! I don’t really care if some of those guys have big egos etc, I know many actually don’t. I think it’s irrelevant whether they are likeable or not or even if they deserve to get paid? It’s just a buzz to watch and inspiring...good on em I say!!

Barrelrider

Jack Morton's picture
Jack Morton's picture
Jack Morton commented Saturday, 31 Oct 2020 at 6:22am

Obviously not profitable yet, big wave surfing is not exactly main stream like foot ball or tennis
But pretty sad that a guy take Tom can't get some love from fellow surfers..,

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Saturday, 31 Oct 2020 at 8:03am

I guess he’s doing something that a lot of people are doing for free or at great cost to themselves. Whine about this situation at your peril I say. A lot of it is just plain jealousy, but there it is.
There was a clip a couple of years ago where some Hawaiian pros went in search of Curren’s Right in Japan during a typhoon swell. The amount of entitled whining that went on in that clip was almost unbearable. To this day I feel hot flushes or rage whenever I see any of their content pop up.
If a pro surfer wants to be well regarded by the everyday surfer then they need to be humble. Mason Ho, Dane Reynolds, Mark Richards and Russell Bierke are good examples.

hoody's picture
hoody's picture
hoody commented Saturday, 31 Oct 2020 at 5:41pm

Having surfed for forty years now and at one point getting caught up in competitive surfing for some years. I can really feel where this guy is coming from. Every surf becomes in some part a training exercise and for big wave surfing the commitment needs to be 100% to avoid the natural consequences of big waves.
My personal view is now, that competition surfing really does go against what surfing IS and for most people SHOULD be. A way to enjoy nature and share good times with friends but also strangers who share your passion for the ocean. To expect payment on top of something so rewarding is a bit greedy. For guys like Margo, Rasta or Torrenson who make movies that are backed by big companies they deserve to be paid for sharing their skill at wave riding that brings joy to so many more people than just three whacks and an air reverse in dubious conditions. Surfing for all of us is about the stoke(joy) and pro comps just don't seem to create that feeling.
Hopefully in the future guys like Butler can find ways to reconcile the effort/rewards and we get to see surfing continue to progress without the need for it to be about money.
The best surfer in the water is the one having the most fun-Phil Edwards
Out of the water I am nothing-The Duke
I don't want to be connected to surfing in a business way. Id like to be a plumber-Butch Van Artsdalen

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Saturday, 31 Oct 2020 at 7:45pm

Hoody, your description of what surfing is "should be" aligns pretty closely with mine. That said It could be argued that surfing is about whatever an individual wants it to be. That's the beauty of it. It's not like football where there's a set of rules you have to follow. For some people it's purely about looking cool. For others it's about three to the beach. For yet others it's about exploring wilderness areas searching for waves. Whatever floats your boat I guess. So in conclusion I would say that it's a risky business trying to tell people that they're doing it right or wrong; or in other words surfing is about _____ and everyone else should do it that way. (Not that you're doing that here, I admit I'm drawing a long bow with this) Anyway, so long as people are not being fuckwits in the water then live and let live I say.

hoody's picture
hoody's picture
hoody commented Sunday, 1 Nov 2020 at 12:12pm

Totally agree, kind of the point I was getting at. Being so individualistic its a bit unfair to have it judged. Love the fuckwit comment. Too many in the water fighting over the best waves not prepared to take a step back and just watch for a bit by taking a small wave then watching the set roll trough.

mikehunt207's picture
mikehunt207's picture
mikehunt207 commented Sunday, 1 Nov 2020 at 1:04am

Isnt going in a surf contest a contest? Winners get paid, rest dont, kind of the point. Going on the net to have a winge about not getting an appearance fee is pretty lame, unless maybe if your one of the best surfers in the world that might (even then questionable) make some sense, but really?? get a 9 to 5 job, appearance fee for 8 hrs work every time. All the shite these days "putting it on the line", " style comments like they are off to war or something - faark big wave surfing used to be a challenge, guys (and girls) doing it for love and doing it without fanfare (mostly anyhow) and once the $ hit suddenly attracted the very worst element, Nazare and the relatively new Euro big wave scene really highlights this, all about getting a pic on one giant wave and then the social media flog and money chasing begins.