2023 Tour Schedule Leaves Fans Cold
Close enough to the sound made when the Woz slapped its fan base today with a cold fish in a wet sock.
In August last year when they released the 2022 schedule, a pal, very high up in the documentary filmmaking world in the UK and who loves his pro surfing texted: “Thank God, no more of that corpo kook pond.”
Well, the corpo kook pond is back, and the Woz (or the main sponsor) is reneging on its three-year G-Land deal, much like they did on the three-year Outerknown Fiji deal. Both of 'em only lasting a single season and proving yet again that taking the Woz press releases and contract announcements at face value is a game for pure suckers.
We knew we were getting buttered up for a Trestles Finals Day. Too much smoke was being blown onto the dancefloor after the last tune for them to pull the glitter ball down without another go around. Despite the pre-emptive hype strike, the Woz has managed an impressive feat with the release of the 2023 Schedule: they've pissed off absolutely every surf fan on the planet.
Reaction has been swift and universal.
Not even a single surf shill in the normally compliant “partner” surf media can manage to come in behind the announcement with anything more than the most tepid sarcasm.
The best I can come up with as balance is that my memory failed me and Elo didn't outright lie about the Tub being taken off tour for good. I could have sworn he had ruled it out but when I found the presser he had in fact hinted it would be back in 2023:
"Surf Ranch has been featured on the CT calendar since 2018 and we'll be taking a year off from the basin in 2022. We will continue to innovate with the world's best artificial wave technology and we are excited for a return to our wave system in 2023 and beyond.”
The Tub now comes in as the first post-cut comp. Imagine how exciting that is going to be? With the drama filleted off the carcass at Margarets we'll be back to watching that train roll down the tracks, knowing exactly what is about to come. Oh well, at least we will get into the time capsule to the era when Kelly used to be over-scored.
While we are on the bright side of life, G-Land off tour is a win for the recreational surfer who wants to post up in the jungle for a spell. Any contest hype will quickly fade away and it'll be back to the hardcores and a few unwary Euro kooks who quickly realise it's not a wave to learn on.
Normally a presser on the upcoming tour schedule has a little sizzle to the steak. Some kind of treat to present to surf fans. Not even a smoke and mirrors legend like Elo could glitter up this dried out turd. The presser was reliant entirely on continuity and stability. Not very sexy concepts but better than going broke, is how I read it.
Jessi Miley-Dyer was proud of the women being fully combined with the men, despite the fact it clearly disrupted Elo's stated objective of running post-cut tour events on a single swell cycle. She said, "I'm proud to confirm that 2023 will continue to see equal events, venues, and prize money with this fully combined schedule.”
Elo played his one trump card, qualification for the 2024 Olympics at Chopes: “We will further strengthen the sport through next year's fully-combined Championship Tour, which will also qualify the first 18 athletes for the 2024 Olympic Games."
Continuity is not quite there though. Missing in action is the second and third leg of the three-tiered Tour. Last year's tour schedule announcement came with a live birthed Challenger Series – not all of which managed to survive. France was noisily dropped. Memory-holed in the Pottz tradition (i.e no mention, as if he never existed) was the November event scheduled for Piha in New Zealand.
I Google-searched in vain for any announcement that the event had been postponed - as it was in 2020 and 2021 - or scratched for good. Nada. Just disappeared.
Quiksilver's parent company Boardriders is struggling, and recently dropped the French CS event. It's likely they will pull also the pin next year, realising the shine and PR of a Challenger Series week does not compare with a fully-fledged CT event. With no Quik CT events on the books either that would be the first time since 1988 that Quik, one of the main surf industry sponsors that kept the lights on through the Dream Tour of the 90's and 00's will be completely absent.
Tourism bureaus - and I'm looking primarily at QLD here - will likely re-evaluate what the suits call Return On Investment after the CS at Snapper in May. A rainy week in May may have been an entertaining watch for us, but it's a far cry from the end of summer bacchanalian festival that used to pump up Coolangatta with cash during the Quik Pro. A Challenger Series event just isn't the same draw and yet still costs loads to run because you have to get through a massive field.
I cannot see the Challenger Series being a sustainable enterprise going forwards at its current scale.
There are simply too many mouths to feed and ticket clippers taking a cut on the way for that tour to survive. If the whole world had the generosity of the Aussie taxpayer, maybe. As it stands, not a chance.
"The top five women and top five men following the 10-event CT season will battle for their respective titles in a new surf-off format at one of the world’s best waves. The idea is to move the finals each year, the way the Super Bowl or most golf majors rotate locations. September, the W.S.L. said, is a good month for waves at a variety of global surf spots."
Looks like Elo will go out on his knees, a supplicant in the sporting desert, cap in hand praying for succour from an indifferent American public.
Meanwhile the integrity of the sport he is steward of slowly withers away with him.
// STEVE SHEARER