Brad Gerlach is a proud pappa. Gerlach’s brainchild, the National Surf League (NSL), will commence competition in late April along the California Coast. The Game, the NSL’s unique competitive format that pits teams of surfers from different geographical regions, will be used to determine regional dominance during a five week NSL season.
NSL teams from Santa Cruz, Ventura, Orange County, and San Diego will compete in games that include coaches, substitutes, quarters with top and bottom halves, and live scoring. After the spray has settled, a season champion will be crowned as victor of the inaugural “California Cup.” Gerlach is expecting full television coverage of the entire season, presented on ESPN2, to hurl the NSL into the mainstream spotlight.
The Game was the featured format during last summer’s X Games surfing competition in Huntington Beach. That particular competition, although lacking in surf, was considered a huge success for two reasons: 1) Gerlach succeeded in swaying top ASP pros to compete (against the will of the ASP), and 2) ESPN’s TV production and event coverage was nothing short of groundbreaking.
The Game is what sets the NSL apart from contemporary surfing competitions. The format is a two-hour competition that pits two regional teams in a format which promises more intrigue and fan involvement than the typical three-to-the-beach surf contest. The idea is to promote a competitive environment that stresses teamwork. Individualism isn’t suppressed; rather it sparkles in the mirror of teamwork and regional pride. Kobe and Shaq shine brightest when working within a team format–and against the Sacramento Kings. So, too, according to Gerlach, can Slater and Hobgood shine bright when surfing against San Diego’s Machado and Knox.
For Gerlach, years as a WCT competitor proved largely unfulfilling–both competitively and as a fan. “An arena where one must forsake friendships in order to succeed,” says Gerlach, “is unable to lend itself positively to our sport, and that’s not good. Plus, the current formula doesn’t allow for good fan participation. You need to see the competitors, in this case the teams, right down in front of you,” says Gerlach. “The spectators can watch the team, and the team’s response. Like at a Laker game or a Charger game. The team doesn’t just disappear into some scaffolding. You need a social setting, like a stadium atmosphere. It’s a must.”
The first NSL The Game of the 2004 season is set for April 30. Check back here at surfermag.com or the NSL website for dates, times and locations of the competitions. – Josh Kimball + Scott Bass
More on Brad Gerlach’s National Surf League and The Game.