As a rebellious teenager Brad Gerlach was kicked off the NSSA National Team. Later, he walked away from the ASP world tour decidedly unpleased with the judging after finishing second in the world, instantly becoming an ASP critic. Today, he’s causing another ruckus with his new competition design called “The Game”, a team surfing format that’s not only more fan friendly, but a huge hit with the world’s best surfers. Thanks to Gerlach, ESPN adopted “The Game” to bring surfing into the X-Games, which didn’t exactly sit well with the ASP. So we sat down with Brad to see what the heck this guy’s whole deal is. Is he trying to be a hell raiser? Or is he a nice guy who’s just misunderstood.
Let’s go back to your childhood. When was your first real act of defiance?
Shit. That’s where we’re going, eh? Well, yeah, I was a total punk as a kid. I definitely had what you’d call an independent streak. And when you mix that with insecurity and immaturity you get a pretty bad result.
Passion coming out in ways it shouldn’t. That’s basically what happens when you don’t know how to channel those kinds of feelings into productive means. In fact, I should just apologize now to anyone who was on the receiving end of one of my outbursts.
Were you surprised to find yourself in the troublemaker role again during the whole X-Games vs. ASP debacle?
Yeah…It was never my intention for the surfers to put their careers on the line for this. That was totally their decision. I was totally prepared to go ahead and run it with unrated surfers.
If the WCT surfers are backing “the game” format is that sending a message to the ASP that their own format could use a facelift?
Well, the way I see it there are some pretty exciting sports here in America. The NFL, college football and March Madness with hoops, the NBA, Major Leage Baseball, tennis, golf-the sports pages are filled with sports that are easy to understand. For surfing to compete, it has to be delivered in a palatable format that people can digest the same way. Right now you have to be too in the know to follow how surfing works. It’s great to have individual champions but to have one town or a whole country beat another through a team format that’s fan friendly is probably easier to grasp. I think there’s room for both.
Maybe it’s by default, but you’re always the guy giving the ASP a little kick in the pants-always playing troublemaker. Do you relish that role?
Well I’m really happy to be making a positive impact in the sport, but I’m disappointed that the ASP sees me as a troublemaker because I’m an ally. I’m a friend of theirs. I know those guys. Hell, I’m an ASP member. I pay them.