Tour de Force: The ASP Turns 20

The year was 1983 and in the midst of a confusing political cultural landscape that somehow included both Ronald Reagan and Boy George, two significant coup d’etats took place. First, U.S. armed forces invaded Grenada, capturing the tiny Caribbean island from its communist Cuban-backed government. Then, in a similar bold stroke, former top pro-turned contest director Ian “Kanga” Cairns of Australia effectively wrested control of the professional surfing world from the hands of its sanctioning body, with the creation of the ASP: The Association of Surfing Professionals. The forceful Cairns spoke passionately of a new “fan friendly” circuit, and the day “when the guy rated 44th in the world will be making fifty grand a year!”

This year the ASP turns 20, and though Cairns’ original dream of Planet Pro Surf has yet to be, there have been many more highs than lows throughout the decades, as the longest-running show in competitive surfing continues to roll on.

And Tim Curran, from Ventura, California, currently rated number 44 on the ASP Tour, is reported to make way in excess of $50,000 annually.

1/83 – With seed funding from surfwear giant Op, Ian Cairns, former top IPS pro competitor and brash Aussie-expat-turned contest promoter, launches the Association of Surfing Professionals, a rival sanctioning body to the existing IPS (International Professional Surfers.) Response from sponsors and competitive surfers is enthusiastic as the new ASP’s first official season kicks off during the South African leg in June, where Hawaii’s Hans Hedemann wins the first two events back-to-back.

11/83 – In what can only be perceived as a power-play to wrest control of the pro surfing scene, Cairns announces that ASP surfers are not allowed to surf in that winter’s Hawaiian Triple Crown events. The Triple Crown, which includes the prestigious Pipeline Masters, is still under the control of the IPS founders Randy Rarick and Fred Hemmings. Top five-ranked Dane Kealoha , the only major pro to defy the boycott, wins the Pipe Masters, losing his ASP points and seeding in the process, effectively ending his storied career.

5/84 – With Hawaii off the schedule, the 1983 season finale is pushed back to May of 84′ and moved to Australia, finishing at the Coke Contest in Sydney. Hometown boy Tom Carroll clinches the first ASP-sanctioned world title, ending the four year IPS reign of the great Mark Richards. Former amateur whiz kid Tom Curren finishes in eighth place, becoming only the second Californian to make the Top 16 after Joey Buran.

7/84 – With Tom Curren and Crew beginning to assert themselves on the new tour, the U.S./Aussie rivalry heats up. In separate magazine interviews Aussie upstart Mark Occhilupo vows to “stop these American wankers!” while less-diplomatic Gary “Kong” Elkerton simply calls the Yanks “soft cocks.”

8/84 – In knee-high surf, Tom Carroll wins the Wave Wizards Challenge in Jensen Beach, Florida, held in what had previously had been considered “the unridden realm.” A large Bertram fishing boat is motored back outside the lake-like calm in an attempt to fulfill the ASP’s new minimum 18-inch wave height requirement. Several disgruntled surfers bring rulers to the contest to challenge the call.

12/84 – The Pipeline Masters gets the ASP’s sanction, but remains an unrated event. Held in epic, 15-foot barrels, Oceanside’s Joey Buran scores a dramatic win against an elite cast of invitees.