Rumors that a Kelly Slater-led breakaway tour is imminent have been running rampant all over the web over the past few days. Could it mean the end of the Dream Tour? Is this tour the bright new future of professional surfing?
In this exclusive interview, Kelly talks about the rumored rebel tour and confirms that where there's smoke, there's fire.
SURFER: Can you confirm the rumors that you're leading a move to form a breakaway world tour?
KS: Yeah, there is something happening but it's kinda been getting pinned on me, which is a little unfair, but I have been pretty vocal about it.
What's wrong with the ASP now?
The inherent problem with the ASP is that it doesn't own all its media rights. It's very fragmented. You have Billabong, Quiksilver, and Rip Curl owning all the media to all the events. So you don't have a package—the most valuable asset to the ASP is that media. The whole purpose [of the breakaway tour] is to reset that foundation. You know, I think people are thinking, "What's going to happen?" There is worry among the surfers that the number of surfers may get cut right down, but the goal is to create something that is better for the sport as a whole. I don't know how much longer I'll be surfing as a pro, but I'd definitely like to see it become more beneficial for the surfers and the fans when it's done.
Why has this move been pinned on you?
Well I've been very vocal in interviews about things that I see as a problem and so the guys who are working on it [the new tour] came to me and asked my opinion about things. They asked me, if they were able to set things up, what would I think? I said here are the things I think. You've read the things that I think. My ideas might not all be valid, but some of them might make a lot of sense. I think they've agreed with a lot of the things I've said, but probably not all of them. The idea is to just present a better package.
And you're not happy with the package now?
Well, you know, you go to a place like Fiji, and you don't know if the feed is going to go out. If the Gold Coast event moves over to Duranbah, the webcast is suddenly shit. It's not any one person's or company's fault, it's just the way it's set up. We just have to—as a unit, as surfers—create the best package we can, which is our business.
And the ASP can't achieve this?
I can't necessarily say that, but I also think that it's slow-going because there is a lot of voting that has to happen. The people that are voting for that are the sponsors who don't want to throw away their rights to events. The way the ASP board is set up probably has some conflicts of interest. You know, hey, it's potentially a big change, but potentially it won't be much of a change for the people watching. It's just behind-the-scenes stuff.
Is there any one person initiating this tour?
There are a couple people, I think.
You don't want to name them?
No, I'd probably get all their names wrong. I know a couple of the guys. They're the ones who got together and said that surfing is not structured properly. It's one of the last professional sports that doesn't nearly have the package it could have. That's what they said to me when they approached me. I've been really supportive of the idea, and that's probably why I've been so attached to it by people.
So you would support the move if everything goes according to plan?
If it were done correctly, for sure I'd be behind it. There are a lot of things we have to figure out. One of the first things to decide for the surfers is what system feeds it now: How many surfers are on it? How is that most fairly decided?
When is this move going to happen?
There's a lot of things to work out, and it's not something that you'd just say, this is the way we're doing it, and its over. There's gonna be a lot of talking. It will be a long process.