We're constantly encouraged to change. Every other meme on social media offers a warm and fuzzy quote about the word. See the change. Be the change. Or take zero steps towards actual change and just post inspiration shit on Insta. That’s the thing — change is hard.
The ASP, however, is changing, and for the better. New look. New energy. New ASP. But just recently, the Prime at Lower Trestles dropped from the schedule. And though the ASP is now committed to running World Tour events despite title sponsors (namely Fiji and J-Bay), the WQS won't enjoy the same luxury. The Lowers Prime was widely considered the most progressive professional surfing event the last time it ran (in 2012) and it’s gone. That desperately needs to change.
We called San Clemente ‘QSers Pat and Tanner Gudauskas to get their thoughts on the axing of everyone's favorite Prime and the direction of the new ASP. —Zander Morton
SURFING MAGAZINE: The Lowers Prime just disappeared from the 2014 schedule. It's an event you've both done well at before, and it's in your backyard. What's your take?
PAT: Everyone was hoping Lowers would return this year, especially us Americans. But the way they've restructured the 'QS this year — being a separate tour again — makes the blow a little softer. It's a much clearer path to qualification and regardless of how many events we end up with, the bottom line is you just have to go out and own each one. And it's kind of sick that we have a few months off from competing this year. We've never had that on the ‘QS before.
TANNER: It's the 'QS competing against the 'QS for a spot on tour again, and that's rad. But Lowers was the contest the 'QS guys really looked forward to. It's the one event where everyone knows they are going to get sick waves.
PAT: I've done both tours for the last few years, and the Lowers Prime is always the premier performance event of the year. A ton of CT guys would come. All of the 'QS guys were there. And the event had a crazy energy because everyone would really go for it. At the 'CT, guys stick to a strategy and try to tactfully win heats. But that [Gabriel] Medina performance two years ago at the Prime was nuts, he was going huge on his first move every single wave, and that's what we're losing this year. Someone like David Silva, who's relatively unknown in America, can go out at Lowers and make a name for himself the same way Medina did.
There are seven Primes on the schedule, three [Brazil, Azores, Portugal] tentative. Are you guys concerned that you may end up with only four major qualifying events and a few six-stars this year?
PAT: It's definitely an issue. 'QS guys are feeling a little unloved, and rightfully so. Everyone wants to compete and perform and show what they are capable of. I'd love to see 10 or 12 major events, but hopefully that's coming — ZoSea is still trying to figure it all out. Separating the tours was the first step in the right direction. Now guys can focus on individual tours, and if 'CT guys want to double tour that's fine, but for it to be worth their time they really have to commit to doing all the Primes. And this way, 10 or 11 new guys have the opportunity to qualify every year again.
TANNER: But it won't be easy. I'm looking at the schedule, and if you're on the 'CT you're naturally going to do Haleiwa, Sunset, probably the US Open, and South Africa, because they line up with the 'CT schedule…
PAT: Which is good and bad. I know Tanner agrees, as 'QS surfers now, we still want to beat the best to get on tour. I was stoked to have Adriano [De Souza] in the semis at Manly. Those heats bring out the best in your surfing. And now we can surf against those guys without their 'CT points counting towards their chances at requalification at the 'QS level. That was never fair. I'm a great example: When I was on tour and the ASP was using the one world ranking, I could do 10 CT events and 8 Primes, so I had 18 events as opposed to the 'QS guys' eight.
TANNER: I think splitting up the tours might restoke the fire and marketing behind the 'QS, because it's going to be its own race. It was so hard to understand where everyone stood going into Hawaii, now it'll be a clear and exciting race.
PAT: ZoSea is investing a lot into the top, elite athletes right now, which is awesome. I know they’re looking at ways to grow in the next three to four years. If the 'QS can get locations like Trestles back on tour they can create an interesting second-tier race to follow. But I wish they would just take Lowers and turn it into a half star this year [laughs].
TANNER: That would be insane. You get 250 points for a one star win. Just imagine. It'd be the hardest one star ever, everyone would enter — Slater would probably win [laughs].
The ASP is pumping new energy into the men's and women's World Tour this year, hopefully the Prime series is next.
PAT: They have an incredible opportunity. There are so many good surfers on that tour.
TANNER: I was talking to Marco Giorgi, who used to do all the events. He missed a half-year of Primes and lost his ranking; he was so frustrated. He was telling me, "Man, with all these events getting canceled, I can't even gain enough points to get into the Primes." And he's right. There aren’t enough five and six stars to work on your seed, so for a lot of people it's like, "Where do I even start?"
PAT: That's been the problem. Only one to three new faces are making it to tour each year and it's discouraging. Creating a system that provides hope for kids to actually reach the World Tour level is going to be critical. That should be a priority for the ASP right now.