The WSL Copied My Homework!

In light of the recent developments in the footboarding world, now is a good time to revisit Stuart Knox’s vision for the future of the professional bodyboarding tour presented in the early days of Infoamed.

Eerily similar to the structure the WSL is proposing for their future, the question now is, should the IBC follow suite?

By Stuart Knox.

I’m not a pro bodyboarder, far from it in fact.

I have no vested interest in the tour or any of it’s riders.

I’m an old, fat kook who has sat on the sidelines for a long time watching the various versions of the competitive side of bodyboarding.

These are not my ideas, it’s an amalgamation of multiple conversations with bodyboarders young and old, kooks and pros. It is thoughts & ideas gleaned from Facebook, Instagram, Podcasts, chats, messages and drunken rants.

All these little pieces of puzzle are out there and being talked about, I’m just trying to put it all together into some vaguely coherent structure with the aim to start further conversations.

Let’s start with the current situation.

The 2019 APB World Tour had 5 Grand Slam Events and 3 QEST events. To be the World Champ, you needed to at compete in 3 GS & 1 QEST event.

This allowed the opportunity to win the title by only competing in South American leg, but with 2 further GS events in Australia and Canary Islands it would be a brave move to risk it.

This means that from June to October a title hopeful would need to travel to South America, Australia and Europe.

The South American leg was a minimum of 7 weeks on the road. That’s a lot of food and accommodation to cover!

The biggest prize money winner was Sammy Morretino, collecting US$20,450 in prize money. I’d say this would be enough to cover his expenses and leave something left over (but I’m just guessing).

The issue arises as we go through the remaining competitors, Tristan Roberts, as World Champion, only collected US$16,400 in prize money and only 5 riders took over US$10,000 in prize money. An amount that I’d suggest is the bare minimum spent to chase the tour.

Of course, there’s outside sponsorship. However, I think it’s an understood fact that there’s very little funding available in this space. I’m not going to get into that further now and for the purpose of this discussion I will see sponsorship funds as more an off-tour income source.

This leads me to believe we have a World Tour that is just not financially viable for its competitors to chase, to the point that some who may be physically capable of winning it choose not to because it’s not a good financial decision.

Combine that with an overall malaise in the bodyboard industry because of lack of participation, something has to give.

We are at an obvious turning point.

There’re changes afoot with the new IBC & APB relationship. In Australia the ABA is taking a 12 month hiatus to re configure its future.

This gives us a great opportunity to really look at, discuss, pull apart and re configure the competitive side of bodyboarding.

We will learn soon what the new world tour looks like for 2020 but my gut feel is it’ll still be a financial burden for most competitors to seriously chase the title.

Do we agree that grassroots bodyboarding is lacking? Certainly, it’s mentioned so regularly I’d suggest there’s a consensus this is the case. So, to build a sustainable tour we need to have a strong and stable base.

I visualise the competition side of our sport as a pyramid, with grassroots club comps as the base and the world title as the tip. To build a pyramid, we don’t start at the tip, we work up to it with a series of levels. These different levels do exist around the world in club comps, local and regional tours (both pro and amateur) but the current building blocks don’t fit in together.

Right now, we’ve got Lego & Meccano pieces trying to fit together and whilst a lot of effort goes into holding it all together it is by its nature just not going to hold tight.

Once we think of the structure like this, then we can see what’s right and what’s wrong, pull it apart and rebuild.

Local club comps are the way we can get kids excited about the sport. It’s about competing to a degree but it’s more about the social aspect, the sense of inclusion and comradery.

These days there’s an array of sports clubs competing for kids attentions but offering parents a fun, safe and healthy sport that isn’t demanding on their time has a lot that’s attractive.

It’s not just the kids though, the older generation (me!) has a bit more money to spend on boards etc. and also more organisational life skills which can be put to use in and around the club. Not to mention who doesn’t enjoy bragging rights over your mates when you fluke a win!

To make these local clubs more vibrant & better supported then they need to be an essential part of being able to compete further up the pyramid. I’m not suggesting results based but for a rider to compete in a regional competition (more on this further on) then they need to be able to show their activity in their local club. PLC, Sammy, Tristan etc. turning up at their local club comps would be great for the groms (old and young) but also a way of getting local media interested in what’s happening.

Ideally the local clubs would run on a recognised framework of divisions etc so there’s consistency if local competitors want to enter other club comps and also for moving up into regional events.

Next level is a regional tour. Ideally it’d be an area, state, national & regional format, but it has to be practical and viable. It could be amateur or professional. It would depend on the regional body overseeing it. The key being that the pinnacle of the regional tour is entry into the World Title Event (WTE).

Each regional tour can have a certain number of entrants to the world title based on participation numbers and/or community involvement.

My suggestions on regions would be Europe, South Africa, Australia, Asia, North America & South America but they can be compressed or enlarged depending on participation rates.

Competitors can choose to compete in their own and any of the other regions to try to qualify for the WTE.

So now we come to the big one, a single world title event.

I can already hear the howls of dismay that we’re back to the ‘unfair’ system of a single event.

But look at most sports, it’s about how you perform on the day, in the finals. It’s actually unusual for a sport to be decided on points gained over a year of competition.

There are multiple advantages to having a singular title event. First and foremost, for the riders, it’s not such a financial burden. Secondly, a singular event is a much bigger draw card to mainstream media and outside sponsors than a whole tour dragging in on.

Bang for buck is significantly improved in this format. Extend that to the riders own individual sponsors, a single air fare to compete in a WTE would be a better value proposition than multiple flights all around the world.

Where to hold it? Perhaps a rotating venue each year, say Fronton, Arica and Pipe. Three of the highest performance and consistent bodyboarding waves on the planet and all of which have current competitions and structures in place.

This is all about setting up a strong structure for the tour. If it continues to grow, gain outside interest and more importantly sponsorship funding then we can grow the middle levels.

I do truly believe though that the singular World Title Event is critical to the ongoing success. Yes, all three events can go ahead with perhaps the other 2 providing a seeding into the WTE.

But you need a jewel in the crown, the event that non-competitors will travel to so they can be part of it.

Economies of experiences not things is a fast growing and marketable sector that also ties into regional tourism bodies supporting a WTE.

If you’ve got to this line, then thank you for your patience, I love bodyboarding and will support the competitive side whatever format it takes and I hope that those that do make the decisions can entertain new ideas of what will provide the best outcome for the sport.

All words are supplied by the author, and are unedited.

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