ZoSea group puts up the money for the next incarnation of professional surfing
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 16 October, 2012 : - - Few people are better equipped to talk about professional surfing than Randy Rarick. He's been deeply involved in the competitive aspect of the sport since co-founding the International Professional Surfers (along with Fred Hemmings) in 1972. A decade later, when Ian Cairns founded the ASP, Rarick started producing the Triple Crown of Surfing on the North Shore -- which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
Rarick has seen it come and seen it go from his various perches on the North Shore and in the ASP boardroom. And three decades of experience affords both perspective and the freedom to share it.
This is why we tracked him down at his Sunset Beach house after the France meetings and before the Triple Crown: he's always been known for speaking his mind. Which, a little over a week after the ASP/ZoSea deal was announced, is exactly what we need about now.
What does the relationship between ASP and ZoSea mean for the future of pro surfing?
This ZoSea deal has basically taken the ASP private. They won't have to answer to any shareholders, which used to be the license holders (the brands) and the surfers themselves. They realize it's in their best interest to build the sport, which will make them money and grow professional competitive surfing. The brands have taken it about as far as they could; it wasn't sustainable to keep growing bigger and bigger every year.
The amount of money they're putting in versus the return on their balance sheets just wasn't making sense. So I think the timing is actually perfect. They've come along when things are tight, the industry is definitely not booming like it was four or five years ago.
So they're going to take the sport, privatize it, monetize it and move it forward. Their goal is to take it from a niche sport and move it to maybe not a first tier sport, but certainly something that will make people sit up and recognize.
We've seen that promise before. Are these guys that much better? Is it the timing?
I think a little bit of both. I think the timing is right. I think they have the smarts, the drive, and the wherewithal to probably take it to the next level. We don't have any details yet, we're meeting in about three weeks to start hammering through those details, but I think they have some connections in the media world that we haven't been able to tap into, and whether it be ESPN or Fox or NBC, I think you will see the elevation of surfing in the media, no question.
I think it's really good that someone like Terry Hardy who is Kelly's manager is a portion of this. People are putting way too much emphasis on him just because he is a known entity, but really the people that are making up this ZoSea group, there are investors that are behind the scenes that are relying on the expertise that Terry brings as a manager and representing athlete's interests, so I think that's going to be really good in that sense.
By eliminating the specter of the brands having to try to outdo each other, now the brands can focus their energy on using these as a promotional platform and I think these ZoSea guys will bring more money into the sport simply because that's what they're doing, that's what they want to do. They want to monetize it, and good for them. Hopefully they get rich on it. And if they get rich on it, that means the tour will improve because it'll bring in more money, which means more money for the athlete, more money for media coverage.
I'm sure some people will bemoan the loss of the soul or the grassroots-ness of the thing, you know, but commercial competitive surfing has always been like that anyway. So in that sense I don't see any difference. I just hope it will improve it. You know, time will tell obviously, and I'm putting my optimism behind these guys that they can do it.
Author: Marcus Sanders
Tags: ZoSea, ASP, Randy Rarick