"The WSL has bigger plans for the Pool. Bigger than anybody thought." – Nick Carroll

9 May 2018 39

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

This view of professional surfing brought to you by SeatGeek, just use the code #dystopia for a discount. Photo: WSL/Cestari

This view of professional surfing brought to you by SeatGeek, just use the code #dystopia for a discount. Photo: WSL/Cestari

IT’S OFF AND RUNNING

By Nick Carroll

So yeah. The Pool. Shit, eh.

Reading one story following the Founders Cup finals day, I almost laughed out loud. It stated: “The jury is out”. The statement just seemed so ridiculous. It reminded me of Surfer magazine saying “the jury was out” concerning the Thruster, in 1982, a year after every surfer in the world had got a Thruster. What jury? Five thousand people just paid actual real money to watch a surf contest on site, hours from any actual surf spot! 206,000 people watched the finals highlights package on Facebook! God knows how many watched it elsewhere, via the multitude of opportunities waved before them by the WSL’s almost surgical marketing team.

This whole thing was a huge win. HUGE. After that Futures Classic event last September, the one from which they tried to ban the media, I honestly thought, these people are off their rockers. Kelly had compared the pool to Frankenstein’s monster; to me he seemed like Fitzcarraldo, Werner Herzog’s character, pushing the ship up a mountain, in thrall to his idea, to no avail, while we all looked on helplessly.

Now, well, the ship’s got to the mountain top, and it’s all downhill from here. It’s done. It has immense momentum. Who can’t see the pool as part of professional surfing’s future? The Founders Cup was the critical turning point the WSL needed. They’ll be fully convinced now of their direction and will pursue it with all the considerable energies at their disposal.

Kelly’s deal with the WSL on this thing is no doubt back-ended to the max — the more pools they build, the more he earns. He’s rich right now. I think maybe he had best prepare to be very rich indeed.

But meanwhile, the monster is loose, the ship begins to career down the slope, and it seems inclined to take on shapes not necessarily in the original plan. (See: The Controversy That Is Plan B.)

CW has talked to a couple of sources close to the WSL’s key investors, and it seems clear they are developing brand new thoughts on the matter.

You’ve read about the second proposed KSWC Pool in Palm Beach, Florida, for which planning is well advanced. It was assumed this pool would go where Kelly’s first round of pool investors had imagined: to wit, a sort of country club model, where people with a bit too much money would buy a semi-timeshare deal allowing them to stay and surf amid boutique hotels, restaurants, surf shops and all the cool shit you can’t quite manage at a Third World surf camp.

This was in fact the thought behind the early investments in the KSWC — why Kelly’s pre-WSL partners got on board, in those wacky days when it all seemed a sci-fi dream.

But no!

According to our sources, the WSL now has a much bigger vision for the Florida pool. They now see it not as a public facility, but as an elite high performance training centre — a place where young surfers in development programs across the US and perhaps elsewhere can go to train, hone their skills and prepare for their destinies as potential CT pros and US national team members.

Not a country club for slightly chubby ageing rich people, but a serious mega-sporting facility designed to raise the next generation of young super-surfers.

If I were to bet on something, which I don’t, at least not in surfing, it’d be that similar plans await for KSWC pools in Australia, Japan, Europe and eastern Asia, all of which are now on the KSWC’s hit list.

A moment’s thought will give you the germ of this idea’s genius. Surf culture has always been led from the top. Whether it be Duke Kahanamoku, Phil Edwards, Midget Farrelly, Mickey Dora, Nat Young, MP, Gerry, Reno, Hakman, the IPS and ASP superstars, Lisa Andersen and Layne Beachley, Kelly and his school, Andy, Mick, Joel or Gabriel Medina, surf culture follows its champions. It just does. It’s how people are built.

So if all the next generation of super grommets are presented with a future containing week-long sessions in a KSWC, coached by Bede Durbidge and MIcro Hall and whomever else steps up to the plate of this new and rather frighteningly nature-free surfing era, what do you really think is likely to happen?

I haven’t yet talked to any of the crew who surfed in the Founders Cup, but I totally bet their minds are racing on the possibilities — and that the CT surfers who didn’t get an invite will be curdling with envy. They just missed the ultimate practice session.

I still wouldn’t bet on the KSWC getting it over the line in time for the 2020 Olympics. That might be just a bit too late. But right now, the Olympics might need the pool more than it knows.

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