Nick Carroll: A Big Wave Tour – Without the WSL?

5 Nov 2019 8 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

Grant Twiggy Baker on his way to winning the now defunct Puerto Escondido Challenge, part of the WSL Big Wave Tour back in 2016. Photo: WSL/Morales

Grant Twiggy Baker on his way to winning the now defunct Puerto Escondido Challenge, part of the WSL Big Wave Tour back in 2016. Photo: WSL/Morales

COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL

Serious change could be afoot in Charger-World

So Monday the World Surf League pushed out some PR about a new backer they’ve secured for their Jaws World Big Wave Championship. The new backer is cbdMD, described as “a nationally recognized consumer cannabidiol (CBD) brand that offers a comprehensive line of 100% natural, hemp-derived CBD oil products".

This comes about six weeks after the WSL effectively quit their attempts to run an actual big wave tour, dropping back to two events: a stand alone world title at Jaws and a showcase event at Nazare, Portugal.

We’d been talking off and on with a number of the BWT surfers and they hadn’t been super stoked for quite some time, feeling their events were getting way more views than a lot of other WSL product, without a matching level of support.

Now, we’re hearing some serious back-room talks are in progress with the aim of putting together a big wave tour outside the WSL.

If this happens, it’d be the first challenge to the WSL’s pro surfing hegemony in the League’s relatively short (six-year) history.

CW will report on this as it unfolds. Meanwhile, here’s a lil q&a with none other than three time BWT champ Grant “Twiggy” Baker, the guy who freaked out the world at Jaws last year with possibly the heaviest barrel shot in history.

We talked with Twig not long after the WSL put down the hammer on his tour. He was coy, or maybe just careful, about what he told us, but also made it plain that something was in the works.

CW: Had the WSL been talking with you about this change for a while? Did it come as a surprise?
Twig: The tour has been changing and getting smaller since the WSL took over in 2013, we started with eight events and they slowly diminished it year on year, so no this didn’t come as a surprise at all.

What’s the value of a BWT world championship? How did winning it three times benefit your career?
The monetary value with regards to prize-money was nothing, as it cost me more to do the tour for the six years than I actually made, so the value is more in sponsorships and endorsements. But the real value lies in being able to do what I love and surf around the world without having to go back to the desk job I did prior to 2009.

What kind of ideas were put on the table to encourage the WSL to keep a real BW tour going? What ideas and issues steered them away from it to the current format?
From what I can gather the WSL has lost a great deal of money over its lifespan and changes needed to be made, their model of one blanket sponsor for all the tours didn’t plan out and unfortunately the Big Wave Tour is the first to suffer at the expense of the CT, QS and Longboard tours.

We felt that single day events in the biggest and best barrelling waves around the world including adding events like Fiji, Nias, Puerto and Shipsterns onto waves like Jaws, Mavericks, Nazare and Dungeons as well as including surfers like John John, Slater, JOB and Jack Robbo would drive the sport forward. They disagreed and decided to go with Wavepools and Longboarding, with no offence to either as I love watching them as well… Go Steve Sawyer!

I gather from a few of the surfers that they’ve been unhappy for a while about how the BW Tour had been going – was that the case from your perspective? Like, did you note dissent over years from people?
The surfers always wanted what was best for the sport and we felt that a ten event tour with endemic singular sponsors was always going to be a better format for us and more viable for the WSL. The WSL didn’t see it that way and hence we are in the position we are. It was the typical upper management vs worker situation that we see happening in corporations all the time.

Can a BW Tour be done without the WSL’s involvement?
Absolutely, it’s onward and upward from here and we will get our vision in place over the next season or two. It’s an exciting time for big wave surfing!

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