The buzz around the ASP WCT for 2014 has gone from dead quiet to blowing the lid off in the space of the last week. After much rumblings about ZoSea taking over last year, the whole 2014 tour just seemed to fall off the radar. But it's sure made up for it.
First up, Samsung Galaxy get announced as the title sponsor for the whole tour. Interesting. But not spectacular. But who woulda guessed the bombshell that got dropped this week. JBay is back! After a 3 year hiatus the world's best right point break gets to strut it's stuff for the world's best surfers. The news was accompanied by much whooping and hollering, and rightly so. Hard to beat sitting on the beach & watching guys like Jordy, Parko, Kelly and the young guns just tear those perfect walls apart.
But amidst all the fanfare of us all thinking they're bloody wonderful for bringing the CT back to our shores, it transpires that Oakley told them to fly a kite for the Bali Pro at Kerama's. The ASP is changing brands premium prices for naming rights at new events on tour (like Bali) and is giving the stalwarts like Bells, Snapper and France big discounts.
So with Oakley no longer on board to take the naming rights for Bali cos it felt it was being ripped off, it became a lil easier to think about reverting back to Jbay for the July slot (the Bali Pro came about to replace Jbay when it fell away in 2011). Of course, it's still flipping awesome that they did make the call to come back to JBay...but one wonders if this woulda been the case had Oakley stayed committed to Bali?
That's all hypothetical now, as thanks to the nod from JBU, the local council and Surfing South Africa we're back in the game. And ain't that schweeeet!
Let's just hope the Jbay Open can secure a sponsor who'll make it a really flagship event. And time is running short. Times not only ticking for JBay, of the 21 events in the men's and women's WCT, only 12 have naming rights sponsors. Despite Samsung ponying up half the cash per event, it still costs $1 million bucks a pop to stick your name to one. Gotto have a biggish piggy bank for that.
And no-one has really seemed to work out yet how ZoSea make their money back in all this. Cos other than getting bucks from Samsung and naming sponsors...where's the money coming from? Let's just hope they don't decide to start toying with pay-per-view for webcasts.
So what sorta changes are on the cards for this year? New commentary team, same judges. Turns out we're stuck with the same judging panel, though a specialist priority judge will be part of every WCT in 2014. Turns out he'll be an important guy - cos thankfully the priority rule is seeing a major revamp.
Thankfully it'll see the end of priority blocking - that whole doff practice of just staying glued to a guys ass for the last 5 minutes of a heat so he can't catch a wave and hence maybe beat you. From now on, they'll effectively only get to use it once. But the new priority rule is phrased so trickily that ASP Commissioner Kieran Perrow will have his work cut out for him when he tried to explain it to the surfers for the upcoming event at Snapper.
No doubt it'll see it's fair share of controversy cos it sounds like there's some room for interpretation. You know they're expecting kak when they've planned to have a special judge at each event just for that!
Good to see that the ASP's drug policy now leaves no margin for error. No professional surfer can be in any doubt about the policy or the drugs involved: a full list of banned substances is included in the rulebook. Testing will be carried out at random and while the ASP will not reveal on whom and when, the organization is committed to making public any positive testing and penalties that result. Who knows, one of the best surfers on the planet might still be around today had they had this in place when he was on tour?
Last of the significant changes to the rule book is the injury wild-card situation. Owen Wright is the first guy to get a very early Christmas present. He gets a gift seeding at 13th, even though he dropped out before halfway last year. The new rule change gives a high ranked injury wildcard a boost toward his earlier ranking (so Owen was ranked 10th at the end of 2012, when he suffered his back injury). Sure is gonna be a lot easier draw from 13th than from 35th.
Let's just hope the dust settles, and 2014 brings us stellar surfing in epic conditions. Bring it oooooon!