Ian Cairns Wants To Know, Where’s The Conflict of Interest?

After eighteen years of considerable work running the Association of Surfing Professionals in North America, Ian Cairns and Alisa Cairns have handed over the reins to Surfing America, which is sponsored by the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association.

Cairns is a former pro surfer from Australia, a member of the famed Bronzed Aussies (Australia’s first surfing team), and has been a dedicated proponent of competitive surfing¿helping to launch both the ASP and the National Scholastic Surfing Association.

“Ian Cairns has made a huge contribution to professional surfing,” says ASP President/CEO Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Bartholomew. “Ian founded the ASP, providing leadership through the formative years. He and his wife Alisa have worked tirelessly for the sport in North America.”

However, there have been persistent rumors that Cairns’ position as event director at Bluetorch.com had a few of his detractors claiming conflict of interest, a fact SIMA President Dick Baker alludes to when asked why the change occurred: “This allows ASP North America to have all of the major brands behind it without any type of conflict of interest. God knows Ian Cairns has done a good job in the eighteen years he’s been working with the ASP, and I’m sure he’ll still be involved with Bluetorch.com surf events.”

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So, who’s calling the shots and who’s in charge now at ASP North America? According to Baker, the Surfing America committee (which includes Body Glove’s Scott Daley, Billabong’s Graham Stapelberg, sports agent Mike Shoemiller, Surfing magazine’s Peter “P.T.” Townend, Rip Curl’s Richard Cram, The Realm’s Mike Parsons, and Reef’s Fernando Aguerre) is “diligently working on those questions and hopes to have answers soon.”

In the meantime, we talked to Cairns about the change, how it went down, and his opinion about the conflict of interest concerns.

TransWorld SURF Business: Were you surprised that your eighteen-year tenure at the ASP ended the way it did?

Ian Cairns: Uh, long pause not really.

TransWorld SURF Business: Not really? Why not?

Ian Cairns: long pause Uh, there’s been, uh, a lot of sort of heading for change with the surfers and also with the direction that we want to go with our event.

TransWorld SURF Business: Right. And are they separate directions?

Ian Cairns: Were going to do surfing events. So no there won’t be separate directions

TransWorld SURF Business: Do you feel like you’ve accomplished everything you hoped to?

Ian Cairns: With the ASP?

TransWorld SURF Business: Right.

Ian Cairns: I found what many of the surfers did — not enough change happened. Change didn’t happen at the same sort of speed as everyone wanted to happen.

TransWorld SURF Business: What kind of change were you guys hoping for?

Ian Cairns: Well I think surfing needs to get more publicity. With more publicity you get more sponsors, and I was very disappointed in the last number of years with ASP in not getting the international TV package together and not servicing sponsorships like Coca Cola and G-Shock. I think that ASP is good at rating and creating a world tour and creating ratings and schedules and stuff. But in terms of building sponsorship relations and media properties and things like that it’s not proven not to be good at it.

TransWorld SURF Business: Is it better in some places than others?

Ian Cairns: Well, yeah. long pause. But I’m talking about ASP International.

TransWorld SURF Business: Right. But is there more support in other countries than in the United States? Or does pro surfing as a whole need more support from major companies like Coca Cola?

Ian Cairns: Well I think that everyone wants to see it grow, and that it’s not growing fast enough is a frustration to the surfers, to the people with the events. pause. Finding outside sponsors is really difficult.

TransWorld SURF Business: Do you feel you were forced out of the ASP?

Ian Cairns: Uh. long pause. I think that, uh, I mean it would loothat way.

TransWorld SURF Business: Why would it look that way?

Ian Cairns: long pause Uh. long pause I don’t know. It’s the long pause. To be perfectly frank, there was never any sort of, uh long pause there was never any discussion of anything wrong. You know I think the entire issue was, uh, there was some misunderstandings about, you know, power. And, you know, frankly if the work we do is kind of misjudged and people think that we do it for power, then someone else can do it.

TransWorld SURF Business: “We” as in ASP?

Ian Cairns: Well it was clearly some people in ASP and other people in the industry that think that we do that. If SIMA wants to put a bid in the work that we did with ASP North America then, as I’ve said, then they’re welcome to do it.

TransWorld SURF Business: Does anything of it have to do with conflict of interest within the companies that people work for?

Ian Cairns: Well, I mean people beat around the bush when they throw out “conflict of interest” and never say what they mean. Exactly like the question you just asked me. It’s the same sort of bullshit that gets thrown at people in ASP meetings. Why don’t people come out and say straight out what they mean? Why don’t you ask me straight up what you mean?

TransWorld SURF Business: Well, does who you work for …

Ian Cairns: C’mon then.

TransWorld SURF Business: I’m sorry?

Ian Cairns: Speak up and be counted.

TransWorld SURF Business: Okay. pause. Well does it have anything to do with your ties at Bluetorch?

Ian Cairns: Well, people, people, you know, throw around these vague questions like, “What conflict of interest would me working at Bluetorch have with my work at ASP North America?”

TransWorld SURF Business: Uh, that’s a good question. What do you think?

Ian Cairns: I’m asking you. pause. You’re the guy asking the questions.

TransWorld SURF Business: Right.

Ian Cairns: And you throw out the idea of conflict of interest. Where’s the conflict of interest?

TransWorld SURF Business: long pause. Uh.

Ian Cairns: Uhhh.

TransWorld SURF Business: Well, does it matter that Bluetorch sponsors a major event and you’re a part of Bluetorch and the ASP?

Ian Cairns: Right, well where’s the conflict of interest? Tell me what your concerns would be.

TransWorld SURF Business: I guess it’s not as much of a conflict of interest, per se, if both parties were into promoting the sport of surfing.

Ian Cairns: Oh, so it’s not a conflict of interest!

TransWorld SURF Business: No, that’s not what I’m saying.

Ian Cairns: Frankly, I’m personally tired of having innuendo, OK, long pause thrown at me about conflict of interest when no one is able to clearly specify where the conflict lies or have any real documentation of any particular issue where the conflict has actually occurred. Innuendo is thrown around about, you know, sales of this and that, no one ever comes and spits it out and says, I mean it’s just bull.

TransWorld SURF Business: So where do think all that was drummed up?

Ian Cairns: You know what, I don’t know where it comes from, I don’t know why, but personally I’m very, very tired of it. That’s why I resigned. And secondly, I don’t want any veiled, weird innuendo to impact on the quality of work we do with Bluetorch. long pause. We want to stand up and say, “Hey we put out a good product, and we do good work.” And when we do good work we help. Just like when you produce TransWorld SURF or anything that you do you think you’re doing good work and you think it helps in the overall picture. It’s very, very simple. And that’s what we want to do.

We want to contribute to the overall picture, we want to have a successful business. This is not a bad thing.

TransWorld SURF Business: So it sounds like you have a lot more time to focus and really generate an even stronger product with Bluetorch.

Ian Cairns: Exactly. This is a huge relief to me, Alisa¿to all of us¿that we don’t have to wear two hats, we don’t have to evaluate every decision we make against some standard that we had, personally, for what all we’d do to remain true and honest to the long-term ideals that we’ve had for surfing. We can just go, “Okay, we want to build a solid media company that people think that it’s good work.” So, sometimes the answer might be different. So we’re not conflicted anymore. It’s a big relief.

TransWorld SURF Business: That’s good.

Ian Cairns: Yes, it is good.

TransWorld SURF Business: Well is there anything else you’d like to say about ASP or Bluetorch?

Ian Cairns: Well, I just think, you know, that if you look at the growth of surfing in the last 25 years it’s been pretty good. The sport has been really good to the industry, the sport has been good to the competitors, and the profile of surfing is at a new level. I personally think, though, that it’s at a plateau and that creates frustration. The surfers are frustrated, we’re frustrated¿I think everyone ought to put on their hat and think about new ways of making things better.

TransWorld SURF Business: Do you have any two cents worth on that?

Ian Cairns: No, I don’t have a clue yet. But we’re thinking about it.

TransWorld SURF Business: Well certainly more national exposure on TV seems to be a help.

Ian Cairns: And who’s doing that?

TransWorld SURF Business: Uh, that’s what you guys are doing.

Ian Cairns: Uh, so you know it’s good stuff we’re doing for surfing, right?

TransWorld SURF Business: Yeah. And I think that was a concern with a lot of people whether or not big, multimedia companies such as Bluetorch were interested in promoting surfing.

Ian Cairns: The events have gone good. The stuff that we put on TV is good. You know, we’re pretty simple people over here at Bluetorch. We just like to do good work and we want to work in the long term and grow the business.

TransWorld SURF Business: Well I won’t take any more of your time, and I appreciate you talking to me.

Ian Cairns: No problem.

TransWorld SURF Business: And, uh, keep in touch.

Ian Cairns: Absolutely, I’m here.

TransWorld SURF Business: Okay. Thanks Ian.

Ian Cairns: Bye. Clickdon’t have to evaluate every decision we make against some standard that we had, personally, for what all we’d do to remain true and honest to the long-term ideals that we’ve had for surfing. We can just go, “Okay, we want to build a solid media company that people think that it’s good work.” So, sometimes the answer might be different. So we’re not conflicted anymore. It’s a big relief.

TransWorld SURF Business: That’s good.

Ian Cairns: Yes, it is good.

TransWorld SURF Business: Well is there anything else you’d like to say about ASP or Bluetorch?

Ian Cairns: Well, I just think, you know, that if you look at the growth of surfing in the last 25 years it’s been pretty good. The sport has been really good to the industry, the sport has been good to the competitors, and the profile of surfing is at a new level. I personally think, though, that it’s at a plateau and that creates frustration. The surfers are frustrated, we’re frustrated¿I think everyone ought to put on their hat and think about new ways of making things better.

TransWorld SURF Business: Do you have any two cents worth on that?

Ian Cairns: No, I don’t have a clue yet. But we’re thinking about it.

TransWorld SURF Business: Well certainly more national exposure on TV seems to be a help.

Ian Cairns: And who’s doing that?

TransWorld SURF Business: Uh, that’s what you guys are doing.

Ian Cairns: Uh, so you know it’s good stuff we’re doing for surfing, right?

TransWorld SURF Business: Yeah. And I think that was a concern with a lot of people whether or not big, multimedia companies such as Bluetorch were interested in promoting surfing.

Ian Cairns: The events have gone good. The stuff that we put on TV is good. You know, we’re pretty simple people over here at Bluetorch. We just like to do good work and we want to work in the long term and grow the business.

TransWorld SURF Business: Well I won’t take any more of your time, and I appreciate you talking to me.

Ian Cairns: No problem.

TransWorld SURF Business: And, uh, keep in touch.

Ian Cairns: Absolutely, I’m here.

TransWorld SURF Business: Okay. Thanks Ian.

Ian Cairns: Bye. Click