A few years ago, we wanted nothing to do with professional surf contests. In ways it seemed like they were designed to promote staleness and frequent yawning. They were awarding people who surfed to satisfy a standardized set of judging criteria, and the product of that formula just didn't seem worth spending tens of thousands of dollars on covering. It didn't even seem worth spending hundreds of dollars on. So instead we turned our collective head and did other things. A Mexico journey here, an East Coast road trip there, and the Mentawais … oh God, the Mentawais! We spent so much time there, they should have named one of those islands after us. We were searching for people and places where surfing would take its next quantum leap forward.[IMAGE 1]
And then, magically, one day (probably in between arranging Mentawaii boat trips) we clicked on the WCT Web site and stood in shock. Things had changed. The ASP, a seeming oil tanker that needed four miles to come to a complete stop, was suddenly awake, alive, responsive. It was awarding surfers who wanted to push the boundaries. It was dynamic, choosing contest locations that focused on the world's best surf instead of the world's most retailer-friendly contest location. And the WCT roster read like it would have in one of our wet dreams (not that we have those). Suddenly gone were the three-to-the-beach surfers of yore, they had seemingly been replaced by everything from lower-body power surfers in their thirties to skater-esque air guys in their twenties. Things had changed, for the better, so we did, too.
We wanted back in … or “in” at least, as we had never really been “in” before. So we paid the ante, which in the case of the ASP means we doubled our travel budget (Or did we triple it?), in order to get our photographers and editors to all the exotic corners of the world: Tahiti, Western Australia, France, Fiji … Trestles. Well, you get the idea–we started spending the big bucks.
During the past two years, we've been on “The Tour”–which for clarity's sake we'll define as the WCT tour and lots of the six-star WQS comps–and we're in love with the goddamn thing. Not only have we seen the world, but we've watched surfers like Dean Morrison, Joel Parkinson, Andy Irons, and Mick Fanning become men. We've stood on the beach and been in awe of Sunny Garcia, Occy, and Luke Egan while they showed off the skill and understanding that decades of heat surfing builds. And we've been present and accounted for while the next generation of superstars–the Bruce Irons and Dane Reynolds–struggle to find their competitive stance.
In April, the tour that we once thought to be a meaningless waste of money brought us to Western Australia, where waves created by storms in the southern Indian Ocean pounded one of the wildest coastlines on the surf world's radar. And we wouldn't have been there to capture 26 pages' worth of that beauty had the ASP not come to the realization that progression is the future.–Joel Patterson