Kelly Slater Developing New World Tour?

Kelly. Photo: Jones

We’re not one to start rumors, well maybe we are, but this isn’t necessarily a rumor. Kelly Slater is working on a new pro surfing tour that could start as early as next year. From what we’ve read via a Phil Jarrat story and an In Surf News piece, Kelly’s long-time manager Terry Hardy is hard at work putting the final touches on this puppy.

From what Phil Jarrat says in his piece on the Noosa Journal website, the tour “will consist of eight events offering more than a million bucks prize money, with first round losers walking away with $40,000.” That would mean that by just showing up at every event, the last place finisher would bag a $320,000 salary for eight events. Quite a hefty paycheck for all lasts, especially compared to the current ASP salary for a year of all 33rds in 2009 equaling $47,000 ($4,700 for a 33rd and ten events).

For this to work, Kelly would need to have some major backers on board to up the ante, which according to Jarrat and In Surf News, he does. The two stories both go on to say that ESPN will be covering all eight events.

In Surf News goes on to say that there will be 15 other top pros joining Slater – how they will be selected and the competition contrast to the ASP are yet to be seen. For all the evolution that’s been going on in the water in years of late, maybe it’s finally time things are advancing in the sport as a whole – more money for the world’s best, fresh formats, better competition, and world-wide coverage? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Stay tuned to for all developments on this story.


Phil Jarrat’s Noosa Journal story:

NOOSA: While Kelly Slater was rising from the ashes of three consecutive losses to win in Brazil last week, his manager, Terry Hardy, was apparently in Los Angeles nailing the lid (ashes, coffin lids,what's going on here!) on a megabucks breakaway world surfing tour.

I say apparently because at the time of writing I could find no media coverage of the matter, and neither Slater nor Hardy responded to my requests for information, which proves that it's true, right? Anyway, my sources are reliable and highly-placed, so remember where you read it first.

The tour, with nine-times world champion Slater as its figurehead, will consist of eight events offering more than a million bucks prize money, as opposed to the current $US300,000 on the ASP Dream Tour, with first round losers walking away with $US40,000. With the worst performer guaranteed $US320,000 a year to show up, this would mean that surfing's elite could at last feel relaxed about giving their all to the tour.

When you consider the case of Straddie's Bede Durbidge, who started his year without a sponsor and finished it at number 2 to Kelly, that means a lot.

The word on the tour is that all events will be covered by cable sports network ESPN and packaged for global sales, which sounds eerily familiar. But what hasn't been spelled out yet is how it will differ from the ASP tour, and knowing Slater's views on this, I suggest it will be very different. For years Kelly has been a severe critic of the ASP's judging criteria (with more than 40 tour wins under the belt, I wouldn't be rocking the boat, but there you go) and even put on his own invitational event in Fiji to showcase his more adventurous ideas. Over time, the ASP has actually adopted some of them, like overlapping heats, but the pace of change has never been fast enough for Kelly.

His personal view of the “dream tour” is a small number of elite surfers competing in high quality waves with a license to thrill, the judging criteria based solely on “raising the bar” of surfing performance.

In a sense, this is turning the clock back to pro surfing's roots in events like 1971's Golden Breed Expression Session, in which the judges simply watched the guys surf all day and then declared the coolest dude the winner. But there has also long been a feeling amongst the top pros that the gulf between contest surfing and creative surfing has been widening. Interesting times ahead for the struggling ASP, which has governed pro surfing through thick and thin for more than 30 years.

Head here to see In Surf News’ coverage of the story.