Rabbit Speaks: The future of the ASP.

Former World Champ Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Bartholomew has recently taken the helm of the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) as its president and CEO.

The move comes as the non-profit organization announced G-Shock as a tour umbrella sponsor¿signing a one-year contract for the 1999 World Tour with an option for 2000. The bulk of its sponsorship goes to a full-time, touring camera crew for the production of television packages on each of the ASP’s thirteen World Championship Tour (WCT) events.

Transworld SURF Business: What are your goals for the ASP?

Bartholomew: I’m aiming to achieve a unified ASP, acknowledging our precious resources, our assets, creating solidarity in the ranks, and moving together into the millennium with common goals, achievable objectives, and overall unity.

What needs changing in the ASP: the management of the organization, contest formats and rules, seeds?

Many positive changes are already in motion. The move towards prime surf locations for WCT events and the ability to beam these events into lounge rooms on all corners of the world are tandem directives that are achievable in 1999.

Streamlining the executive board and meeting four times a year instead of two will lead to better communication and the ability to deliver.

How has pro surfing changed in the last ten years and how should the

ASP react to those changes?

Pro surfing is evolving. High performance levels in men’s and women’s surfing have enhanced the appeal, leading to many thousands of youngsters aspiring to be surfing champions. We have excellent role models and we must take responsibility for creating career-path structures in each region¿along with industry guidelines¿for this burgeoning feeder system.

How will the absence of Kelly Slater affect the tour?

Not having the current world champion at each event will necessitate a major adjustment to each event’s promotional drive. Kelly’s absence will open each event up, as well as open up the ratings. The fact that Kelly has applied for and received an ASP granted wild card to every WCT in 2000 means Kelly is not lost to the sport, and in fact, has stimulated the title race among the athletes, the industry, and the media.

What is G-Shocks financial impact on the tour? What are you doing to get more sponsorship?

Servicing the events through the G-Shock sponsorship is a priority. With the ASP providing each event with 50,000-dollars of other media services, a burden has been removed from each event. The entire G-Shock sponsorship is being reinvested in the tour with the ASP’s objective being to create a slick product and secure a second term with G-Shock.

Does the World Qualifying Series (WQS) and WCT need rearranging of both venues and the number of events?

I would like to see the WQS reflect the new direction the WCT has gone. We need to have the surfers armed with the tools to be competitive in the extreme surfing arena of the WCT. The major surf industry players are positioning themselves with prime surf locations and we also need to reflect this regionally at the WQS level.

Because the point value at WQS events is based on prize purse and not quality of waves, some argue that the top point-getting WQS surfers aren’t ready for the quality of the WCT events.

We need to address any inconsistencies that the push for prime surf locations has created for the WQS. Creating the climate for developing major WQS events in regions with high-quality seasonal surf would help ensure that the absolute best surfers are in the top 44 at any one time.

What’s the importance of having pro surfing on TV in the United States?

The U.S. is a vital market for TV distribution. For one, G-Shock has identified the United States as its major target market. Obviously, the huge surfing industry there would benefit from quality surf productions being aired oon major networks and cable.

Who’ll be the next world champ?

The title race is wide open. Complete underdogs took top honors at the year’s first event. If you were to frame a betting market today, the handicapper would, based on the results of the Billabong Pro on the Gold Coast, find it difficult to name a favorite, I find that quite exciting. It should be a great race.