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OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE – This year’s X Games XIV, going down from July 31-August 3 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, features several new extreme sports, including BMX Street, Moto X Best Whip, Women’s Moto X Racing, Moto X Speed & Style and BMX and Skateboard SuperPark.
But unlike the last five years, surfing will not be included in the world’s most visible action sports gala. (According to organizers, it will return in 2009.)
This year’s surfing portion of the X Games was slated to go down at Puerto Escondido again over a four-day waiting period in early July – during dates that overlapped the Billabong Pro J-Bay, which ensured no WCT surfer would be able to attend.
“Actually, very few WCT surfers expressed any interest in competing due to grueling schedules,” commented Gerr. “Our original dates were the end of June, but ESPN thought it was too far away from X Games, so we rescheduled around the Mr. Price Pro in Durban as to get the best WQS and junior surfers.”
And this year’s roster did indeed look like a who’s who of who’s next: Americans Clay Marzo, Dusty Payne, Tonino Benson, Sebastian Zeitz, Jamie O’Brien, and Pat Gudauskas were going to do battle against Ry Craike, Laurie Towner, Owen Wright, Jay Quinn, Michel Bourez, and Tiago Connerero for X Games Gold. But according to Gerr, the folks at the X Games wanted bigger names.
“They were looking for Kelly, Andy, Bruce, Taj, Parko, Mick, Dane, and Jordy,” explains Gerr. “But the reality of the situation is that those guys are really, really busy and already make all kinds of money. Which is a great thing in our sport. But they’re not going to get those guys unless they’re willing to put a lot more money into either promotion within the surf world and/or more prizemoney. If they had a million bucks up for the winning team, the best guys in the world would be all, ‘sign me up’.”
Ever since he started promoting The Game format at the beginning of the decade, Gerr has strived toward making surfing a spectator friendly sport. “Just like how the Lakers and Celtics are constantly being dissected and talked about on every sports station, ” he explained. “That’s how they should promote surfing in the X Games; commentary about the teams and their stars regarding their strengths and weaknesses should be broadcast. ESPN needs to prioritize building anticipation leading up to the games.”
It’s been a long road for Gerr. After two very well-documented but very un-extreme events at the HB Pier in 2003 and ’04, Gerlach and the rest of his National Surf League – along with Surfline’s Sean Collins – convinced ESPN that a move to Puerto Escondido in 2005 would showcase just how gnarly surfing could be.
“The surfers came to us,” ESPN’s Tim Reed explained of the move in July 2005. “It makes sense, too: you’ve got skateboarders jumping 70 feet and motocrossers going 90 feet and surfers ripping two foot waves — world-class surfers need world-class surf.”
To read the entire press release, visit Surfline.com right HERE.