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Saturday, October 10, 2009
Updated: June 15, 11:59 AM ET
ASP Announces Ch-Ch-Changes

Industry heads (left to right): Randy Rarrick, Graham Stapelberg, Doug Palladini, and Rod Brooks.
The theme of today's announcement by the ASP was that things are going to be a whole lot different next year. In what appears to be reaction to the much-talked about "Champions Tour," as well as internal pressures from both surfers and industry heads alike, ASP CEO Brodie Carr intends to restructure the entire World Tour, moving it to a "one-world ranking system."

The results come after a two-day ASP Board of Directors meeting in Spain, which featured "intense discussion," and were intended to amend numerous flaws with the current system. Present at the meeting was Mick Fanning and Kieren Perrow, who served as the surfers' representatives, while Quiksilver's Rod Brooks, Billabong's Graham Stapelberg, Rip Curl's Neil Ridgeway, and Vans' Doug Palladini represented the brands. Also on hand was Randy Rarrick from Hawaii, as well as a host of ASP folk. The reforms they've signed off on are sweeping and far-reaching.

ASP media manager Dave Prodan explains the formatting changes as follows:

  • All surfers who qualify for the ASP World Tour from this year (Top 27 on ASP World Tour and Top 15 on ASP WQS) will be on the ASP Dream Tour in 2010.
  • After half of the season, the Top 32 rated surfers on the ASP World Tour will remain, while the bottom 13 are cycled back into the ASP WQS events.
  • From then on, the ASP World Tour field will be 32 surfers.
  • After the 2010 European leg, those 32 surfers will become dynamic, with top performing ASP WQS surfers being cycled into the ASP World Tour events.
  • Following this first cycle, the projection for 2011 and beyond will be for three to four cycles per year.

    With all of these changes taking place for both the men's and the women's tours, there a lot to sort out before the start of the WQS season in January. Reportedly a follow-up announcement will be made in Hawaii by December 1.

    Summit leaders (left to right): A freshly shorn Mick Fanning, Randy Rarrick, Neil Ridgeway, Kieren Perrow, and Rod Brooks.

    Besides restructuring how World Tour surfers are ranked and what events they can and cannot surf in, prize purses for World Tour events will increase, and the surfers will now be offered a benefits package (which includes health insurance, a pension, and a job that lets them surf the best waves in the world with nobody else out). All in all, sounds like the surfers worked themselves a pretty sweet deal.

    "The press release read like a script. It was clear they had a message they wanted to stick to," told photographer Peter "Joli" Wilson this morning, shortly after leaving the press conference.

    But for all the questions they did answer, others remain. Nothing was mentioned regarding media rights or distribution, which has clearly been at the heart of a lot of angst ever since Fosters dropped off as the blanket sponsor several years ago—and, besides cash, the allure of better coverage is one of the selling points of the "Champions Tour."

    To the point of cash, according to the ASP release, prize purses are being upped from $340,000 to $400,000 per event. A step in the right direction for sure, but if funding for the "Champions Tour" has been secured and they're even remotely in the million-dollar ballpark that's been rumored, the ASP may need to go back to their coffers.

    "Nobody's really been staying here in town, so it's hard to figure out where everybody stands on all this right now," tells Wilson. "The press conference was pretty subdued. Kelly's been in France and nobody's heard from him. Mick and some of the boys are staying over the hill in Bakio. Everybody's pretty spread out. It'll be interesting to hear what people are saying once the contest here gets going."

    The biggest criticism of the "Champions Tour" thus far is that it doesn't allow for the growth and development of the sport, or at least not like the ASP, and it would appear that's exactly the hand they're playing. If all involved parties can push through these massive changes and things go relatively according to plan, the tide could turn drastically in their favor for 2010.