Last year proved to be an insane time for surfing. It was the first time Joel Parkinson ever won a world title, beating out 11x World Champion super-athlete Kelly Slater. On the women’s side, Carissa Moore fell off the grid and Stephanie Gilmore took advantage of the absence by winning her fifth world title. The 2012 tour marked a shift in the surf industry. The world inhaled as the ASP announced it would be selling media rights for the 2014 tour. In November, Nike announced that it would be transferring its surfers to Hurley, and in an inevitable tragedy, Billabong also declared bankruptcy.
But 2012 is done and this year’s tour is going to be a wild ride. Take a look at some of the factors that could make the 2013 ASP World Tour one for the books.
SURFERS TO WATCH:
Kelly Slater (USA)– While most of the world was itching for the king to be dethroned by Australian favorite Joel Parkinson, we still want to see what this guy has up his sleeves. If there’s one finite unwritten rule to surfing, it’s that Kelly Slater is a constant challenge for guys on tour and guys free surfing around the world. I think that if Slater hadn’t had such a long, successful career of pushing boundaries, surfing would not have progessed as much as it has today. The real question here is if Slater still wants to commit to the tour, or if he wants to resign from competitive duties to abscond to secluded islands in search of epic swells. He seemed apathetic toward the end of last year, but something tells me he’s got one more title in him after the loss to Parko. We should be able to tell how driven he is when he surfs at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast this week.
Joel Parkinson (AUS)– “Always a runner up and never a champion…. UNTIL NOW!” After finally winning his first ever World Title last year, I’m betting the fire is roaring in Parko’s heart. He has to live up to the part, and there’s no way Parko is going to let anyone take away his golden chalice, or in this case, a silver ASP-branded pimp cup.
John John Florence (HAW)– This kid is a machine. He’s won three Volcom Pipe Pro’s in a row, gaining himself the title of 2012 Rookie of the Year. After his successful tour debut, he’s made it clear that he’s out for blood. Currently No. 4 in the world, Florence has been steadily moving up the ranks, giving the veterans a run for their money. He’s a skilled airman, but also a fierce barrel hunter, making him a threat in contests like the Quiksilver Pro France, Billabong Pro Teahupoo, Volvom Fiji Pro and the Vans Triple Crown trifecta. He’s also a potential winner for the newÂ Oakley Pro Bali.
Julian Wilson (AUS)– No longer a rookie, Julian Wilson is definitely coming into his own. He won the Rip Curl Pro Portugal and the Nike US Open of Surfing last year. It seems he’s got a better handle on how the tour works and what he needs to do to move ahead in heats. And if anyone saw the footage of him back in Australia this past month, there’s no doubt he’s going to bring his A-game this season. He was throwing down some big airs at his home break on the Sunshine Coast. He just made the Top 10, ranking No. 9, but his newly admitted world title aspirations will drive him to climb the ladder.
Dane Reynolds (USA)– It could be a rumor, but we heard Dane actually cares about competitive surfing again… well, maybe. He’s the wildcard in this year’s Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, but make no mistake, he’s in it to win it. Last year as a wildcard, Dane almost won the Quiksilver Pro France against Kelly Slater. In Round 1 of this year’s Quik Pro, he will draw either reigning World Champion Joel Parkinson, or 11x world champion Kelly Slater. That’s going to be one crazy heat. And with results from various events, there’s a good chance Dane will requalify for the 2014 tour.
Lakey Peterson (USA)– On the women’s side, there’s a lot of pressure to be pulling big airs in competition. Good thing they come naturally to the California golden girl. During her first year on tour, she won the Nike US Open of Surfing and earned the title Breakthrough Performer of the Year. As No. 7 in the world, Lakey also just released her new surf biopic, “Zero to 100,” which chronicles her surfing career and her goal to become champion. The women’s tour this year should be very interesting to watch in general. Expect the women to show off their aerial skills more than ever before.
All the rookies– Sebastian Zietz (HAW), Glenn Â Hall (IRE), Nat Young (USA) and Filipe Toledo (BRA).
CONTESTS TO WATCH:
Oakley Pro Bali– A new addition to the 2013 tour, the Oakley Pro Bali will take place at legendary right-handed reef break, Keramas. It’s going to be the fifth spot on tour and run from June 18-29. The tour has not had an elite contest in Bali since the Rip Curl Pro Search in 2008. Regular footers will have an advantage, as well as aerial experts. Keramas is perfect for experimenting with airs and lip tricks, but there’s also the potential to get barrels. When you put the Top 34 surfers on this wave, you’re going to get one hell of a contest.
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast– The Quik Pro Gold Coast is the first stop on tour and it’s where you separate the rookies from the veterans. It’s going to be interesting to see how tour rookies like Sebastian Zietz match up to experienced Top 34 surfers like Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson and Adriano de Souza. Snapper Rocks is notorious for providing world class waves with fun barrels come low tide. However, recent storm damage and beach erosion has eaten away at the sand bar, leaving a giant hole in in its place. Local contest organizers have been pumping sand into the break to remedy the situation, but the swell has not provided enough evidence that the pumping paid off. We’re interested in seeing how the contest is going to unfold and how the waves will hold up. Though the contest’s waiting period began March 2, the men have not yet competed due to undesirable conditions.
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach– Last year’s Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach was the most talked about contests of the season. Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning battled against each other in what was voted Heat of the Year by fans. Though Fanning won, Slater pulled one of the best maneuvers of the year: a full 360 rotation. It leaves us wondering if this year is going to harbor the same amount of excitement.
Media Sponsors– Last fall, ZoSea Media was announced as the new major media sponsor of the tour. Changes are expected to take effect during this year, though nothing has been solidified yet. ZoSea, backed by Kelly Slater’s manager, Terry Hardy, and former Time Inc. Studios president Paul Speaker, entered into a partnership with the ASP in October of 2012. According to a press release, ZoSea joined the ASP to “enhance the organizational structure of the sport as well as the direction of professional surfing.” We all know the ASP wants to commercialize surfing to boost revenue and engagement, especially after industry big guns like Billabong took heavy financial hits. ZoSea has been rumored to be talking with ASP officials about securing deals with major TV networks since the Triple Crown in December.
Th 2013 tour is stacked with surf talent and the breaks are looking like perfect canvases for innovation. Hopefully the men’s portion of the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast gets started this week. Take a look at the highlights from the Expression Session down below.