The ASP announced today that the Big Wave World Tour (BWWT) will come under the ASP sanctioning umbrella for 2014. That means the current six-stop tour of the biggest waves around the world will now be formally sanctioned by the sport's highest governing body.
"It's definitely a good thing," said Peter Mel, 43, of Santa Cruz, Calif., today. "Right now, there's not a lot of support for the guys chasing the biggest waves on the planet. The events are kind of run on a shoestring. I'd love to see the prize money bump up a little. Right now we have purses of $50,000. It would be great if that were closer to the $500,000 they have for the World Tour events. The dream is starting to come to fruition. It's another avenue for competition. The Word Tour only has 34 surfers."
Mel was the 2011 BWWT champ, but won the Coldwater Classic in 1997 and still surfs the occasional ASP star event.
But could it be that the real story of this merger is that World Tour athletes might be part of the big-wave stage? As an independent entity, the BWWT couldn't really attract the Tour surfers. But under the same governing body, it could mesh the two.
"The Big Wave World Tour is a great addition to the Association of Surfing Professionals," Kieren Perrow, ASP commissioner and current No. 34 World Tour surfer, said in an ASP press release. "It adds another dimension to the sport and will make it significantly easier for ASP Top 34 surfers to compete in big-wave events. We have the utmost respect for the athletes on the BWWT and we really look forward to working with them."
Of course, this will take some luck with swells and scheduling and the ASP World Tour will likely remain these surfers' primary focus. But to see Kelly Slater, Jordy Smith, Gabriel Medina or John John Florence in the Maverick's event would certainly bring some eyeballs.
"I'm all about that," added Mel. "When you have the most talented big-wave riders competing for a championship, you want to have the best guys in the world. I personally would love to have Kelly Slater or Mick Fanning involved in these events. The fans definitely want to see that. On the other side, there's a big challenge in deciding who gets to compete in these big-wave events where there are limited spots. I imagine there would have to be some kind of qualification."
Founded by Gary Linden, the BWWT schedule currently consists of events in Chile, Peru, Oregon, California, Mexico and Spain. The ASP will now consist of the BWWT, Men's World Tour, Women's World Tour, Junior Tours, the Star and Prime series and the Longboard Tour.
This is an interesting move, considering the ASP itself is about to come under the new management of ZoSea Media and could be a very different tour by next year. But it does align with their intended goals of bringing surfing to a larger audience. Although big-wave surf contests are a somewhat peripheral part of competitive surfing right now, massive waves tend to grab the attention of mainstream sports fans.
"ZoSea definitely has a full plate right now. They're going to have a lot of challenges to deal with. But I know everyone here [in the BWWT camp] wants to help make the transition," added Mel.
Mel, Linden and the rest of the world's heavy-water surfers are closely watching swell develop for the next event on the BWWT, the Quiksilver Ceremonial at Pichilemu in Chile.