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The New WSL According to Bobby Martinez

“If I was on tour now, I’d be pissed, too. I’d be giving the same speech, telling the ASP to fuck off. I’d be getting kicked out.”

news // Sep 9, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Yesterday, we released the murky details of the WSL’s new vision for professional surfing’s future, revealed to athletes and their handlers at a super secret meeting on Tuesday. From the reports trickling in, the meat and potatoes the WSL served up didn’t satisfy a healthy slice of the tour’s hungry pack.

Knowing he’d be able to empathize, we called up Bobby Martinez, just as he was finished putting his first daughter to bed (he and his wife, Cleo, are expecting their second any day now) to hear what he thought about the WSL’s new direction six years after he mic-dropped the “wannabe tennis tour” and moved on to greener pastures. Bobby was his candid self, his tone that of a man feeling pretty good about his decisions these days. 

STAB: Hey, Bobby. I’m sure you got wind of the whole WSL shake-up this AM. We got like 700 comments, like 300 of which from readers just dying to know what Bobby Martinez thinks.

BOBBY: Ha! No, I heard something, but I don’t know anything. What are they doing now?

Hold on, I’ll pull it up. [Reads bullet points.]

Sounds like the same old shit. They always try to change it, and they always fuck it up. Are surfers pissed?

Yeah, it seems like a lot of guys aren’t feeling it. Or feel like it’s elitist, etc.

Man, I know exactly what the fuck those guys are feeling. If I was on tour now, I’d be pissed, too. I’d be giving the same speech, telling the ASP to fuck off. I’d be getting kicked off. 

How do you feel about the fact that those, like, :45 seconds of you talking to Todd Kline are the most exciting :45 seconds of professional surfing’s last, what, like six years ?

[Laughs] Yeah, I mean, people thought I was bitter back then, or jaded or something. But you know, we’d have these meetings—the surfer’s union, or whatever—and no one would get behind each other. You know it’s funny, hearing about this. So, this contest in the Ments, it’s just for the top-6 guys? And all the lower ranked guys were bummed, right? And the top guys, they’re stoked because they’re good. Man, it seems like whenever the ASP ever get the top guys going along with something that they have their mind made up on, then fuck the rest, we’re just doing it.

People thought—back when I said that they don’t give a shit about what the surfers think—that I was just talking shit. I meant it. Because the guys at the ASP, they’re idiots if they think that surfing is going to be soccer. The biggest fucking sport in the world. And it just isn’t. It’s not interesting to people.

I remember, there was a guy that was running the surfer’s union, he was a lawyer or something, and he was working with the ASP with the guys on tour. He didn’t surf, but somehow he was running the union, I don’t remember. But he would say things like, “David Beckham controls his image rights and he makes 200 million dollars a year…” and blah, blah, blah. Just brainwashing these surfers. And the surfers, being stupid and thinking they’re getting famous, they think, “We deserve this!” And I just thought, You’re an idiot! Surfing’s a niche market, and the ASP needs to realize that.  

Surfing breaking into primetime ain’t happening in your lifetime, you don’t think?

Not unless it’s the big wave thing, honestly. [Laughs] It’s funny, I remember, back when I was competing, I had a lot of little friends, little homies who didn’t know what surfing really was, but they came to the US Open and they watched me surf. And one of them came up after and said, I gotta be honest, “Why do you guys do the same thing on every wave?” And I laughed. I told him, “You know what, you’re right! What you see is what everyone in this world sees.” They can’t relate to it. They’ll watch it and think it isn’t exciting. 

Watching Mick surf a wave at JBay, where he does 10 turns, it’s not exciting to people who don’t surf. You know, when people see me, they are like. “Man, the ASP! Ain’t nothing ever changed.” It’s boring. It’s lame. Theres probably the same judges, on the same panel, getting paid from the same people as when I was on tour. And Mick and Joel  and all these guys, surfing the same for fifteen years, same scores, same turns,

And they keep trying to model the whole thing after other sports. But it ain’t the same, there’s so many places that have ocean and no waves. Not everyone lives on the coast. Not everyone has $1,000 bucks for a board and a wetsuit and a car. Who can afford that? A lot of the world, even a lot of America, doesn’t have that much money. Surfing’s a preppy, white, sport. With these other sports, kids from the ghetto that aint got nothing, they can pick up a ball and go find a game. You want to do MMA, fight in the UFC, you can go walk into a gym. Soccer: poverty. Boxing: poverty.

Well, we didn’t really get that granular on the details—not that there are many, yet—but, it’s safe to say you don’t see this being the answer to this big problem no one seems to be able to recognize.

The people that are running it, that think it’s going to be a mainstream sport, they need to look in the mirror and realize it’s just never going to happen.

When I said it, people thought I was bitter. But it was deeper than that. I was just the one that called their shit out.

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