Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Champion Surfer Commoditizes His Dream

Champion surfer tries to sell his dreamcome true

For decades now, there has only been one “face” of professional surfing. Even if you don’t follow the sport, you are probably familiar with the name Kelly Slater. The Florida native is, without question, the world’s most-recognized surfer, and now Slater is trying to turn that name recognition into a promotional force behind something that used to be anathema to surfers: the man-made wave.
For generations, surfers have gone on an almost sacred pilgrimage to find The Perfect Wave. They openly mocked and disdained “chlorine dreamers” who crafted wave pools and tried to mimic surfing in a concrete box. But it seems the tide might be turning, and the world’s top surfer is at the heart of this cultural transformation, investing his name in something that could change the literal and figurative face of surfing forever.

Slater Creates Man-Made Wave

Cut to Slater on a board dropping into a wave … he cuts up and across the face, vintage Slater, recognizable to anyone who has ever followed the sport in the past two decades. Then you hear it, and it’s nigh unbelievable: “This is the best man-made wave ever … no doubt about it!”

That phrase, uttered by that man, is the surfing equivalent of hearing the Pope dive into a cheeseburger on Fish Friday. But there it is, in living color. A follow-up video brings together a select group of some of the top male and female surfers in the world. Smart marketing by Slater, he invited them out to have a look and make a run. Not surprisingly, those featured on camera loved the wave, saying, among other things, it was unlike any other man-made wave they knew of. More like a real wave, they said. Truly powerful, they said. And you could build this anywhere. You could almost hear Slater smiling.

Every Surfers' Dream Come True

This was the dream of surfers everywhere come true. A wave you could quite literally dial up and ride any time. Sure it was mechanical, but it had the power and presence to make you forget that. Surfer Magazine put it succinctly: “Slater did it. Just watch the video immediately… They made the dream wave we’ve all imagined wave pools could produce.” And, in case you were wondering how the world of competitive surfing would respond, Slater recently announced his company was in the process of being purchased by the same investment group that owns the World Surf League, the top tour in the sport. You can likely expect a competition coming soon to a pool near you.

David Milberg is an NYC financier.

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