First some history on myself. I have surfed a few contests in my lifetime and I may have or may have not been a member of the A.S.P. machine. I even might have spent a few lazy days as a young man with the champ himself. So I have a small glimpse into what started this phenom off from the beginning.
Kelly Slater was forged in an area where even amateur surfing was taken with the zeal of American college football. The E.S.A. now is only a mere shell of itself compared to the late 1980’s. In those times, it was war and if you thought because you drew someone besides one of the name surfers; you were dead wrong. In fact, I was just hovering around the #10 spot in my last year and I easily dispatched one of the top guys from the North Central Florida area in regionals in some horrid conditions. We were on top of the world and even more so because we had one Kelly Slater.
A lesson for the youngsters! Kelly and Todd Holland were work horses. Todd always woke up early in the morning and trained like a mad man because he had a huge goal. They knew that they had to do everything in their power to level the playing field and the commitment level was beyond 100%. Their rise to the top was fueled by their dedication because they just did not slap on a jersey and win an event after a week of school. They were not out partying the whole night the day before the contest either. These two knew that what they sacrificed at that moment would be reaped years down the road.
Once Kelly became a world champion and maybe it was after title 2 or maybe 3, the surfing world began to see a tiny glimpse of Kelly’s world. It was revealed that unlike some of the dinosaurs on tour that Kelly and his buddies were sending to an early retirement; Kelly’s world consisted of the study of the mechanics of surfing, training, and eating healthy food. The rest of the world perked up and Kelly ushered in the world of surfers becoming more than touring alcoholics on surfboards.
Now comes the problem and that is a problem of laziness, arrogance, and blindness that ironically Kelly never possessed. It is the K.S. Syndrome11. You see, for every title that Kelly was given, the surfers of Brevard County felt a sense of entitlement. Our pride in Kelly should have made us try to strive to follow in his footsteps but instead you frequently heard comments such as, “When you go to California, one Floridian is better than 90% of the locals there” or “We are the best because we surf poor waves”. Even to this day this is still being thrown out on web boards on surf sites. Worse, it is not true.
The other day, Gabriel Medina beat Kelly Slater to take the Rip Curl Search title. I told my friend how scary that was. My friends’ response was, “Kelly has 11 titles. I am sure he had the better day.” To me, it is not that Kelly has 11 titles. It is that a 17-year-old who has only been on the tour for a few months already has won 2 events and taken out Kelly 2 times. That is a ominious sign of things to come folks and any person running a business would put that at the top of the “Threats” column when doing a S.W.O.T. analysis. But that is the problem in Brevard County. The world is eroding around them and no one wants to admit it.
I frequently go to Brazil and I will report that Brazil has received Kelly’s memo about what it takes to make successful surfers. The surf companies realize that by creating a culture that supports surfers, that everyone will win. I went to see the 6 star contest at Paracuru and it was cancelled but much to my surprise, the local shops in the northeast came together and added an event on to their local Ceara circuit. That is creating a winning environment. When the contest began, I saw the pros such as Andre Silva and Messias Felix in the mix with their coaches preparing for their heats and the action was great. More importantly it gave the surfers contest time to prepare for the first event of the year in the prime series down at Fernando de Noronha.
So what is going on down in Brevard County you ask? Well, the E.S.A. is trying to make a come back and of course there is not a local pro circuit. I do believe that John Holeman is helping out some kids with coaching. The sad thing is that John is endorsed by Martin Dunn, an Australian coach who is known world wide. While the Californian kids like Kolohe Andino and Andrew Doheney are traveling the world with their coaches; John is coaching a handful of kids down at Buccs. So does Brevard County have any young pros you may ask yourself? Sure we do! They are at the inlet missing world tour events, getting photos taken to be posted on Eastern Surfing Magazine, and dreaming of the Easter Surfing Festival.
We do have some great young surfers in Central Florida. Hopefully in a few years, one of them will watch the world champion like Gabriel Medina or Julian Wilson and decide that they to want to be on the tour and that they too want to be a world champion like the retired one. This young kid will realize that they have to put in the effort to make it and they will do whatever it takes to surf where it counts and that is the qualifying series and not a contest where you win a pineapple. The kid will seek out a pro to coach him and put in the effort to represent us all.
I will be waiting.