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World Surf League hires former Disney exec to lead wave technology business

The World Surf League (WSL) has appointed former Disney executive Nick Franklin as president of its Kelly Slater Wave Company (KSWC) operation.

Key areas of focus for Franklin (pictured) in this role will be driving the growth and development of the business globally, pursuing strategic and operational integration with the WSL and leading the continued innovation and evolution of the product, including the wave, the venues and the customer experience.

WSL Holdings, parent company of the WSL, agreed a deal to acquire a majority stake in the wave technology company formed by legend of the sport Kelly Slater, in May 2016. At the time, the WSL and KSWC envisioned the build-out of a global network of WSL-branded high-performance training centres utilising this wave technology.

KSWC developed the Surf Ranch, which located 100 miles inland in Lemoore, California, created what is regarded as the best man-made wave in history – a 700-yard, high-performance, bi-directional wave featuring barrel, manoeuvre and air sections.

Sophie Goldschmidt, WSL chief executive, said: “It’s a time of unprecedented opportunity for the company with so many exciting aspects to develop, so Nick’s incredible experience, stellar reputation and proven track record will make him vital to the successful future of KSWC and the WSL. Surf Ranch is transformational to surfing and for all those that have experienced its unique stoke, and Nick will push the boundaries of exceptional customer experience even further.”

Franklin joins the WSL following a long career at the Walt Disney Company. During his 18 years with Disney, Franklin worked in corporate strategy and in the Theme Park and Resort business unit where he led teams across a wide range of functions including global strategy, business development, real estate development, and brand and operations. Following his time at Disney, Franklin served as executive vice-president of strategic operations for KB Home.

Franklin said: “Having got my feet under me in the past few weeks and having a chance to see the capabilities of this superb team, I can see all of the enormous potential and am looking forward to building on the amazing foundation of work that’s been done so far by both the KSWC team and partners at the WSL. With the wave technology, Surf Ranch in Lemoore and the connection to the WSL, we have an incredible platform to engage with passionate surfers and also connect with those new to sport to expand the business.”