WSL Holdings, parent company of the World Surf League (WSL), has agreed a deal to acquire a majority stake in the wave technology company formed by legend of the sport Kelly Slater, with the acquisition intended to boost the growth of high-performance surfing around the world.
The WSL said Kelly Slater Wave Company’s (KSWC) technology creates a number of possibilities for the future of the sport, which is bidding for inclusion on the programme for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The WSL and the KSWC envision the build-out of a global network of WSL-branded high-performance training centres utilising this wave technology.
“The WSL proudly represents the best in men's and women's competitive surfing globally, and the amazing man-made wave technology developed by Kelly Slater and his team is a revolutionary innovation that has the power to dramatically enhance every aspect of our sport,” Paul Speaker, chief executive of the WSL, said. “We share the same vision and passion for growing high-performance surfing, and are beyond excited to work together under one roof to bring the sport to levels and places never before possible.”
Eleven-time world champion Slater added: “Surfing great waves in a controlled environment adds a new dimension, as there is no hassling for waves, no stress over who got the best wave – they are all good. (This partnership) will democratise surfing and provide incredible training opportunities for athletes as well as aspirational surfers in areas with no ocean waves.”
While competition in a man-made environment will offer previously impossible opportunities such as the creation of surrounding spectator environments, as well as certainty of scheduling, Speaker emphasised that surfing on natural waves would remain the sport’s focus.
He said: “We do believe that all stakeholders – athletes, fans, broadcast and corporate partners – will be super energised by the advent of Championship Tour-level competition with man-made waves, but the ocean will always be our home, and the great waves on our tour will always remain the backbone of our competitive schedule.
“No firm plans have been made for the inclusion of a man-made wave-based competition. We will be evaluating all the possibilities in the coming months with the Commissioners' Office and the WSL athletes.”
The International Surfing Association (ISA) is currently leading the sport’s bid for inclusion at Tokyo 2020. In September, Tokyo 2020 proposed 18 additional events from five sports to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for inclusion at their Games. The IOC will take the final decision on the proposed events during their Session in Rio de Janeiro from August 2-4.
The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has proposed baseball/softball, karate, skateboard, sports climbing and surfing as additional sports for its staging of the Olympic Games. Men’s baseball and women’s softball are proposed, along with the kata and kumite forms of karate, street and park skateboarding; the bouldering, lead and speed combined disciplines of sports climbing and shortboard surfing.
WSL’s acquisition of KSWC is subject to the negotiation of mutually agreeable definitive documentation, among other customary conditions. Both WSL and KSWC will continue to operate independently as separate entities following the closing of a transaction. Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.