Its been an interesting few days for Surfing's World Surf League. On Tuesday at the Jeffrey's Bay Open a shark breached the water about a 100 metres from the competition line with the ominous report that this was part of a larger feeding event. And with Mick Fannings Shark encounter at the same event two years ago still fresh in the mind of athletes and fans alike all competitors were promptly evacuated from the water.
And on Wednesday the WSL announced the appointment of Sophie Goldschmidt as Chief Executive Officer. Goldschmidt takes over from billionaire Dirk Ziff interim CEO and is the first permanent CEO since Paul Speaker. Before the WSL Goldschmidt worked as the Group Managing Director at CSM Sport, which is chaired by Lord Sebastian Coe. In this role Goldschmidt was responsible for developing and driving new business initiatives and commercial growth across the company's global operations, in addition to managing the group's brand development and marketing. She has also held executive roles in the Rugby Football Union, National Basketball Association (NBA), Women's Tennis Association (WTA) and Adidas. In an introductory statement on the WSL website Goldschmidt acknowledged the complex nature of surfing and a need to engage younger generations:
Surfing sits at the intersection between performance sport and lifestyle more than ever before and we can mobilize younger generations to be a part of a culture we have been enhancing for 40 plus years.
Goldschmidt also highlighted the intersection and demonstrated the often inseparability between surfing as a product and surfing as a cultural phenomena. There was also mention of the role of innovative technologies in the future of surfing. Firstly, in relation to the ability to broadcast content and increase fan engagement and identify new markets. And secondly with reference to artificial waves and wave pools through the WSLs acquisition of the Kelly Slater Wave Pool
We will work to build the best high-performance, man-made wave systems on the planet. We have the ability now to unlock a revolutionary new dimension to the sport of professional surfing as we explore possibilities for training and development as well as new, equitable conditions for athletes and enhanced viewing options at set times for our fans.
And whilst in the 2020 Olympic Games surfers will compete in a natural ocean environment there is little doubt that the proliferation of wave pool technologies and the increasingly economically viable nature of their development is going to have a have a role to play in surfing's future. As for the the impact Goldschmidt is going to have on this future - lets watch that space.