We were reminiscing over on Instagram about James Walker when he was 12 years old. James won the “Men’s” division at the 2004 Wakesurf Jam down in San Jose on Calero Lake. Here is James as a pre-teen with his first place prize!
What is interesting about that picture is that it was from the first of only two wakesurf events that year. Not two in California or the USA, two in the WORLD that year. If we exclude the very first WWSC down on Mission Bay, this contest was the second wakesurf event EVER. Worlds from the prior year, 2003, and then Wakesurf Jam in 2004 before the WWSC and Boardstock which was later in August.
So if you missed that event, Wakesurf Jam, you missed 50% of the contests that year!!!!
Fast forward 10 years to 2014, here we are in mid-February and there are well over two dozen events spread all over the globe and guess what else happened? Conflicting schedules. We talked briefly about the talent dilution last year, where the Tige riders mostly attended Tige events and the Centurion riders mostly attended Centurion events. It makes sense, they most likely have travel budgets to one and not the other, so unless there is significant prize money and a likelihood of placing, there isn’t any direct reason to attend an event, unless it’s local.
So we heard folks lamenting about some of the conflicting events within a series. One of the conflicts was between Germany and Russia. It’s really hard to get behind that issue, we mean really; life must be so hard for those folks that are concerned with choosing between Russia and Germany! Sucks to be you! But we get the point, that one weekend, folks can’t be in two places at the same time and obviously this schedule conflict isn’t going to get better anytime soon. What we’ve found is that a centralized authority makes it impossible to be heard for many folks. We have a democratic state of government, because of those sorts of issues. Constituency elects folks and if you don’t like your representative, we vote them out.
Ok, so a tour isn’t a government, is it? It’s a for profit entity that most folks have little say in, so…you can always not attend. That would be a hard pill to swallow, but it’s voting with your feet, isn’t it? Kinda like the Tige and Centurion riders cross attending. No doubt if they are at a different event, there is an appearance fee, of sorts, in there somewhere. Right? So, how does a pro make a decision? If you’re an amateur, you’re going for a vacation, or the practice or exposure and Good For You! But those choices are based upon destination or who will challenge you, sight seeing, family or whatever. For a pro, that decision is based upon money or at least some business factor. Now, for the most part, there is no money to be made in prizes, with the exception of the WWSC. That has some serious cash. Not that you could make a career of it, but 12 grand for first is significant. Less than minimum wage for a year of training, but for a single event it’s good money.
So the rest of the events, the $2,500 for first probably isn’t paying for a pro’s cost to travel, unless they live close by. So pro’s have to make a decision. There are the direct costs of attending the event: potential earnings, less the cost of travel, lodging, food, entry fees and local transportation. Plus, here is another kicker. If mommy and daddy are paying for everything, then no biggee, but if you have a day job or college, there is some lost revenue in there. If you’re giving up 3 days of work, there’s probably $250 lost if you’re young. Realistically, anything less than a 2,000 prize is a donation by the pro to that event. Can’t get rich doing that! Hell, you can’t even make MONEY doing that! Certainly there are better ways to advertise than “giving” a contest promoter money.
Indirectly, maybe a pro wants to support a dealer or an event for a manufacturer or hopes to score another sponsorship, but all of those will be very nebulous and hard to quantify.
The other indirect revenue source is product sales. Every pro, at this point, has something they are selling and for the most part, if they are doing it well, that will account for the majority of their revenue for a year. So they attend events to get noticed and connect with fans, but for the most part, if they are in the sport to make some money, it’s from product sales. Boats, boards, life jackets, traction, you name it. So that really narrows down the choices of events to attend, doesn’t it? Folks, if that ISN’T your major source of income, you’re leaving money on the table!!!!
Is a pro selling many units in Moscow? If not, there probably isn’t much reason to attend that event, huh? Unless the payout is huge such that there IS Net Income from attending. As an example in our Flyboy Store, we don’t sell product outside the contiguous US, because the cost of shipping and taxes make it prohibitive. Literally an $800 board becomes a $1,600 board and consumes a day to get the paperwork in order. Just not worth it to anyone, involved. That means Canada, Russia, Germany, Brazil just aren’t in our target market. So for James and Flyboy, that really eliminates most of our conflicts. We aren’t going to Russia, Germany or Brazil. It’d be fun, but it’s not a good business decision. We still understand the concerns, and we support the need to express those, but for us, there aren’t any schedule conflicts within either series.
There are some between two series, but none inside either series. Another thing James looks at closely is the promotion. If an organizer spends ALL of his/her time hyping one particular rider, what’s the likelihood that YOU are going to get any promotional time at all? Not much right? The promoter of the event really should be making an all out effort to get exposure for all pro level riders and if they aren’t…you can fill in that blank pretty easily.
So that’s pretty much the prioritization. Under direct revenue, is it paying out well or are you getting paid to attend? If not move on to the calculation to see if it might make sense to attend. Estimate potential winnings and then subtract your estimated costs of travel, lodging, meals and local transportation and any lost wages from your day job. Obviously international and cross country travel is probably not going to make sense from a purely cash flow perspective. So then it’s time to move on to the indirect contribution. Is the venue in your target market? If you don’t sell product out of the US, like James, then those international events probably don’t make sense. If you’re then faced with two conflicting events and they are relatively close in terms of “net cost to attend”, then it’s time to look at what it can contribute to your income. Is the promoter gushing over one particular rider? You won’t get any promotion time, so skip that one for one that is more willing to share the spotlight.
Larger contests will also offer you more opportunity to connect with your fan base, make new fans and possibly connect with new sponsors. One last thing, WINNING probably isn’t necessary to sell product. In fact, you no doubt can look around and see PLENTY of boards that don’t sell worth shit, but the pro has won a few contests. You’ll really want your board to be suitable to the largest potential market, but all you really need is a podium spot to help you sell your product.
That will certainly give folks a perspective to help them make decisions, this year and for coming years, because we’re seeing more and more events and it’s simply not going to be possible to get to them all!
This sport sure has grown hasn’t it? From two contests a year to two dozen all over the globe! Choosing which ones to attend is a good problem to have! Oh! But, we should say attend the Supreme Wake Surf Championship no matter what!
You know there is a situation arising though, isn’t there? This problem with conflicting schedules and how that will be resolved, from a community standpoint. We’ll be back tomorrow with some thoughts and editorializing on that issue, you won’t want to miss it!
Thanks so much for following along and we hope to see many of you out there this contest season!