What Happened to the Association of Surfing Professionals?

The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) is the organization that established the inaugural world circuit of pro surfing events. Their official website was ASPWorldTour.com.

However, typing ASPWorldTour.com into the address bar of any search engine today, users get this dreadful message: “This site can’t be reached.” You can check your connection, proxy, and firewall or even run your operating system’s diagnostics, but you will soon realize that ASPWorldTour.com is no longer online.

What happened to the organization that helped surfing transform from an armature activity to a sporting code that embodies all aspects of surfing? We aim to answer this question in this article.

The History of ASPWorldTour.com

The history of the ASP begins with the establishment of the International Professional Surfing (IPS) in 1976 by Fred Hemmings and Randy Rarick. The ISP started the world circuit by uniting the disjointed surfing contests in different parts of the world.

An archived ASPWorldTour.com article paints a picture of the surfing scene in the 1960s and 70s: “This was truly the amateur era.”

According to the same article, “While the camaraderie and spirit were rich, there was very little in the way of monetary compensation from endorsements, and certainly no prize money.” It adds, “The rewards were personal achievement, and in line with all amateur sport of the era, time at the top was limited.”

The ASP took over the management of the world circuit in 1983. The organization was the brainchild of Ian Cairns. Boardmasters.com reports that this change represented a natural evolution of the IPS.

Boardmasters.com adds, “The focus was on quality surf, removing the tour from overcrowded spots to find more remote venues showcasing the best waves in the world – the dream tour was born.”

The People Behind the ASP

The history of surfing is incomplete without mentioning the two individuals who were instrumental in establishing the IPS, which later became the ASP:  Fred Hemmings and Randy Rarick.

Fred Hemmings

Hemmings calls himself the “Hawaii History/Surfing Ambassador.” He writes on his LinkedIn profile, “The tour is now managed by the association of Pro Surfers, ASP and is a huge multiple million-dollar industry.”

He adds, “Randy, Patti, and I are quite proud.” This is because “the dream of making pro surfing a respected worldwide sport is now a reality.”

If it sounds like Hemmings was blowing his own trumpet, he had every reason to, because his name appears on the Surfing Hall of Fame. Surfingwalkoffame.com describes him as “a prolific Hawaiian surfer, event promoter and politician.”

Check out this PBS TV interview where Hemmings tells the story of his life:

Randy Rarick

Surfertoday.com reports that Rarick was born in 1949 in Seattle before moving to Honolulu with his family at the age of five. According to the same source, he was only ten years old when he first stood on a surfboard.

In explaining his role in establishing the ASP, Rarick is quoted saying, “My efforts along the way have always been to honor the sport of surfing and the meaning it has brought to my life and countless others around the world.”

Like Hemmings, Rarick’s name appears on the Surfing Hall of Fame.  Surfingwalkoffame.com proposes that his “resume qualifies him as one of the greatest.” Below is a short film that summarizes his life story:

Acquisition by Zo-Sea

According to a report by the Australian broadcaster ABC News, the acquisition of the world circuit was happening at a time when getting sponsorships from surfwear manufacturers like Billabong was getting increasingly difficult.

The Name Change

A few months after acquiring the ASP, Zo-Sea announced that it would change the name to the World Surf League (WSL).

Paul Speaker, CEO at ASP, is quoted by Surfertoday.com, “The new name is easier to understand and gets us on a better track to serve our fans, athletes, and partners, and to grow the great sport of professional surfing worldwide.”

The new name came into effect in January 2015, as a new season started.

Welcomed By Surfers

ABC News reports that “the surfers themselves gave their full support to the takeover, with five-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore saying women will compete in more events for bigger prize money.”

For those who wanted more money, things started looking up in 2019 as the World Surf League (WSL) “announced that it will award equal prize money to male and female athletes for every WSL-controlled event in the 2019 season and beyond.”

Not So Welcome By Others

If surfers such as Stephanie Gilmore liked the benefits related to the acquisition of ASP by Zo-Sea, several quarters didn’t share her enthusiasm.

Beachgrit.com, a website dedicated to presenting surfing as a personal thrill that increases overall happiness, called the acquisition an example of the “story of naked greed and orchestrated concealment.”

Putting the Record Straight

Craig Jarvis writes for Track.Mag.com.au, a magazine calling itself the surfer’s bible. In his article titled “Surfing Sold – Myths and Facts of the ASP Takeover,” Jarvis attempts to set this record straight.

The piece debunks the view that the acquisition is bad for the sport. It argues, “Contrary to what has been published so far, the Zo-Sea/ASP deal comes off a very solid and far-reaching business plan.”

What Then Happened to ASPWorldTour.com?

After the 2015 name change, ASPWorldTour.com started redirecting to another domain, but that redirect stopped working in 2019. It’s most likely that the name change to World Surf League rendered a website called ASPWorldTour.com not so useful.

Regarding what happened to the Association of Surfing Professionals, we all now know that, in 2015, it became the World Surf League. Jarvis has a simple message for those who don’t like the changes: “Don’t forget that, in 1982, the IPS became the ASP when Ian Cairns, along with unanimous surfer support, took over from Randy Rarick and Fred Hemmings.” He concludes, “It’s 30 years down the line, and history is repeating itself.”