Oh, a phone call with Eddie Rotham is the most wonderful thing and if anyone ever gifts you his number, you should totally ring it.
He (Rothman) not only posses a wit and way with words unlike few others but also a deep understanding of this thing called surfing and the direction it should head.
Witness his brilliant stewardship over the annual Backdoor Shootout as a prime example of how a competition can not only be run and done poste haste but, done so without even the need for a coloured jersey.
Granted, the Shootout is but one event while the WSL tour is a multi faceted beast involving a complex algorithm of locations, surfers and schedules.
But, those tanned broad shoulders and titanium eyes of Rothman’s have witnessed the winds of change whisper in and out of pro surfing for nigh on 30 odd years as it filters through Hawaii each year, some of those changes which he has also affected so.
Does it seem not only natural then to put the question to Eddie, has he applied for the still vacant position of CEO of the WSL?
To bring you up to speed lest you missed the news over this festive season, outgoing WSL CEO Paul Speaker announced his departure from the post on January 12 temporarily handing over the reigns to Dirk Ziff, whom Speaker described as the “deeply committed and passionate co-owner of our League.”
And so it was that I put the question to Rothman while discussing other matters just yesterday.
“No brah, not me,” he says with hearty chuckle while riding shotgun towards a benefit for the homeless of Oahu.
“I mean, I could try, but I’m not saying I could run it better because I’m not somebody who runs stuff like that good, but I think there’s credible people out there who could run it well.”
“Well, off the top of my head, you got guys like Barton Lynch, Peter Mel, Pancho Sullivan, Myles Padaca or even Peter Townend. They’re all stand-up guys who actually know about the sport and love it instead of some of the ego-tripping worms in there now,” Rotham surmised, clearly warming to the topic.
“They’d bring a degree of honesty to the sport, get rid of all the unnecessary politics and give it back its soul.”
But, and one can only dream, if Rothman was handed the keys to the kingdom, what changes would he bring?
“Well for starters, I’d bring the best surfers to the best waves,” says Rotham.
“Say, put ‘em all on a plane for a contest in Polynesia and land it wherever is best for that window, be it Tahiti, Tavarua or wherever. I’d also get rid of some of the surfers who are just staying on tour longer than they should be and depriving others of getting a shot at the big time.”
Simple really, quality over quantity, eliminate the wheat from the chaff and all that good stuff.
“But at the end of the day, to be honest, it’s beyond me,” he conceded, again accompanied by a hearty laugh.
“If you want to know something about how to fuck a company up, well I could certainly write the book on that (thunderous laughter from Rothman). My companies have somehow survived despite me. But, you just have to put somebody in there that wants to be in there and not somebody that will show surfing in the wrong light.”
Then follows an unexpected detour in the conversation as it turns back to the recently completed Backdoor Shootout and the near drowning of Kalani Chapman.
I can’t quite see the dark clouds gather over Rothman from the safety of my rental on the New South Wales Central Coast (North Avoca to be exact), but I sense something’s irking him.
“Let me say this though while I’m on the topic, I get why the WSL don’t want to recognise our competition (the non-sanctioned Backdoor Shootout) and I get why they wouldn’t want to be associated with us in any way” he begins.
“But with the greatest of respect, but Mick Fanning got bumped by a shark and you saw all the publicity and fanfare after it, but Kalani Chapman, one of the most hardest charging Pipeline riders in history….drowns…then gets bought back to life on the sand and they (WSL) can’t even give him a shout out? I mean, what’s up with that? What does that tell you about the almighty WSL?”
I recall thinking at the time the WSL didn’t issue such a statement following the near drowning of Evan Geiselman in 2015, but…you gonna correct Eddie Rothman?
Either way, the clouds disappear and the chipper Rothman returns, obviously closing in on the destination he was heading towards when I rang.
“Ah well brah, I gotta go,” he says before signing off.
“I think you got enough from me. Just don’t misconstrue what I said eh? I do a good enough job of that myself.”
The search for the WSL’s new CEO continues.
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