Having launched the new APP World Tour a few months ago, Tristan Boxford, founder of the APP, aims to take the Association of Paddlesurf Professionals to the next level in a strive to become even more prestigious. Amidst these changes, the APP has announced a deal with the International Surfing Association. Tristan tells TotalSUP about the development of the Association of Paddlesurf Professionals.
It has been a few months since the rebranding of the Waterman League as the APP and the launch of a new APP World Tour. What’s your overall assessment so far?
It has been a solid step forward and the re-branding as the APP has been well received. I believe there is a strong understanding, certainly from the athletes, of what this means for them and their careers.
However, we still have a lot more to do and we have only just scratched the surface of the process that we are putting in motion here. As the year progresses, and indeed as we move into 2018, you will see some major developments over and above what has already been shown.
How has the tour evolved since last year’s edition?
We have consolidated on what we are doing, brought everything under one banner (race and surf) and have implemented a strategy as far as style of events, venues and how we move forward are concerned.
We are also officially celebrating the overall World Title in 2017 (Race and Surf), something that is increasingly prestigious, but also fiercely contested now with the likes of Mo Freitas, James Casey and Giorgio Gomez joining the established all-rounders, such as Kai Lenny, Zane Schweitzer and others.
Prize money has been established at $45k for the Pro division (Men & Women) in 2017, with additional prize funds varying from event to event for the World Qualifier Series. In most cases, in 2017, this amounts to $5,000. In surfing, the prize money has been raised to $30k.
With a combined prize purse of just under $400k in 2017 from 8 events, as well as awards for the World Title finishes for the World Champions, this provides a real platform for aspiring professional athletes and the athletes are starting to fully realize that.
For the Pro division, we have made it more of a prestigious Top 32 Men & 16 women, rather than having it open. This way, athletes commit to the whole Tour rather than some athletes participating in certain events and some doing others.
As we grow this, the goal is obviously for athletes to be able to live off a professional tour that provides them with a prize purse and with centralized and far-reaching exposure to both domestic and non-domestic media, as well as a pathway to a real sustainable career.
However, we are not restricting it to just this, with the development of the World Qualifying Series (soft launched in 2017). We are also setting up a qualification series that runs in parallel to the World Tour throughout the year and which allows people to qualify for the World Tour the following year, similar to what we see in surfing.
Having an organized structure and entry point for the sport at this level is critical. We are working to establish a uniform process that will allow a pathway to success and offer up the possibility of World Titles for people from all over the world.
In addition to this, in the appropriate venues, we are setting up team racing, amateur fun races and enthusiast racing at all levels. This will be accompanied by other water-based activities that suit each respective venue. In sum, we are creating festivals that have real scope for growth and significant scalability moving forward.
We certainly have the majority of the world’s best competing on the APP World Tour in 2017, as we consolidate and build towards an increasingly high profile Tour in 2018 and beyond. We offer a consistent prize purse across all events on the Tour, and we provide real media exposure through live and post-produced broadcasts on digital and TV platforms (such as CBS in the US, on which we have an 8-show series in 2017).
This series is also syndicated globally by IMG Media. We are more than just a few events grouped together. This is a professional World Tour that provides a consistent and professional media product, creating awareness for the sport and its athletes way beyond the confines of the core audience and which lays the foundation for growth in all respects.
While we have still been very much in development mode with our website and other elements in progress, our media reach from the first 3 events was significant, with overall video views topping the million mark (live and non-live across various platforms) and our televised shows can be viewed in over 60M households in the US alone.
Our venues are focused on major mass markets where we can not only embrace our core demographic, but reach a whole new audience with the most accessible and fastest growing water sport. In 2017, this includes New York, San Francisco, Japan and Germany, but as we move forward, this will expand to incorporate really high-profile, mass market venues that help us to develop into new areas and grow the sport on an international level.
Meanwhile, we have stayed true to our core values by maintaining iconic venues like Oahu for Surfing and Maui for Racing, as well as adding a new surfing event in the Canary Islands that will provide an exciting and fitting close to the 2017 season.
We have also been working with a digital agency to help identify, understand and grow our core market. That also helps us to demonstrate the attraction of this market for non-domestic brands to come in and invest. It is a work in progress, but developing well.
You’ve just announced a deal with the International Surfing Association. Can you give more details on your partnership?
It has been a discussion for many years as we have had a close relationship with the ISA since they started their involvement in SUP. However, the timing was right this time around.
As we took the next step in the development of our professional platform, standing by the Federation representing the sport for the Olympics and working in tandem just makes sense. Both organizations can strengthen each other and fast-track the growth and development of the sport. Working together will allow us to achieve economies of scale and promote the sport and its development on a global scale.
Beyond this, the sanctioning of the APP by the ISA as the Professional World Championship Tour for the sport, and the acknowledgement of their positioning as the recognized and established Federation for the sport, the ISA are also now a minority shareholder of the APP, and we are aligned in our vision for the sport itself.
Will you be involved in the ISA SUP World Championship in Denmark and how?
We are still in discussions as to exactly what role we will play in this, but we are already working together to ensure that this event in Denmark benefits from all the experience and personnel we have here at the APP World Tour and that standards that are worked on with and approved by the World Tour athletes are adopted by the ISA for their annual event. More to follow on this, but it is certainly a productive process to the benefit of all involved.
Can you present the forthcoming APP World Tour events?
We have the Mercedes-Benz SUP World Cup coming up next in Scharbeutz, Germany. That will be a European Racing highlight for the year as we are now in our 4th year in Germany, working closely with our partners on the ground towards an exciting future for the sport and development of this event in this region.
We then head back to North America for the US Open of Stand Up Paddle in New York, which is undoubtedly one of the world’s largest and most high-profile media markets. I am particularly excited about this event because of the unique nature of the venue, its proximity to the heart of New York City (on the subway line from the city), and the fact that it is the golden season for waves in the region, meaning that we could have spectacular conditions for both the surfing and the surf racing.
We then move onto San Francisco for the second edition of our Heavy Water event, before heading back to China for the groundbreaking festival we are setting up there in Hainan. It all comes to a head then in the Canary Islands with our World Championship Tour Surfing Final to be held in the capital city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria – a great venue for waves, extremely visible and an exciting way to end the year.