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World Surf League Turns To Athletes For Content Efforts

  • With the season on pause and the Olympics pushed back, WSL is leaning on its athletes for content purposes.
  • Highlighting its athletes has helped the WSL grow its IG impressions and views by as much as 35% and 40%, respectively.
Photo Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The summer was shaping up to be a pivotal moment for the World Surf League and CEO Erik Logan.

Not only would Logan’s tenure as chief executive begin, but the 2020 Summer Olympics was to include surfing for the first time in its history, a potentially landscape-shifting moment for the sport, surfers, and the governing body.

But now the WSL has had to pivot its plans drastically due to the string of cancelations because of the coronavirus pandemic.

With the WSL season on pause until May 31 and the Olympics postponed to summer 2021, Logan is aiming to keep the surfing community engaged by significantly increasing its content offerings. 

“We’re exponentially creating more content today than we have done, arguably outside of live competition, than we’ve ever done in the history of the sport,” Logan said. “The opportunity in front of us is golden, and we’re trying to, from our perspective, do a couple of things.”

The first step during the WSL’s hiatus was to accelerate its content output through its surfers and highlighting them on social media, featuring videos like at-home workouts to promoting its #HomeBreakChallenge initiative.

That focus has served the WSL well thus far. Between March 8 and 27, Instagram interactions increased by 35% to 4.26 million from the 3.15 million seen between February 23 and March 8. 

Total views on IG have also seen a 40% from 22.6 million between February 23 and March 8 to 31.64 million between March 8 and 27.

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“Surfing is a very close, tight-knit community,” Logan said. “The relationships that over the years we’ve developed with all of our athletes have been phenomenal. My view is that our athletes are a big part of our business. I view them as shareholders, as the beneficiaries, and the better we become as an organization, the better we become as a business. If the platform grows, that affords more opportunities for our professional athletes.”

The WSL’s second priority was to continue to release episodes around the planned programming that it is keeping alive for fans at home. That includes the second season of All In, which profiles the lives of the league’s surfers, and its daily news show, Surf Breaks.

It also will prioritize its podcast, The Lineup, which has averaged 15,000 downloads per week and is the #1 surfing podcast since launching in late 2019. Popular episodes range from four-time WSL champion Carissa Moore breaking the news that she was taking the 2020 season off to Sage Erickson speaking about the role of female athletes and dealing with body shaming issues from past sponsors. 

Before the pandemic, the WSL was days aways from shooting its new competition series, “Ultimate Surfer,” on ABC. The eight-episode series is still ongoing and expected to shoot under a delayed schedule, a sign that the league will be ready for whenever it returns to action.

READ MORE: How TikTok Is Helping Sports Leagues And Teams Better Engage With Female Fans

“We are equally as aggressive in the development off-platform space as we are for the on-platform and even social space that you’re seeing,” Logan said. “That is an area that obviously most people don’t see, and you only see the fruits of that development when deals are struck and when shows are announced, but the work is continuing at a very accelerated rate.”

Although the coronavirus pandemic has altered the WSL’s content offerings, Logan remains confident that the league will come out of it a better, stronger company.

“I’m very bullish that the other side of this is going to be a more robust media property with the World Surf League and a more inclusive media property for our endemic partners, our surfers, and our fans,” Logan said. “And, I think, a more widely consumed product than we’ve ever had before because of the platforms, so I’m energized by the opportunity we have to think about the business.”