Surfing may be the ancestral sport of Hawaii but these days it is also big business. The global surfing industry is worth around $10 billion per year. At the forefront of that industry is the World Surf League. Every year the WSL runs more than 180 events at all levels of competition. In 2018, more than 2,400 male and female athletes caught waves in 27 countries around the world.
Professional competitions are underway on two Hawaiian islands this week. Maui is hosting a big wave event at Peahi and the last competition of the women’s professional season at Honolua Bay. On Oahu’s North Shore the second event of the annual Triple Crown of Surfing is underway at Sunset Beach.
But as the size, scope, and popularity of these events grow, so too grow the challenges of putting such events grow. The World Surf League now maintains offices around the world to facilitate its global operation. In addition to working with dozens of local and national governments, the WSL must also contend with Mother Nature. The league uses sophisticated forecasting technology to identify the optimal seasonal window for each event. But it must now also include concerns like beach erosion and shifting swell patterns associated with climate change.
Jodi Wilmott is the World Surf League's General Manager for Hawaii and Tahiti Nui. She sat down with HPR's Ryan Finnerty to discuss the business of surfing in one of the sport's most high profile venues.