Paul Speaker announced his resignation as CEO of the World Surf League today, promoting a flurry of speculation about the future direction of the WSL. Owner of the WSL Dirk Ziff will take over as interim CEO until a replacement is found.
Paul has overseen a period of development for pro surfing in which production levels have hit new heights, media rights have been unified, they have acquired the Big Wave Tour and the Kelly Slater Wave Pool company. What this will mean for pro surfing, if anything, remains to be seen.
Paul's statement is below.
"I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday with family and friends, and is looking forward to 2017. For many of us, the turning of the calendar is a time for reflection, and sometimes, a time for decisions.
Holding co-ownership and CEO positions at the World Surf League over the last five years has been an incredible honor for me. It has also been an awesome task that has required long hours, heavy travel and family sacrifice. It has always been my intention to pass the baton to someone at the right time to lead the next phase of what we have all created. I believe that time is now. With the acquisition of the Kelly Slater Wave Company, we are at a remarkable inflection point in the League's history and we are ready for a new leader who can guide the organization to even greater accomplishments.
It is with this in mind that I have decided to step down as the CEO of the WSL at the end of January. I will continue to be a co-owner of the League and will work with the ownership group and Board of Directors to ensure a smooth transition until a new CEO is in place. As many of you are aware, Dirk Ziff has been a deeply committed and passionate co-owner of our League and he has agreed to bring that commitment to the role of interim CEO until a new chief executive is brought on board. Dirk and I have a close and collaborative partnership and will work together on a seamless transition.
Nearly five years ago, I journeyed to Australia to meet with the Board of Directors of what was then called the Association of Surfing Professionals to raise the audacious idea of an acquisition. Since the transaction was completed some months later, I have done my best to build an organization with a best-in-class product and culture. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to oversee the transformation of professional surfing into the globally-recognized sport it is today. I have been privileged to share this journey with a great and committed group of people, and I owe so much to all of you who have worked tirelessly to elevate this sport to new heights. Your passion and dedication brought us to where we are today, and will be the driving force of our future success.
Among our many accomplishments together are: the remarkable increase in fan engagement; the highly professional quality of the broadcast; our stellar event production; the various athlete development programs, and the introduction of the sport to a new group of non-endemic corporate partners.
The commitment to our athletes in and out of the water has led us to many firsts for surfing, including: a pension plan for our athletes; the creation of the commissioner's office to secure the integrity of the sport; prize-purse parity between the men and the women of our championship tour, and the first multi-year surfers' agreement.
The WSL has pioneered new technologies and digital strategies that have been ahead of the curve, and have led to recognition throughout the sports industry as a first-mover in many areas. With a focus on the fan, surfing is now enjoyed on multiple media platforms around the globe, through traditional broadcast, but most frequently on our mobile app, website, and social media channels. We have also acknowledged the global nature of our sport by delivering our live event broadcast in English, French, Portuguese and Japanese.
I am incredibly excited for our future. The Kelly Slater Wave Company offers a tremendous and unprecedented opportunity for the League to dramatically shift the landscape of high-performance surfing around the world with guaranteed conditions, total fairness for the competitors, greatly enhanced live viewing, and major television coverage at a scheduled time. Our sport's inclusion in the 2020 Olympics is a testament to the continuing rise of surfing as a global participatory and spectator sport, and will allow WSL athletes to represent and compete for their countries for the first time ever on arguably the greatest sporting stage in the world.
I have enjoyed working with all of you more than you could ever imagine and now I am going to enjoy being a co-owner and a fan and spending time with my family who have been incredibly supportive over the last five years. I will miss you all dearly. You are a dynamic, committed and fun group that in many ways have become an extended family. Please keep up the incredible work.
See you at the beach.