Paul Speaker, the CEO of the World Surf League, has a lot of experience in branding. Before he took the ASP and turned it into the WSL, he was the Director of Marketing and Ideas for the National Football League, the President of Time Inc. Studios, and President of RKO Studios. Just before he took the reins of professional surfing, he held the position of Lead Independent Director for Quiksilver.
The guy has a resume, to say the least. But there is probably no other sport where the president of the company would have to deal with one of the competitors fending off a shark, unless someone comes up with a shark fighting show… which would be awesome for ratings. Below is Mr. Speaker’s release from the World Surf League about the craziness that happened at J-Bay:
I hope this finds you well wherever you may be today.
The WSL family, the broader surfing community, and, to some extent, the greater public, has undergone an intense experience following the shark attack on Mick Fanning during the Final heat of our competition at Jeffreys Bay.
Far above all else, we cannot overstate how thankful we are that no one was hurt. Our athletes’ safety is the WSL’s primary concern, and we understand very well that the outcome could have been different.
Despite their humble retellings, Mick Fanning’s focus and quick action as well as Julian Wilson’s selfless efforts to protect Mick were absolutely heroic. They are both inspirations, in the eyes of the WSL, as well as the world. They’re both back home now and with their loved ones. We hope everyone will give them time, privacy and space to process the events of the past few days and collect themselves for the road ahead.
I want to express the League’s heartfelt gratitude to the WSL Water Safety Team in South Africa. The instantaneous and professional response of personnel both on land and in the water was nothing short of extraordinary, and potentially crucial to ensuring that Mick and Julian made it safely to the beach.
Additionally, on a personal note, I am proud of the way the rest of the WSL team handled this shocking situation – from our officials on site to the broadcast team to our team at the WSL headquarters. True colors come out under stress. I believe everyone handled the situation with distinction and respect.
The outpouring of love, respect and support from the surfing community, the media and the general public has been heartwarming. What occurred on Sunday was unprecedented over many thousands of heats in the history of professional surfing. It has always been a hypothetical. It is now a reality.
We will take time to review this situation in depth and see what we can learn. In the coming days, we’ll be having discussions with our athletes, various experts, and with our communities on how to best move forward. We will continue to review various procedures regarding shark safety, emerging research and technologies as well as event site selection. We will be proactive.
We do want to emphasize that we respect sharks as remarkable animals. Our sport’s playing field is the ocean and the WSL is an advocate of healthy oceans. Apex predators, like sharks, are a part of any healthy ecosystem and we very much understand that our events take place in their home.
Once again, we’d like to express our gratitude that all are healthy and safe.
Thank you for your love of surfing and your ongoing support.
Chief Executive Officer
World Surf League