4 April, 2013 4 April, 2013

The Big Wave World Tour – Chatting to BWWT founder Gary Linden

Last week the Big Wave World Tour (BWWT) wrapped up its 2012/13 season by handing Californian Greg Long his first world title. For someone who’s won the Red Bull Big Wave Africa, the Eddie, the Mavericks Big Wave Invitational, and who continues to make us all collectively hold our breaths every time we watch footage of him dropping into a mind-altering wave, it’s a well-deserved accolade.


This was the BWWT’s fourth season in business and during 2013 three out of the five potential events ran from start to finish, as well as an additional qualifying event in Northern Spain. Considering the swell needed to make one of these happen (30 foot +) and the harrowing logistics behind getting the surfers, support staff, water safety and media personal together with almost no notice and a tight window of opportunity, it’s hugely impressive that even one contest runs each year.

The man behind this ambitious operation is legendary Californian surfer/shaper Gary Linden. He has nursed, nourished and carried the tour forward since its inception in 2008/09 and every year it gets a little bigger, a little more grown-up and a little closer to blowing up.

(See moment 02:07 – looks scarier than dropping acid with a gang of Satanists on sacrifice night.)

Interested to hear Gary’s thoughts on the BWWT, we chatted to him about the tour’s growth, the rising popularity of big wave surfing and some future prospects for professional big wave surfers:


Big wave surfing has really shone in the last few years. Think of the Mavericks event in 2010 (when Chris Bertish won it in monstrous conditions), the Code Red session at Teahupoo in 2011, the Volcom event at Cloudbreak in 2012, the Jaws session with Shane Dorian late in the year, and the continuous insanity that gets recorded at Shipsterns Bluff and The Right in Oz – these are some of the most-watched and googled sessions in surfing history. Even the Mavericks Invitational in early ’13 was monumental because of the webcast numbers. There’s clearly a demand for the Big Wave World Tour and a market for it to thrive in.

Peter Mel, the 2012 Mavericks Big Wave Invitational champ, does a cutback the width of a rugby field at Mavericks.

Peter Mel, the 2012 Mavericks Big Wave Invitational champ, does a cutback the width of a rugby field at Mavericks.

Howzit Gary, after closing the book on 2012/13, are you happy with how the tour is growing, especially considering how popular big wave surfing is with the general public?
I am extremely happy with the Tour and the fact that we have been able to get this far without much financial support! It has and continues to be a work of passion and that is when a project is the most fun.

In today’s tough economic climate, viewers and online numbers speak to advertisers and corporate bodies who control the purse strings. How much media support is shown to the tour and can viewers expect a bigger showing in 2013/14?
I feel we had been given adequate media support for the amount of content we have provided. Only one of our events this year, Mavericks had a sufficient webcast, so it’s hard to guess what things will be like once we get all the events live online. Things are in the works towards making this a reality for this season, so we should be able announce something shortly

What are some of the biggest hurdles when it comes to webcasting from events on the BWWT?
Obviously the biggest hurdle is getting the money to make it happen. Probably from a technical aspect Todos Santos provides the most challenges as it is 10 miles out to sea. The technology is available at a cost, so that puts us back to square one.

Gary Linden and Greg Long celebrate after holding a successful Big Wave event at Mexico's Todos Santos in 2010.

Gary Linden and Greg Long celebrate after holding a successful Big Wave event at Mexico’s Todos Santos in 2010.

Some of the other BWWT events don’t get as much media attention or have no webcast. Are there plans to get more interest in these other events – at places like Nelscot Reef?
Once we have the Tour fully funded we will be treating each event with the same level of involvement in terms of prize money – and of course webcast being at the top of the list.

After four years, what are your thoughts on the tour’s growth and his expectations for the future?
After four years we have proven without a doubt in anyone’s mind that we have a great product. The growth from here will be rapid and I believe beyond our earlier expectations. I have personally felt that big wave surfing has the power to capture the imagination of anyone and thus bring the non surfer to the sport. The concept of man against nature is so compelling and easily understood that all spectators can share in the vicarious thrills available!

What has been the biggest learning curve over the last 4 years?
Although the entire experience has been a huge learning curve, the most difficult has always and will continue to be, Calling the contest ‘ON’ – Of course the surfers want it to be the biggest swell ever ridden, yet the tour needs for the contest to run each year. Somewhere in the middle is where one needs to sit and most of the time that means me. I believe after all these years that I can feel the balance and am getting at least a bit more comfortable each time we notch another event.

How much interest is being shown by up-and-coming big wave surfers wanting to get onto the tour? Are there plans to get more venues and events for the 2014/2015 tour?
This is one of the most challenging aspects of being successful as the number of capable big wave surfers increases rapidly! This last season we held a qualifying event in Northern Spain, which went very well. This is the plan for the future and the way we will be able to grow. Ideally there will be three main events in each Hemisphere. That leads us to where the next “new” event will be in the Southern Hemisphere – my first choice without a second thought is Dungeons.

Cape Town's BWWT charger Frank Solomon drops into a thick left during the Quiksilver Cermonial Punta De Lobos, in Chile.

Cape Town’s BWWT charger Frank Solomon drops into a thick left during the Quiksilver Cermonial Punta De Lobos, in Chile.

The ‘big wave’ judging scale is a new concept to the world of surfing competition. How has that been working out (are the surfers happy?) And what has been challenging about essentially establishing a new criteria to judge big wave surfing?
The judging criteria and scale that I created to facilitate the Tour allows for the surfers to sit out the back and catch the biggest waves that come through during their heat. Quality over quantity and risk equally reward. We have been using this system for over twelve years now and have been very successful in my opinion, always selecting the best surfers on any given day. I can only speak for the surfers by saying that I have not received many complaints!

If money and swell wasn’t an issue, what would the BWWT look like?
All things being said, I don’t think the Tour would look too much different that it does today other than the fact that more people would see it. The whole concept from a logistical standpoint is very guerrilla style and that makes it extremely core and exciting!

Thanks Gary, we look forward to seeing what the 2014/15 BWWT has in store. All the best.
Thanks for your interest in the tour.

For more about the BWWT, check out – http://www.bigwaveworldtour.com

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