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Volume 7 No. 146

People and Pop Culture

Nick Franklin is leading the continued innovation and evolution of the KSWC.
Photo: WORLD SURF LEAGUE

NICK FRANKLIN is president of the Kelly Slater Wave Company, which developed a system that simulates ocean waves in a man-made facility. Together with the World Surf League, which acquired the KSWC in '16, the company operates Surf Ranch in Lemoore, Calif., the first such facility in the world. Franklin was announced as KSWC's president last month and is tasked with driving the business' growth and development globally. He spoke with SBD Global about the recent Surf Ranch Pro competition, which took place at the Lemoore facility from Sept. 6-9, some of the KSWC's target markets and the impact of surfing's inclusion at the Olympics.

On what was appealing about the role ...
Nick Franklin: I was approached through a recruiting firm and started to do my research. The more I peeled it back and understood where surfing is right now and is going from the perspective of the sport competitively, both from a WSL standpoint and an Olympic standpoint -- couple that with the idea of creating these cool, location-based surf experience venues that Surf Ranch provides -- and that was a very compelling opportunity.

Brazilian Gabriel Medina won the Surf Ranch Pro, the first WSL Championship Tour event at the facility.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

On where the KSWC wants to expand ...
Franklin: We want to take the wave technology and place it in venues with associated amenities, seating, access, all those kinds of things, that will help support more events. We are integrated as part of the WSL so a big part of our focus is where the key markets are for events. There are some obvious key markets. North America is a very key market. We continue to look at other places in North America. Australia and Brazil are key surf markets -- particularly if you look at what's happening at the top of the competitive standings, Brazil is exploding. … In Brazil, their top surfers are household name celebrities heading up toward the tier with some of their soccer stars. ... With surfing going into the Olympics, we want to be supporting the markets where the Olympics will be headed -- so, obviously Europe and L.A., Tokyo as well. ... We are looking very broadly and excited about bringing this technology to new places -- both existing surf destinations and places that don't currently have access to waves.

On surfing becoming an Olympic event ...
Franklin: We are very supportive of surfing being in the Olympics. A lot of the Olympic surfers will be WSL athletes so we're excited to support the discussions in Japan. We are also continuing to pursue a site in Japan because we believe in the long-term success of Tokyo as a surf market. We want to be part of that for the long-term legacy. As we go forward, we are very interested in continuing to support surfing. We'd love to have a wave stadium venue in the future and we will continue to have conversations in hopes that's something we can move toward.

On the Surf Ranch ...
Franklin: I think there are two different components to the surf ranch experience. There's the event experience in conjunction with the WSL -- events like the Surf Ranch Pro that we just did -- which really are about multi-faceted festival environments. People are watching the surfing and they're also just enjoying the overarching environment. ... The second piece that I think is even more interesting is the unique hospitality that we're doing in non-event usage of Surf Ranch. As we continue to build that business from a location-based experience standpoint, it’s about a group of friends, a group of families and everybody coming to surf and coming to experience everything that gets wrapped around that -- food and beverage, music, other in-water, non-surfing activities and out-of-water activities.

Surf Ranch features a 700-yard, bi-directional wave featuring barrel, maneuver and air sections.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

On takeaways from the Surf Ranch Pro ...
Franklin: We are an athlete-first organization and the athletes really liked it. They felt that it was a legit, world-class wave and a world-class surf competition. Even some of the athletes that had some skepticism, as appropriately they would, having not had a chance to be there and this being the first event, almost unanimously walked away saying, 'That was great and we should do more of those.' The second-biggest thing I would take away is that the folks who were there had a blast. It was quite hot but everybody enjoyed the surfing, enjoyed the atmosphere. It really had a good festival feel to it.

On the broadcast component of the competition, which was aired on CBS ...
Franklin: People who hadn't necessarily had a chance to see surfing got to see it on TV because we were able to have a schedule that made it feasible to broadcasters to show it live and show it in prime sports viewing windows. I got texts from dozens of people across the country in places where surfing isn't at the forefront, including from some folks who were at a bar in Montana. It was on TV behind the bar in Montana on Saturday and Sunday. From the standpoint of broadening the exposure of these amazing athletes, that was pretty great.

On when to expect new facilities ...
Franklin: We are working hard at it. This isn't Starbucks looking for 1,500 square feet in a retail mall. These are large developments. There are lots of components around them, lots of community relationship, government relationship and other factors that go into these developments. You work on a comprehensive basis and you work on a number of projects simultaneously. We're excited and will be excited to bring more venues online as quickly as we can.

Hangin' With runs every Friday in SBD Global.

Former All Blacks coach JOHN HART was appointed to the board of Super Rugby side Auckland Blues after New Zealand Rugby bought back a 40% stake in the "struggling" franchise from its private owners. Former Cabinet Minister SAM LOTU-LIGA was also appointed to the Blues board along with NZR board member RICHARD DELLABARCA (REUTERS, 9/19). The German Football League's (DFL) new office in N.Y. will be managed by ARNE REES as EVP/strategy, with a focus on media contacts, and MELANIE FITZGERALD as head of Bundesliga Americas, with responsibilities for brand management, marketing and events. Rees has nearly 20 years of experience in the int'l sport business. Fitzgerald was most recently director of int'l media at Major League Soccer (DFL). ... AMAJU PINNICK is the first person to win a second consecutive four-year term as president of the Nigeria Football Federation. The 44-year-old beat challenges from former President AMINU MAIGARITAIWO OGUNJOBI and CHINEDU OKOYE. Pinnick, the first VP of the Confederation of African Football, secured 34 votes from the 44 available in a first round of voting (BBC, 9/20). ... Lagardère Plus named DOMINIC CURRAN EVP. Curran, who will be part of the Lagardère Plus senior leadership team in the U.S., will oversee the team and client relationships in the agency's N.Y. office (Lagardère Plus). 

COACHES/MANGERS: Argentine Superliga side San Martín de Tucumán coach RUBÉN DARÍO FORESTELLO was sacked five games into the current season. He is the fourth coach in the league to be sacked this season (LOS ANDES, 9/17). ... Japan national rugby league team coach and former All Black JAMIE JOSEPH will stand down as head coach of Super Rugby side Sunwolves ahead of the Rugby World Cup. Assistant coach TONY BROWN "will be in the frame to succeed" Joseph (NEW ZEALAND HERALD, 9/20). ... Former int'l footballers PIERRE FRANCOIS AUBAMEYANG and DANIEL COUSIN were unveiled as co-coaches of Gabon by the Gabon FA (FEGAFOOT). They are both expected to fill the role made vacant following the departure of Spanish coach JOSÉ ANTONIO CAMACHO at the end of his contract (BBC, 9/20).

League Championship side Bolton Wanderers Owner EDDIE DAVIES reportedly gave the club a £5M ($6.6M) loan to help it "avoid administration four days before his death." Documents filed at Companies House show Davies signed the loan on Sept. 7. The money was used to pay off Bolton's main creditor BluMarble Capital Ltd., which "rejected a first repayment offer" (BBC, 9/20). ... League Championship side Aston Villa sacked IAN ATKINS, the club's European scout, in a "major cull" of the recruitment department. Atkins is the "most high-profile casualty," with Villa axing at least five others "in a surprise move." Villa is "making huge cuts" to the staff appointed by former Technical Dir STEVE ROUND (London TELEGRAPH, 9/19). ... Former Olympic and world championship medal winner RENÉ WOLFF will take over as Cycling New Zealand's sprint coach. He will replace ANTHONY PEDEN, who left the organization in the wake of an investigation into the culture of the sports body "amid allegations of bullying and inappropriate behaviour." Wolff "steered the Dutch national team at the last two Olympic Games" (NEW ZEALAND HERALD, 9/20). ... Former test cricketer SHANE WATSON does not want DAVID WARNER to be "lost to the game" in Australia, urging Cricket Australia to "welcome the controversial opener back to the fold after he completes his suspension." Watson publicly endorsed Warner's return next year, saying that Australian cricket "could not afford to lose a player of his quality" (THE AGE, 9/19).