"Fans will judge bodyboarders", says Liam O'Toole, founder of Free Surf World Tour

December 19, 2014 | Bodyboarding
Bodyboarding: the FSWT puts fans in the judging tower | Photo: Fronton King

In an exclusive interview for SurferToday.com, Liam O'Toole, co-founder of the newly created Free Surf World Tour (FSWT), explains how the circuit will work. "It's time for change."

O'Toole is a former professional bodyboarder. He knows the sport, and how it has evolved through time. The Free Surf World Tour will not compete directly with the APB World Tour. Instead, it will give power to fans. They will decide who the best rider is.

1. Why have you decided to develop the Free Surf World Tour (FSWT)?
It's time for change. It's time to put the most talented bodyboarders on earth back in the crazy remote raw wave locations where bodyboarding belongs. It's time to give the power back to you; the fans, the loyal supporters of bodyboarding by allowing you to judge who you think is the best free surfer on earth.

2. What changes in pro bodyboarding when comparing the FSWT with the APB or the IBA?
Our unique concept is going to open the professional aspect of the sport wide open. The way in which it runs gives a great amount of freedom and flexibility to the athletes. We have very basic guidelines/rules to the event, which are that we designate each event to run in a particular region and that the athletes capture their surfing in that region over a month period. This format is going to attract a fresh amount of talented riders that are pushing the limits of the sport that aren't chasing the competitive scene.

Our primary perspective is to give power to the core bodyboarding community by allowing them to cast their opinion on who they think is the best free surfer on the planet. Fans of the FSWT can login and view all out athlete's videos and select who they think is the best clip.

3. What is the feedback from pro bodyboarders?
Over the past few months, we have been working closely with a focus group of professional athletes and the common response we've been having is really positive.
The way in which the contest is going to run is going to amplify the best of what bodyboarding has to offer.

4. Can bodyboarders compete in both the APB and FSWT?
Yes. We have been talking with an assortment of different bodyboarding organizations and contest directors. We are going to be offering a wildcard entry to those who win an event on the APB tour or from a specialty event. For example, the winner of "Fronton King" in the Canary Islands which looks to be running this weekend will get a spot in our first Europe event scheduled to kick off on the 30th of December.

Bodyboarding: the Free Surf World Tour will not compete with the APB World Tour | Photo: Fronton King

5. How many stages have you locked in for the inaugural season? Where exactly will they be run?
We have six events schedules:
1. Europe (Includes Canary and Atlantic Islands) - December
2. North America (Includes Mexico, Central America, Caribbean and Hawaii) - February
3. Australia Pacific (Queensland and New South Wales) - April
4. Australia Indian (Includes WA, SA, Victoria, Tasmania and Asia) - June
5. Africa (Includes Indian Ocean Islands) - July
6. South America (Including Tahiti, Samoa, New Zealand and South Pacific Islands) - August

6. Do you consider yourselves "dissidents" of the APB?
No. We support the APB and admire the hard work they do in putting the World Tour together. Our primary aim is to help grow the sport and to offer a real quality viewing experience of high-level extreme bodyboarding to our online audience.

7. Will the prize money purses be larger than the APB?
This is our objective, but we need the support of the bodyboarding community. In traditional bodyboarding competitions, sponsorship provides the prize money for the winners. However in the FSBW every rider in the event gets a piece of the pie. We as the general public pay $4.99 to vote for our favorite rider in the event. The rider you vote for automatically gets $2.00 of this donation.

The other $2.00 goes into the prize pool to be presented to the winner on a Happy Gilmore style cheque. The remaining 0.99c goes to transaction fees and administration costs. This system combines the best of bodyboarding and crowd funding. If you like someone's style or are amazed at the crazy things they do throwing themselves into death caverns your small donation will help them to maintain the rage and keep providing us the general public with the amazing action we love to see. The best part is every cent you pay to vote for your favorite rider goes straight to the bodyboarders you know and love.

8. Which main sponsors have decided to stick with the FSWT?
We are still in discussion with a variety of companies, however we do have some minor partners on board at the moment that have been helping us with our launch though - Trent Mitchell Photography, Bones Films, and Toolbox Designs.

9. Will the FSWT judging rules be drastically different from the IBA/APB guidelines?
Yes. The fundamentals of free surfing are an expression of one's self. This is why we have a very loose guideline which allows the athletes to submit a clip in a way that feels right to them and gives them the ability to be as creative as they like. The judging panel is going to be you - the end user. The passionate bodyboarding community will be given the power to cast their opinion on who they think is their favorite rider. We also have a panel of expert, professional judges that will critic the clips. The old competitive term "Spin to Win" will never be used on the FSWT because what this concept does is it's going to push the athletes to the edge.

10. Will the FSWT be the "official" bodyboarding world tour?
At this stage, I would say no. We envision the FSWT to be in a category of it own and not a comparison of the current world tour. Our concept and format are too different to be a likening them with one another.

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