Ignoring the fact that the event was called X-Games 11 Los Angeles, yet Puerto Escondido is nearly 2,500 miles away from L. A. , it’s necessary to point out that, by this time, surfing was primarily relegated to online or TV viewing only, whereas fans of other sports were more able to see their favorite athletes in person.
But in 2008, the X-Games decided to no longer sponsor a surfing component after two attempts to run a contest at Huntington Beach, followed by three years of much-improved conditions at Puerto Escondido, Mexico. The result?
While the Mexican Pipeline delivered on all three occasions that the surf event was held, it wasn’t enough to salvage X-Games surfing, and in 2008 the X-Games decided to drop surfing from its list of events.
Moment: After five years of moderate success, surfing is dropped from the X-Games. “If they had a million bucks up for the winning team, the best guys in the world would be all, ‘sign me up.
By establishing itself as the most significant sporting event in youth culture and action sports throughout the late ’90s and early 2000s, it seemed only fitting the X-Games would decide to add surfing to the mix at X-Games Nine in Los Angeles in 2003.
For surf fans everywhere, it invokes a feeling that surfing doesn’t belong in the X-Games, or that it cannot exist among other extreme sports.
For the inaugural X-Games surf contest, world tour level pros were organized into Team West Coast versus Team East Coast, and competed at Huntington Beach Pier—just a short drive from Los Angeles—in less than stellar surf.
Brad Gerlach touched on one such reason when he mentioned ESPN’s unwillingness to increase prize money to draw big names, but having to compete with ASP’s World Championship Tour, and an inability to build hype–in the surf world or otherwise–made surfing not viable.
Either way, the lack of truly live surfing in the X-Games illustrates the disconnect between mainstream sports networks and the surfing populace in the United States.
As a sport that requires a certain amount of patience and maybe even luck in order for conditions to cooperate, when the X-Games dropped surfing, they showed how marketing surfing to the masses can be more trouble than it’s worth.
Read more here: The Inertia