Devon Howard Resigns From The WSL as Tour Director
"I look forward to seeing where the WSL takes it from here and how the surfers evolve it over time."
While in Mex for the Duct Tape/Mexi Log Fest, we learned from several WSL competitors that Devon Howard had just stepped down as its Longboard Tour Director. This news came as a bit of a shock to us here at Log Rap, as it seemed like his hands-on leadership over the past four years has had a big impact on not only the WSL but surf culture as a whole. His work there moved the Longboard Tour into a decidedly positive place, catching the attention and interest of surf fans and competitors alike who had previously not cared about the shortboard style of longboard surfing that pervaded the League for decades.
Some context for you: Devon was recruited in 2018 by the WSL to aid in shifting the longboard tour’s focus towards what many describe as “traditional longboarding.” This included the planning and execution of a multi-stop tour, moving away from the previous one event world title decider and giving surfers a chance to compete in a multitude of waves and conditions. Fans of longboarding (including us here at LogRap) applauded the move as not only did it provide for more robust competition but urged heavyweights such as Harrison Roach, Justin Quintal and Joel Tudor to rejoin what was now the world’s foremost competitive longboarding format.
At this point you may be asking… why does any of this matter?
Most will recall that WSL’s judging format over the previous decades leaned heavily toward high-performance surfing… aka turns over tip time and board racks filled with foiled out three finned craft. With the growing appeal of style, footwork and critical noserides on heavier single fin boards. Although the world’s governing body of surfing was backing the High-Performance approach of longboarding for all those years, the public itself clearly was not.
Over the past decade, the transparency of available data for all to see helped shift the narrative around the status quo for competitive longboarding—making it difficult for the WSL to deny what the general longboard surf audience wanted to see. A quick look at longboarding’s social media output and YouTube engagement demonstrated a 10 to 1 preference to traditional surfing over its high-performance counterpart. The reality of this preference is what inspired our platform to get off the ground. Those numbers also support why our editorial focus on Traditional (aka “loggin”) was always the right call.
This is all to say: there was a diametric opposition between the WSL’s product and the desires of their viewers. Say what you will about the WSL as a whole, but they are far and away surfing’s largest competitive platform and wield unending influence on our sport as a whole. Devon was instrumental in righting the ship of the longboard tour, a fact of which we are forever grateful.
Whether you care about competition or not, we here at Log Rap think the WSL’s move to convince Devon to take the wheel and reorganize the way their longboard surfing events were judged has moved our culture in a positive and exciting direction. And we can’t think of a more qualified person to have helped implement those changes to their tour.
Devon’s own surfing pretty much defined state-of-the-art Traditional Longboard surfing—as evidenced in our most viewed edit to date. So how could you ask for a better advocate? In addition to his world-class surf skills, our firsthand experiences working alongside him at the events we witnessed his thoughtful, passionate, and fair approach to navigating the needs of both surfers, the media and the WSL as a whole. We feel strongly that they were lucky to have him, and that those will be some big shoes to fill in his absence.
So, this all begs the question: what happened?
We reached out and asked Devon directly and asked why after a few seasons of building momentum and trust with the surfers and the fans he is now parting ways with the League?
“It’s in a really great place right now,” he explained over the phone this morning. “The hardest part was helping the WSL implement it’s traditional longboard criteria. People think I wrote it, but it had already existed a few years before I took on the role. However, it wasn’t being implemented and it was creating confusion with both the surfers and the judges. I was called in to fix that.”
“We spent a lot of time training judges, which isn’t an easy thing to do,” he added. “There are not a lot of people who are qualified to judge traditional longboard surfing at the level we expect them to. There are a lot of nuances that go right over the head of the world’s most experienced shortboard judges, so it takes time to get it right. I wrote an in-depth document that explains it all in great detail. That document, if followed closely, and if WSL continues to reference it, will be the north star of their tour for years to come. So, to that end, I think my time there was very worthwhile and helped bridge things from where it was to where it is now. I look forward to seeing where the WSL takes it from here and how the surfers evolve it over time.”
The consummate professional, we knew there had to be more to the story. It just didn’t make sense Devon would leave on the back of the success that was their last Malibu event. But we knew the past few months had a lot of curve balls thrown at him so we kept probing for more, suspecting maybe the leadership of his new boss Jessi Miley Dyer or the ongoing Joel Tudor saga and eventual suspension played factors in his decision to leave. While we all can (and will) speculate, we left it at that and thanked him for taking the call.
With no clear predecessor in place there are many questions that remain, but one thing is certain: Longboard surfing at WSL is in a better place because of Devon. What happens from here? Only time will tell.
We wish Devon the best and thank him for his services. We can only imagine it wasn’t an easy thing to pull off. There’s no doubt in our mind that he will charge on and continue to inspire us with his ageless surfing and other fine-tuned surfboard designs he’s probably tinkering with right now.
LogRap would love to hear what you all think about this news, and where do you think things for the WSL Longboard Tour should go from here?