Surfing cut

BTA reneged on financial commitment

The 2014 Barbados Independence Pro Surf Festival recently held at the Soup Bowl in Bathsheba, St Joseph almost did not take place.

Treasurer of the Barbados Surfing Association (BSA), Louis Venezia told Barbados TODAY that the title sponsor Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) made a last minute decision to only foot 30 per cent of the cost of the event instead of the full fee which they had agreed upon during the initial planning stages.

Treasurer of the Barbados Surfing Association (BSA), Louis Venezia
Treasurer of the Barbados Surfing Association (BSA), Louis Venezia

“They were involved with us at the beginning of the event and they cut our budget by 30 per cent a week before the event which almost got cancelled. Ten days before our event I contacted them and they cut our budget by thirty percent and I told them that it is impossible for us to have the event and they basically just said to us: ‘cancel it, we can’t do no better’,” Louis said.

He added: “But I do not think that they set out to cut our throats. I think that everybody across the board that the BTMI was involved with, had those cuts and we are in the middle of a huge recession. But when you have visitors coming to Barbados and putting in US dollars in hotels and rental cars I think those are things that need to be looked at and prioritized.”

Over 100 of the world’s best surfers came to Barbados to compete in the event last weekend which was won by Barbadian Chelsea Roett in the open female and Chelsea Tuach who won the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) junior women’s competition. Local teenage surfer Joshua Burke came second in the men’s open behind Kody Thompson of the United States.

The Pro surf is one of the BSA’s stand-out events and Venezia explained that it cost the association BDS$175 000 to fund the event on its own this year after BTMI’s reduced assistance.

“We entirely funded this event almost one hundred percent by donations and private sector sponsorship and we received very little help from the BTA or any Government agency,” he said, noting that at least US$400 000 was injected into the Barbados economy from the event which attracted 400 visitors to Barbados.

“When you look at everybody that we had brought to this island last weekend we probably brought over 400 people to the island specifically for this event and I guarantee you that each one of those visitors would have spent about a minimum of US$1 000. And when you look at 400 people spending a thousand US dollars you are looking at US$400 000 that was injected into the Barbados economy last weekend by just bringing these surfers to the island and there is so much value in bringing these
people here.”

Louis admitted that the BSA would like to bring the likes of veteran surfer Kenny Slater and a few others to the shores of Barbados to compete in a masters event to make the competition more interesting but said it came back down to the lack of sponsorship and funds.

“What the BTMI and others need to understand is that people don’t only come to Barbados to surf. . .we have a huge rally every year and we bring a huge number of people here every year to rally. But when those people go home they don’t come back again and their friends don’t come here to race on a weekend because they are no races on a weekend. But the beautiful thing about Bathsheba and about Soup Bowl is that the waves are there all day long, 365 days a year. And when we have a hundred people come here to surf on a weekend they go home and tell their friends how great the waves are and they come and surf.”

He said the BSA was seeking to have two separate surfing events on their annual calendar in 2015. According to Venezia, if all goes well the junior competition will take place in November and then the men and women’s event staged in March or April.

Efforts to reach BTA’s chief executive officer Billy Griffith this evening were unsuccessful.


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