It is interesting to see how traditions develop. One of our traditions at Royal Caribbean is the “Chairman’s Challenge,” where I challenge the guests on our inaugural cruises to a surfing contest on our Flowriders.
The first such contest took place when we introduced FREEDOM OF THE SEAS in 2006. People were still unfamiliar with the Flowrider and seemed to perceive it as something esoteric. We decided that I would ride it publicly for two reasons: firstly, because I wanted to and secondly, to show everyone that you didn’t need to be a young athlete to do it. If someone like me – an overweight, overage and oversedentary person – could do it, anyone could.
Much to our pleasure, the event took off and became very popular. In fairness, I must admit that flowriding is more of a spectator sport than an active one. The majority of people come to the events to watch others fall and make themselves look silly. And we all take voyeuristic pleasure in watching others fall and look silly. But it seems to attract a large crowd and I enjoy doing it.
The rules are very simple. Each contestant does his or her best surfing in front of the group. The audience is given voting paddles with only two options (we don’t want any hanging chad challenges here). The paddles clearly show whether the guests is voting for (a) The Chairman Wins or (b) The Contestant Loses. Write-ins are allowed, but only if delivered to the ship during the period beginning at 11:58 pm and ending at Midnight on the day 3 months prior to the contest.
Each contestant does his or her best. We have a rule against ringers, but recently two slipped through. The first was Tom Lochtefeld, the inventor and owner of the Flowrider business. He was already an accomplished surfer even prior to inventing the Flowrider. The second ringer was the stunt coordinator for Jack & Jill, the movie being shot onboard during the first days in service. He loved the machine and trained on it for 14 hours during lulls in the movie filming.
Fortunately, I wasn’t worried. They may have more practice than I; they may be better athletes; and they may cut an impressive swath on the machine. However, I have done this at least a half dozen time over the years. I had age and experience on my side.
I personally set up the voting mechanism to ensure the best man or woman won. All guests voted on their choice using the paddles described. Then the Royal Caribbean Election Commission (the “RCEC”) tallied the vote. Since this tallying process is somewhat subjective, we strictly require the members of the RCEC to meet three stringent requirements. Firstly, the must be at least 18 years of age. Secondly, they must not have been certified by a court of competent jurisdiction with the prior 6 months. And, lastly, they must all be employed by Royal Caribbean and wish to remain thus.
Remarkably, against all the concerted opposition over the years, truth and justice have prevailed and I have been declared the winner each time. Attached is a link to a clip showing me starting on the short board then trying the standing surfing style. The clip has been edited by our video department who added some music and otherwise edited it well. Unfortunately, they also added some stuff at the beginning which is irrelevant and which you can just skip.
Now you know why they call me Chairman of the Board.