20 years ago surfing as a competitive sport was way smaller sport than water skiing. Look what they are now.
One reason is they have a great champion who has given his all to the sport. See link to video below
We can learn a lot from the ASP in how to promote events. They have a much harder challenge as due to waiting periods fans dont even know in advance when the event will be. Still 1000's of people show up on no notice to see Kelly will his 11th world title.