i feel that the more public exposure something gets, the more it becomes an image instead of an experience or modus operandi. with that said, i think i'm fine with kelly slater portraying an image to the mainstream because he's an excellent ambassador for surfing. it's not often the best competitor or most talented player in a sport is humble, well-spoken, and genuine.
as for surfing's rise in popularity... i'm all for it as long as my lineups remain sound. if i start seeing a huge rise in young surfers without manners or respect for the wave and other surfers, then i'm probably going to speak up in a very loud way. otherwise, i've tried to promote surfing within my own circles. hell, i have friends around here who've lived in southern cal for 3-5 years+ and won't even go watch people ride waves on a DOH day. isn't that ridiculous?
As far as I'm concerned, surfing has been getting popular ever since the Duke came to the mainland to show us haoles this fun past time, lifestyle, etc. When has it been unpopular? Sure multimillion dollar films like Blue Crush spike interest but overall, it's always on a steady upward climb.
Although, it can only get but so popular since people can only do it in certain locations, unlike skateboarding, BMXing, baseball, bochie ball which can be done almost anywhere, including middle America. Don't worry, we'll never be sitting around the ol' tube on Sunday afternoons with a bunch of friends over eating chips and dip watching live ASP events on NBC or CBS.
no matter how much kelly slater or any other surfer tries, surfing will only be an image in mainstream media, and will never grace the frontpage like football or baseball or basketball....only a small percentage of the population on the entire planet has the privelege to surf (they have to live near a beach that gets waves), ands that how it will always stay....until we can make wave pools that work!