In my opinion, videos help the progression of the sport more than anything. In competition, you're forced to throw tricks that you can already land 80-100% of the time. Shooting for video, you're really pushing the envelope of what can be done on a board. Contest seem to breed a lot of the same tricks from riders, whereas, videos allow each rider to differentiate themselves from everyone else.
I think if you look back at the true progression of the sport over the years, you'll see that videos like Mayday, hit it, spray, wake the beast, high wake drifters, skurfs up, Natural born thrillaz...presented the industry with something that had never been seen or done before. After time you'd see more and more of those tricks being thrown in contest.
Contests are a great way for new riders to establish themselves in the industry, and for existing riders to keep their status. Doing well in contest is the best way to pay the bills in this industry, so in that sense they're very important.
Mike Schwenne www.westcoastcamps.com