It was Sunday. I felt like watching surfing and I am fortunate to live within a stone throw of a ‘CT venue that shall remain anonymous, but it is in Europe, is not in Portugal and is within a country renowned for cheese and wine. You get the picture. Some friends and I have media passes and this looked to be a fine afternoon to watch Florence, Banting and others aquatic dance with sparkle and flair in the early autumn sunshine to a criteria which we may not agree with wholeheartedly, but it is there. And they are surfing nonetheless. An afternoon of lounging in the sun, drinking beers and taking in the joys of watching the world’s best go turbo on the local.
Parking was a nightmare. It was hot. I detest above anything else walking in soft sand and this venue require a lot of it. However, this is fine and to be expected, as I was soon to be welcomed into an enclosure of white sofas, umbrellas, sandwich platters and most crucially ice cold Corona.
We stroll in below official looking arches bearing “Media/Athletes” with a flick of a wrist and a knowing nod to WSL toting man mountains of security. For the more fashion conscious of you, tribal tats and speed dealers sunglasses are de riguer for the look of the day. We pull into the media tent/balcony and it’s reminiscent of a construction site office. Not to worry, there will be beers and the sun is out. The venue decor is a minor speed bump on the road to a fine Sunday afternoon and I am in a red drop top Mercedes SL 280 from the ’70s.
I investigate the coolers. Cans of Coke Zero stare back at me with black and red desperation. I close the lid and explore around the corners, beside tables, next to banners, upstairs and downstairs and come up empty. No Corona branded cooler anywhere. Cunning. They have hidden them, and we have to ask. Not to worry, I eventually pluck up the courage to ask the lovely media attendant where the beers are. She replies, that “there are none for media.” I act coy, confused and bashful and ask again. She replies the same. There are no beers for the media.
My world is crashing around me, I pull my phone from pocket with clammy, cold sweaty shaky hands and make calls to more important friends in higher places and they assure me that even in the VIP areas beer is only out after 4. After 4! What is this? We are grown ups! I appreciate that there is professionalism but then there is mollycoddling and this most certainly in the latter camp. Not to be perturbed, we buy Corona’s at great expense from the stand on the beach and bring them up. This is met by nods of approval from other media hounds who all start to do likewise. Hehe. We are so clever! The day has been saved! JJF is banging on a few rights out the back and we have ringside seats. We are Ryan Gosling in Drive. We are Steve Mcqueen in Bullit. We are a collective Leonardo D’Caprio.
The amazingly pretty WSL media lady eyes us drinking our delicious beers and walks over. We lock eyes and her eyes are emeralds in the sun. She drifts over in slow motion, beauty incarnate. She smiles, blushes. Red lips, white teeth that being to politely but firmly inform us that beers are not allowed, we must finish them and consume no more. She is so nice we comply, defeated. Disheartened. An editor of esteemed surf media outlet was told the same by a slightly less pretty security guard (better tribal tattoos though).
When he asked, “Why?” he was told, “You should be working, not drinking.”
The audacity! Corona is a sponsor of the tour, we want to write nice things about delicious limes in icy beer but instead I find myself venting at a computer.
How did we let it get like this? Surf contests used to be so fun, the best of fun. I was in Portugal last year and there were cold ones flowing from every corner and we had the most wonderful time. We really did. There are even beers at Lowers! America hates beers, you have to be 32 to drink and you have to do it at funny bars that close very early or in your house. I say start them young, get out to the steps by the church in San Sebastian armed with as much Vodka Limon as you can drink and send it! Surfing should be the same, raw, young and uninhibited! Freedom to beer whenever, freedom to the media. In an age dominated by Brexit, Trump and an alcohol free Surf League, it’s looking like my Sunday afternoons are likely to be become a lot sadder. —Alexei Obolensky