We don’t usually get too riled up over comp surfing around here but we would be remiss to not congratulate Gabriel Medina on
Well done sir.
However, by most written accounts, including the many comments on various message boards, the event fell a bit flat from a spectating point of view. Some even hypothesizing this could be the last WSL tour event we see at the Surf Ranch.
But why? It’s all right there as advertised.
Perfect waves arriving every three minutes.
High production value broadcast.
The best competitive surfers in the world were all there.
What could go wrong with that?
Lets give it a deeper dive.
The controlled environment of the Surf Ranch would seem to be perfect for an entertaining broadcast, even with the 3-minute “lulls”. Commercial scheduling fits in nicely and the event start/finish is predictable. The sameness of the waves would also seem to allow for a non-surfer to possibly grasp some sense of who’s surfing the best. Yet, by many accounts, it was a bit, um, slow to watch. Too predictable, too much repetition, too much down time, etc.
On a side note, that ”sameness” may have also just exposed how good Gabriel really is. There was an easily discernable point of difference between him and literally every other competitor. Without luck, priority, strategy, etc., Gabs could simply out-surf the field, and he did just that. Did we just see how an ocean-based event possible allows a lessor talent opportunity through factors other than ability? Or is that actually a vitally important piece to the competitive drama? Is the heat-winning set going to come in time? Will the surfer be in position? Who has priority? With all of those things being a non-factor in the pool, Gabs just blew the boys out of the water purely on ability.
Another point of discussion being that does the Surf Ranch wave, in it’s current configuration, actually allow for true high-performance surfing? It did seem the boys (and girls) were struggling to create originality simply because the wave didn’t seem to allow for it. This wave kinda tells you what to do and when. Is this an unavoidable curse of the Surf Ranch technology? Of all wave pools? Can that be changed? We all remember Kelly’s first unveiling of the most perfect little barrel back in 2015, and how absolutely fun it would be to ride but is SR really a contestable venue at the highest competitive level?
Last, we do need to talk about the environmental perceptions as we as surfers often portray ourselves as stewards of the ocean. The Surf Ranch facility does indeed buy solar power from the local power company, PG&E, through their Solar Choice program. Which is good, but also a bit misleading in that until we are all on 100% renewable sources, that power would go elsewhere to reduce or even eliminate the need for traditional “dirty” power. Another argument being that Mother Nature supplies plenty of waves for free, why tap precious resources and strain the environment if we don’t have too? To that point, we should also note that the daily water evaporation rate that comes from a large standing body of water is also concerning. In a state that struggles with near-constant drought conditions and in a region that is constantly fighting over water rights for agricultural needs, this certainly is a valid concern. A for-profit competition in a freshwater pool riding waves made from an electrically driven machine would seem to go against what surfers are about, regardless of the environmental hypocrisy that surfing currently lives in (the air travel, the
Only time will tell if man-made waves are here to stay.